Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

04 Feb Written by  Kimberly Ward

The Little Fulani Cowgirl

You could just make out the top of her shaggy head amidst the wide, white flanks of the cows gathered around her. Then she comes into view: a little Fulani girl barely seven years old, with dirt-brown curly hair plaited haphazardly, and the tiny stray strands that escaped forming a fuzzy halo around her little head.

Wearing a blue, oversized T-shirt that reached down past her knees, her thin legs ended in a pair of adult slippers encasing tiny feet caked in the brown dust of the earth that she had no doubt been traversing for hours already that afternoon.

She grasped in her little hands a thin but sturdy stick that was twice her height, which she used as an aid to edge her way past the slow-footed cows and around the side of the road. Now and then she also used the stick to whack a fidgety cow to stop it from heading towards the cars that were waiting for the herd to cross, a scene which occurs periodically on this residential road.

Unafraid, accomplished and proud, the little cowgirl wore a look of experienced calm and maintained an assurance that refused to be intimidated by the animals that were bigger than her or the motorists growing impatient around her.

She wasn’t perturbed by the heat of the sun, the dusty road or the long hilly hike ahead of her, and as I looked she shouted out to the herd with a shrill, tiny voice, and the animals immediately heeded their little mistress and trooped faster past the waiting cars.

She manoeuvred the animals with grace under fire; they trusted her and she understood them. And as she walked behind the last cow crossing, our eyes met and she looked at me for a fraction of a second with cool, haughty eyes betraying little of the innocence no doubt still within.

Here was a little girl in charge of her family’s wealth and pride, single-handedly dealing with the hostilities of the city and the terrain, armed with only a stick and her fierce resolve. She knows the roads, the routes, the hills and the valleys, she probably also knew each cow by name.

Soon she will give up herding and settle into the sedentary life of a wife and mother, but for now it was just her and her herd against the world, roaming wild and free and fearless.

As the proud little cowgirl walked off into the distance with her troop of 15 or so cows trudging obediently behind her, I marvelled at her control and confidence.

She was born to do this.