Undeniably, Africa does not place much regard on the female-folk.
Women have had to fight,beg and eventually resort to scheming to get what they need: Love,respect,freedom of speech and at any level,the right to make their own decisions,the right to knowledge and education,freedom to interact.
The African woman has with time resigned to acceptance of ill treatment and conformed to unfounded rules manufactured from a bias and unfriendly school of thought; devising as a result, survival skills turned principles with which to live no matter the magnitude of unhappiness. Principles that have been handed down generation to generation. Principles that teach young African ladies to accept undignified treatment. Principles that command them to surrender their will,self-esteem and wisdom to a culture that chooses not to recognize them…except at childbirth…
One area the African woman has had to endure untold suffering is Marriage. She is well aware that marriage for her is the end to that last vestige of freedom that is so particularly hers. Society frowns at the notion of a free woman. A woman is incomplete without a husband! A woman cannot be termed ‘free’!…then she gets married and finally understands the true meaning of ‘incomplete’.
Only a few African women -if truth be told and unnecessary feelings of guilt and shame be put away -truly enjoy their marriages. Only few actually find harmony. Only few are happy to be married. Marriage is / was meant for companionship, has always been meant to be so. So where did all this dirt come from?
You doubt? Step out to the streets.Go to religious houses. Workplaces…everywhere that is anywhere. There are women all around with the same story and experience. The only reasons there may be variance in disclosure are fear of being seen as a defeated woman in a defeated union OR fear of the baseless convictions of an unfair society OR the feeling that it is ‘spreading dirty linen in public’…But the truth of the matter is in the thing itself .
Thankfully,with the arrival of civilization came changes. The female-folk could finally speak and know for a truth that they would be heard and listened to,they could receive education; they could even receive education AND graduate AND gain proper employment. They could choose who to marry and sometimes when to marry. But the victory is not total…is it ever for the woman?
Many women are plagued with domestic abuse wherein lies mental/emotional,physical,verbal,sexual and financial abuse. They marry and are expected to bear so much…as if a lot is not already expected of them as single ladies!
From a wandering-eyed cheating husband, to a readily flammable husband in possession of a short fuse who is well on his way to winning the W.B.A championship, to the bad-mouthed one so full of negativity that she questions her sanity, to the man who does nothing but expects the full benefits of a king, to the man who will neither defend nor protect her from the influx of garbage from overly assertive in-laws and nosy friends who suddenly become deep wells of wisdom (it may make him look bad…)
Yet she must stay.She is bound and she must stay.
Sadly,many stay in such unhealthy union to avoid the unsympathetic glare of society. So when finally this subdued underestimated woman takes the bold step of leaving and chooses happiness over the confines of an abusive marriage, she is labeled irresponsible, incompetent, whorish, weak and her children may even be taken from her. If she puts up an argument, tries to explain? Its her fault somehow,somewhere she did something wrong. She is expected to keep the home; failure produces questions.
Things are getting better now though as a good friend Charles in the USA says “…It changes a little more with each new generation”.
Another friend Craig says “…She either fights back or she takes it. When a woman fights back to protect herself and her children, the abuse will either on a large scale altogether stop or become minimal; but when she does decide to fight she must make sure she wins”.
Charles explains it clearly “Abuse is a power and control issue. As women gain more and more power politically and economically, some men feel they are losing a grip on the control they once had. Even the church feels threatened by it as more and more women declare themselves pastors. The family is the last bastion that men are holding onto and it perhaps is the most visible especially to the local community. Abuse of any kind , physical or mental is devoid of love and respect or any good thing. Do I think women should quietly suffer and stay in an abusive relationship? No. Do I think they should do all they can to repair and salvage such a relationship? Yes; but all relationships cannot be saved.
Sometimes you have to leave to save a relationship…I know what the Bible says about marriage and divorce and I also know what Jesus says about forgiveness. If a woman can save herself by leaving then she has to be able to honestly count the cost of doing that. In some societies, it is easier than others. Only God knows why cultures move in the directions they move”…
Thanks friend! And she does need to count the cost;
Adherence to social norms is important even more so for the woman and the slightest diversion from that path attracts some nasty consequences. Society frowns upon a woman who decidedly leaves the man she is married to. It is seen as outright disrespect of culture established , culture recognized and culture defended. A snicker here, a sneer there; a backhanded comment from a neighbor, direct and indirect insults from friends, raised eyebrows from acquaintances… What will she say? How will she respond to societal scorn? Since the African law does not favor the woman and so many men escape child support, this woman is faced with the dilemma of dwindling economy.
Forced to stop working and as a result being used to depending on her husband for her daily up-keep and that of her children, finally stepping out on her own brings her face-to-face with the reality that she has nothing to fall back on. Nothing. No job, no honed skills as the only skill she can remember is raising children and housekeeping, most times little or no savings that barely carry her through. Jobs are hard to find and starting one is not any easier. She has to pick up that long forgotten certificate if she has any and boldly plunge into the labor market. Reality. How will she start? Where will she start from? Now this brings us to another factor, perhaps the most important. Children.
How will these children live? Will their lives be normal without the impact of a father? Maybe she should have stayed back. Will the separation be traumatic for them? How will she feed them? Clothe them, educate them? Is she strong enough to train them right? Society has taught the female-folk that no single mother can properly raise a child and the mere fact that she is single is disqualifying enough.
The immediate family of each spouse may not make things any easier. Their high expectations of the woman is burdensome. She knows that they will be ashamed of her, unbelieving of her actions, demanding answers of her to questions she would rather not mull over. Aware to some extent that this woman is bruised, hurt, trampled on, taken for granted, manipulated and has finally had enough; knowing this yet pushing. Some lucky ones come from homes ready to receive them, unashamed to fight. The worst part of this family classic is the in-laws and that is exactly where the woman needs to save face because take it or not, her husband is their son and is blood…she must be a bad woman!
Religion -except for Islam- does not permit divorce on any grounds. The church even ignores the biblical standard and allowance for divorce which is infidelity. Setting society above common sense and compassion- that’s what! The one place after family that should be a protective shield is void of the warmth and understanding it should originally hold. A divorced woman…let’s take away the word divorced…a woman who walks away from a marriage, even a toxic one, receives little or no measure of comprehension from fellow worshippers. Even the religious leader is inclined to try to convince her to return to that home, remain there , have faith and pray for change.
It is sad to know that religion obviously also bends to the ideas of society, mixing spirituality with the benchmark of bias culture. Would God want her suffering when she can ease out? Weaker vessels? What’s that?! We understand that marriage can be sometimes complicated but we must also understand that each individual possesses unique strengths and the workings of each union is relative to the people involved.
So when you unfairly take away someone’s right to freewill, you have just abused them, taken away their dreams. How much control should each person really have over their partner? Should it even be a matter of control? Women want Acknowledgement not Analysis.
Again Craig says “She could decide to imbibe the law of faith and patience. Religion is binding, people know and take advantage but sometimes for one’s own benefit, you have to look past culture or religious beliefs to be happy…you either be a strong black woman and step out or take it”.
How long do we keep hiding under the pretentious auspices of oppressive tradition? Who are the originators of this tradition anyway? What should influence the making of tradition ? personal beliefs and circumscribed experiences or empathy?
Some level of freedom has set in, yes but society has shown that it is only pretending to support the new changes and many of us have seen through the façade of acceptance. How easy it is to ‘put a woman in her place’ when it is suiting.
So! As a woman to all women I say: Pitch your tent where your heart is. NEVER let your wings be clipped. You can fly and you should fly. Know that being strong is not always the physical battle you can fight ; many a times ,true strength lies in the ability to be wise ,up and walk away from trash. Any person who truly loves you will respect you and allow you have a life.
Too often women change who they are and what they aim for to impress everyone and make the men in their lives happy but I say if what you want makes you a better person and leads to a better future, why change it? Make a a choice to be happy . You can not always be agreeable. Love and respect yourself enough to move on because you are powerful and beautiful when you do.
If you are being abused in your relationship whether married or single, understand that silence will not save you. It will give you nightmares, a shattered heart, a broken spirit, wrinkled skin… It will haunt you forever.
You will always look back and wish you did things differently. Society will not always agree with you so follow your heart and intuition because in the end, society and all it’s trimmings do not matter. What does matter is how you feel about yourself and the life you have led. Be adventurous. Explore. Your destiny is not rooted in the kitchen, bedroom or labor room. Think for yourself out loud!
This is not encouraging wildness and irresponsibility but boldly exact the freewill God has given you and live the life you want…with wisdom. Exercise the strength of will to do away with all things and people toxic. And remember, NO WOMAN IS (as renowned Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta so accurately put it in her book of similar title) SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN !