‘Happy Mother’s Day to all our dear mothers’. I received this message for the umpteenth time on Whatsapp. I asked myself whether this ritual was now a monthly ritual as I could recall that in February it held. I stand to be corrected on this though as I am not too sure but I was certain that I had heard the phrase this year.
Before long the statuses of most of my contacts uploaded the pictures of their mothers and wives as well.
Mothers are priceless and the gift is one that is held for life even after the children have grown up and left the house. These mothers still protect their kids like the mother hen does over her chicks. This explains why some mother-in-laws seriously clash with their daughter-in-laws as the former sees the latter as intruders into their highly protective space.
The plight of mothers in Africa is highly pathetic to say the least. The ones in the rural areas toil under unimaginable conditions to eke out a far from decent living as most of them are active economic actors in their respective families. They go to the farms with 19th century tools with babies strapped on their backs and toil from day to night with little to show for it. Many do menial jobs that can hardly fund their transportation fares. For many it is agony and anguish that is their fate and they have adjusted themselves to adapt to it.
Many in the urban areas work in male dominated environments that have little care for their welfare and peculiar challenges. For decades the maternity leave was just a mere three months before its recent increase to six after years of ferocious agitation. Many of them are victims of male chauvinism and rape with the system stacked against them when they try to get reprieve from it. Many are harassed in the work place and educational institutions and the callous system tries to make them look like the agent provocateurs who are ‘paying for their sins.’
Many cultural practices place the female child at a grave disadvantage. Many families are viewed as incomplete without a male child who in my view is highly overrated. The woman is forced to undergo lots of humiliations as if it is her fault forgetting that scientifically, it is the man’s sperm that determines the sex of the children.
Then there are single mothers. Once upon a time there was a heavy stigma associated with being one but now with the incursion of modernity and westernization, it is now seen as the norm. There is no special treatment given to them and they suffer a harrowing experience while bringing their offspring up. They go through hell and high water and many are forced by circumstances beyond their control to sell their bodies just to give their kids a semblance of the good life as there is no cushion by the government that is largely inept and uncaring to alleviate their burdens.
In the political space where the women can make a monumental impact, it is highly dominated by the male folks who make it an uphill task for them to hold sensitive public offices where they can better their lot. In Nigeria for example which prides herself as the ‘Giant of Africa’ and the most populous nation in the African continent, most political meetings are held at night which time zone is unfavourable to women especially the married ones who have to be with their families as it’s a sign of irresponsibility to be out that late. What about those with babies or young children? It is skewed against them heavily. How many women have the financial muscle to slug it out at the polls with their male counterparts? It is tragic that despite the fact that most African nations are populated by women, they have little say in how they are governed. What about the corporate world? How many Managing Directors or key officials are women? How many business women controlling billions of naira are women? How many key decision makers in the polity, economy and even religion are women?
It is high time we moved beyond saying a mere ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ to enforcing policies that will be of monumental effect on the lives of women around the continent. We must ensure that women hold a pride of place in all the key sectors of the country and must make policies to make life much easier for them especially for the economically disadvantaged and for those resident in the rural areas. Women who solely carry babies for nine months and have the responsibility of nurturing babies clearly deserve a much better deal that they are getting in Africa. This better life for women cannot be achieved by women alone. Non chauvinistic men are massively encouraged to join forces with progressive women to make this happen.
God bless women especially those of African extraction!
Once more Happy Women’s Day All!