I was in a meeting during the weekend. Very life enriching one for that matter. With sub group and break out sessions. Then it came to a time for a general discussion and the topic was on ‘ why many eligible bachelors and Spinsters are not finding and staying in Marriage’. Obviously there were more ladies of ‘marriageable age’. At least according to Africa’s definition. While it is great to be married, we do think Africa culture and society is putting too much pressure on her daughters. The problem is also not helped in religious organizations.
In Africa, it looks like a taboo and abomination for a lady of thirty years or above to remain single. The situations do not stop here, if they are married and wish to wait before they start the process of childbirth or have delays in given birth, it is usually a big issue of the year.
Our culture and societal demand is making life unbearable for many single ladies out there who want to pursue a career or strive for some great ambition in life. In some cases, women are immediately encouraged to drop their tall ambitions when they get married. Some have to jettison very great and lucrative careers and future in the name of marriage. There is nothing bad if it is a choice and personal decision to do this for the sake of keeping marriage.
But what we have seen in many cases is that many of Africa’s young and promising stars(women) have had to live in silent regrets because they change from being single to married women. When it comes to child upbringing, most Africa men with low income will rather have their wives disengage from their own high paying jobs so that the husband can become the bread winners. In most cases, the man’s income is below and could not cover basic necessities the ladies in questions were used to before.
A successful lady who had not been married due to no fault of hers at thirty six may be considered rude, stubborn, heady even though people had not interacted with her. It is just a stereotype image we carry here. While a male counterparts of her is often seen as ambitious, the female folk is seen as a women liberator who is not submissive.
It is not a case that men do not suffer from this image but womenfolk will go through hell. In some parts of Nigeria, a woman of thirty years and above may not be allowed to rent her own apartment and enjoy certain basic necessities she is due for through hard work just because she is still single. Some Parents of some successful single ladies of thirty five and above often disencourage their daughters from buying cars or to go by public buses so they can be ‘findable’.
Even in the society, most of these parents are under pressure too. When they go to meetings and discussions drift towards how are your children etc, one hears ‘I am now a grand mother or father’ as if that is an achievement of a kind. If your own daughters of marriageable are yet to marry, it is often good to avoid going to certain parties.
Nigeria and indeed most of Africa’s nations permit injustice in name of marriage. If a successful woman’s marriage breaks, accusing fingers are first pointed at the woman. We do know managing success, fame among others may be difficult for some of our female gender, but a well informed and balanced lady is often an asset than liabilities. Men must discipline their egoes. Many successful women are often emotionally abused by their spouses, especially where the man’s income is lower. Everything is seen from the stand point of Pound and Strewing, Naira and kobo. What a lady will do when the man is in charge financially at home may become a big issue if the balance is tilted in her favour.
If a lady chooses to pursue a career first before settling down, we must encourage them. If a lady chooses not to have kids here in Africa, it is an abomination and must not be heard of. This need value re evaluation. We do know this is a hard line to take, but somehow we must begin to think of such possibilities.
Women here in Nigeria, Africa waste several manhours or get stressed up for things they should not because they want to meet the demands of the society. The pressure women who have issue conceiving a child after three to four years of marriage go through here is much. When there is delay, the society points more to women than men. It is with the advent of technology we now know men have a great part to play.
Also before, if a lady had only girls, their husbands and society would be encouraged to go and marry another lady as if she was the architect of the whole scenario. Thank today we know better but the pressure of male child has still not died down. The hush undertone when a woman or husband do not have a male child is still an open wound. In some parts of Africa, we still hear of a woman with only daughters not given anything or allowed by husband’s family members to touch any of her late husband’s estate because she bore no male child for their son while alive.
The world is changing, Nigeria and Africa must not stay in the dark ages. The purpose of this piece though is not to ask women to become unruly. But to call our attention to this issue before it is too late.
To make a change we must ensure the followings.
Men must speak out: For long, men, even the educated ones had remained silent in the face of perceived injustice to women, girls alike. Some men are silent not just because they did not know what to do but because they do not want to ‘lose face’ in the society. Time for men to stand up and speak out on salient issues affecting womenfolk. If they continue to stay silent, time will come when their own daughter will become a victim. Men must also become active in raising well informed men from their boys. A boy who grow up seeing his father firm philosophy about women is not likely to go the other way.
A change in perspective about gender role: While it is good for the men to be bread winners and leaders in everything including finances at home, we cannot deny in our today’s world we have empowered women who are doing equally well financially because they have right qualification and contacts without compromising their values. Men in this few cases at home should work on their egoes and refuse to die before their time. Being an ideal man is not reduced by having low income compare to your wife as long as you are able to pay your bills and do what you are supposed to do at home.
A change in perspective about gender value: Africa and Africans need a change of perspective in their perception of gender value. A male child is considered an asset compare to a female one. Who determines that and who sold us that lie? Even a successful man need a strong woman who can watch his back and give necessary support to him all through his earthly journey.
Many successful men had confessed or alluded to the fact that they ride on the intelligence of their women. Such women are the invisible hands that strengthen their own husbands. Often a man from a broken home, marriage often perform and achieve less than what he is capable of. Statistics have shown this.
Government Policy: Many African nations have weak policies and implementation process with regards to issues affecting women folk. There is need for urgent change in this area if we must make progress.
UNITED NATIONS WOMEN and other Civil Societies Societie’s role: These two arms of the society may be doing well or making efforts, but as we approach the post 2015 Millennium agenda, issues of women must gain frontline attention or else our world’s fate is sealed in the negative.