Category Archives: Culture and Relationships

This is where we talk about the dynamics of life that connect us together. Those practices that define us as a certain people and sets us apart from the pack. What is it about culture and tradition that is so important to who we are as a people and how does that connect to our relationships with each other? Lets delve deeper……..

Sisterhood! Crisis?

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SISTERHOOD! IN CRISIS?

This article started as a something about us bringing each other down. The more I researched I found that this seemed  more of an issue among us women. Are we really that horrible to each other? I will say that is how I felt at the beginning. As women we do not like each other. Not really. We like certain relatives of ours, certain friends of ours but as a group I think not. Our words do not reflect of actions.

We talk about the sisterhood like this tight guild, but we do so many evil things to each other. We gossip about each other, spread lies about each other, we make each other feel bad just because the other does not dress like us or is not as pretty as us and worse we have affairs with our best friends husbands. What is it about us that is so horrible? Do we have a crisis on our hands? Is this issue blown out of proportion? Does the sisterhood actually exist? Many questions; any answers?

Feminism

Is there a place for an organized movement in this day and age? Have we come so far that we can now battle it out on our own? One could argue that with a right to vote and earn a salary what more do women want? On the one hand women are fighting for respect and the right to be treated as equals on all facets of life. But then we also want to be treated like a lady, have our doors opened for us, our chairs pulled up and all sorts of chivalry. Are we asking for too much? The argument goes that we are contradicting ourselves. Is it fair to expect men to treat you like a lady but then demand equality accorded all men?  Contradiction? Tough this is not the case with most women, there is a breed of women who want it both ways.  They demand to be an equal at work and in the home but have no shame playing the damsel in distress card. Mixed signals alright!

The one thing that I feel is not reflected especially in the militant of feminists is that feminism is a fight for women to be treated with respect but that can be in so many ways. A woman has the right to be respected for being a CEO of a large conglomerate as well as the mother of a family of seven. What we fail sometimes to realize is the feminist movement comprised women of all standing but they came together to fight for the right to be, the right to choose. Some women were pro-life, others pro-choice; liberals as well as conservative.  But they had a common goal! It is unfair for anyone especially women to look at another’s station and disregard it because it does not measure up to your opinion of a 21st female. Feminism made it possible for a woman to say, yes I have a degree, yes I had a high profile job but I choose to stay at home or conversely I choose to put my career first.

Work place mayhem

A female boss can be called a cow for the very same treatment a man will be respected for. No doubt there are some women in the workplace who bring out the worst in anybody. I remember one such woman and to this day she stands out for me. I have worked with and for many women. Is she the only woman I have not liked? Not at all, but she is the one woman I know who blatantly used her position to try and make other people feel small. And when I didn’t bend over backwards, she tried to make my life at work difficult; talking about me to the other male managers. Unfortunately for her, people knew she was a cow so it didn’t work out so well for her. Basically what it boils down to is that there are few crap female managers but given that there are few females in senior positions in comparison to male counterparts, a cow is far easier to notice. So if you are in a position of authority, are you being true to that position or are you one of the lady bosses that women love to hate?

Play date Battles

You would think that this sort of behavior is exempt in this environment. NOT! Even in motherhood there is rivalry; working mother versus stay at home mum! Whose baby reached which milestone first? There are so many arguments for and against each method of parenting you just cannot win. I watched on Oprah where a woman described this scenario and in her opinion this argument was an outward reflection of the internal struggles women endure about whether to return to work or stay at home. With parenting, there is no right or wrong. The idea is to make the decisions that best suit your family and that you can live with.

Man is Best Friend?

Growing up I was a bit of a tomboy. Being an only girl as well probably didn’t do me any favours. My best friend in grade one and two was a boy, and for a long time I had great friendships with boys. Most women who I spoke to felt that they got along better with men than women.

For a long time I too thought men made better friends. It is true that men are easier to talk too; idle chat that is. Men are easier to get along with for as long as you’re not in a relationship with them. Throw dating and marriage into the equation and you have a whole different ball game.  You need to be a mind reader to know what goes on in their head. I know that I can deal with men because I have lived with many in my life. But don’t mistake familiarity for a personal relationship.  A guy will never understand what it feels like to have a period, to give birth, to have a bad hair day, or a fat day. A guy will not go with you to watch a chick flick; he’s not the person you get drunk with and moan to about your ex or the friend who’s going to help you set up for or clean up after a party. Men make great colleagues because it hardly gets personal. Overstep your boundaries and chances are he won’t be returning your calls. Human beings are complex, men and women. Women open up, men not so much. So what am I saying? Men are alright if you don’t want anything complex. With women, we sometimes cannot just let things be.

This past weekend, some girls and I went to a party and I came across a lady I had met once through a friend. We accommodated her in our click and seemed to be getting on well until out of the blues she started talking about my daughter and how badly she will probably end up due to the way I parent her now. Hameno hako she said, numerous times. Now, I met this woman once 10 months ago when my daughter was 6 months old.  What riled me was the fact that we weren’t even talking about children at the time, after all it was a girls’ night out and she’d only met my daughter and me once. So what was she on about? Good thing is we were on our way out but we were all left wondering what the hell had just happened. And no, she was not drunk! That’s some women for you.

Are you the Witch?

It hit me that we all complain about other women so who are these culprits, we can’t all be innocent?  Who are these rude, negative, backstabbing, gossiping, jealous, vindictive women? Us.

One thing I have learnt in life is that as women we are different things to do different people. A bit hard to digest? Of course it is; it is so much easier to point the blame elsewhere. But we never do, do we? We each have a friend with a trait that really works on our nerves but will we rattle the cage and risk losing her? Some of even talk about having frenemies and I say, why keep around people with drama? We each have a friend or relation who irritates us with their constant whining and bringing us down with the negative energy they carry around. We have a friend we will never introduce to our boyfriend or husband. We have a friend who, when it comes down to the wire we know will never be there for us but when she calls we answer. And sadly, we are one of these things to another woman.

Is the sisterhood really in crisis?  Probably not. We cannot and will not like every woman on the planet. We will always have an opinion about the next women. The problem is we respond to people based on these unfounded perceptions and then cannot understand why we don’t get along. As women, when we walk into a room we survey the people in it and based on the way a person is dressed  and their body language we create mini profiles of who they are . That part of us isn’t really going to change because it is how we build relationships. The mistake we make is to then treat people on that basis without giving them an opportunity to prove us wrong. We are so trusting of our intuition that we cannot imagine that we can get things wrong once in a while.

We should define ourselves not by the things that set us apart but most importantly by the things that bring us together, the things that only we share that men do not and cannot. Women are diverse. We are European, African, Asian, Arabic, and American. We are of many shades of colour. We are liberal, conservative, socialist, religious, and atheist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu. All these things could set us apart if we allow them too. Rather than look at them as differences that make it difficult to connect why not see them as qualities that we could learn from?

As time has gone by, my female friends and family have become invaluable to me. And even though the  circle  has become smaller than it was in school and in my early 20s, the level of expertise and wealth of knowledge and wisdom they possess has grown. I love women, I may not always like them but I know my world wouldn’t be as vibrant without them. So as we go on with our daily grind, let’s try to recognize that we are more alike than  dissimilar. And most importantly, let’s allow things to marinade a little in our mouth before we let them pass through our lips.

Stay blessed.

Lobola: A dinosaur facing extinction?

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When one hears of someone who’s just paid lobola there is a great interest in how much it all cost. Together with the interest comes the arguments for and against  lobola; that it puts a price on women, does not allow for equal rights within a marriage and fuels violence in relationships but also that it is our culture and we should preserve it from the constant denigration by western values. The general view is that it has been commercialised to varying degrees but this has taken place for a long time, more so with an unstable economy.

There has been a loud and persistent call for us to go back to the values that our ancestors instilled in lobola. It is said that in the golden years roora/lobola mainly constituted badza (a hoe) and four or five heads of cattle. The bride’s father was also in a position to request the labour of his son-in-law in lieu of payment for a year.  I do wonder though if we are considering these gifts in today’s economic terms and thus consider them small and ceremonial in their effect. Given that our society was agrarian then,  I would like to think a hoe and four of five heads of cattle were significant, never mind the prospect of a young man laboring for a year or whatever time was required, for his in-laws as part of the bride price. In an era of employment and remuneration I personally cannot imagine my husband working for my father for a whole year. That would be a lot to pay I think. And during the time when the son-in-law was bound to work for his father-in-law, who would provide for his new family? Truthfully speaking what we know of the history of lobola is from what has been passed on from generation to generation through oral tradition and the documented observation of the first European settlers. We do not know how the women of that time truly felt of the practice or whether by the economic standards of the time such payments would have been viewed as fair. The question is, where money and property is involved can there ever be a true meeting of minds?

What I found interesting in my personal research and having asked various women for their opinions was there was not much of difference in opinion. For most women the feeling was that the practice was worth saving because it was a way of bringing two families together and most importantly, an outward sign of the man’s commitment to the woman and the relationship. Like one woman put it, “Where your money is, your heart is!”  It was interesting too to find women totally against the practice but who themselves had lobola paid for them. I personally went through the practice and found it very interesting and even entertaining. The anticipation was a killer but overall the day was filled with good vibes and laughter. Maybe my experience was different to most (one respondent called her experience sad as money took centre stage with little celebration).

There is one argument that the practice keeps a couple who are emotionally prepared to commit apart because the groom is not able to come up with the funds required. Another argument against it has been that women have very little say in the process and the men pretty much conduct the entire proceedings without any input from the women in the family let alone the bride. This is true for some families but in my case the female relatives were involved in the process. My mother and my aunts were involved in the meetings prior to the big day and most importantly the occasion where the bride price was decided.  I have heard of cases where the mothers and tetes (aunts) of the brides have caused mayhem where the fathers have been hard-headed and refused to negotiate thus risking a breakdown of negotiations. Needless to say women can offer more contribution than a last-minute uprising to preserve negotiations or to just be muted observers. In that case I would say this argument holds true for a particular family structure. I would like to believe that women are more involved in the process today than before. On the actual day there isn’t much for the women in either family to do apart from the bride herself and her tete and the cooking of course. I feel the argument in certain regards snorts on the progress women have made in the home.  As a woman and mother I feel my opinion matters as much in my family; granted there is room for improvement. Hopefully, with time the parties to the negotiations will be chosen purely on merit thus making way for Amai Kuda, known to be a fierce haggler as part of the negotiating team.

Another observation I made was of the woman who is proud that their/their daughter’s lobola was so enormous. For them it is a reflection of their value to their family and when they tell friends of the amounts charged you catch that slight glimmer of pride in their eyes. My worry is always with regards to one’s in-laws. Are you then now expected to live up to expectations which are undoubtedly created as a result, unless of course money is no object to them? The feeling among some of the respondents was that the bride price should reflect the groom’s station in life with one opinion that if the groom’s family was well off this should be reflected in the amount paid. It is common practice to only pay part of the bride price (until the bride has had a good progress report, I spouse) and in some communities a full payment is shunned upon. I wonder how many grooms have paid in full since the beginning of this practice especially in the last few decades. Often I have heard of my uncles with grown children and sometimes even grandchildren going to pay off the balance of the lobola. In such cases some of the parties to the initial agreement are late. Which has made me wonder if there are men who have indulged their in-laws and paid part of the huge bill and just gone on with life without paying the rest of the debt? I am told though that the ancestors wouldn’t be pleased with this.

With a significant amount of our population living in the Diaspora, the lobola debacle acquires new arguments against it. What with excessive charges on the basis that the bride is in the Diaspora (therefore worthy of a large payout) or the groom lives in the Diaspora (and thus can afford the large payout). No doubt, this sort of exploitation is disgusting and requires a decisive clampdown. Another issue is mixed marriages especially where our daughter marries into a culture that does not practice lobola. Should we insist on it, regardless? One could argue that it’s unfair to subject the young man to a culture he is not accustomed to but that could be turned round to argue for it; the young woman in question having been raised in the said culture and thus it being unfair to deny her the exercise. In such a situation we could say it’s up to the young woman to sell the culture to the young man. There are many cases of young Western men paying lobola for their African brides.  For the young African man this is decided for him (with few likely to accept any payment for their daughter) but the problem persists for our young women.  Where the partners of these young women have sought to respect our culture and pay lobola I feel we have exposed our greed by charging exorbitantly (after all they fit into the lives-abroad-hence-can-afford-the-huge-bill category). Having a daughter myself and living in the Diaspora this is one for further thought for me. I would like to believe I have at least 20 years to actually consider it.  The realities are she may meet someone of a different ethnic background and thus this may one day be an issue. All I do know is that I would do my utmost as a parent to ensure my daughter’s happiness.

It is however necessary to point out that the practice of lobola is not practiced throughout the continent. It is more prevalent in Southern Africa than anywhere else. One of the respondents of Nigerian descent and Yoruba pointed out that in her family’s experience payment has been notional ranging between £20-£100; paid during the engagement/marriage ceremony. If one chose not to have such a ceremony then no amount would be paid. I would like to believe that the ceremony in itself is important as this is where the in-laws get to meet each other. However, these days with people living in different countries it’s not always possible. The thinking is that it would be unfortunate to have people introduced to each other at the wedding.

Then there is the issue of violence and women being viewed as sex objects. There is no doubt that this is a serious issue and one which requires a greater voice and attention from society at large. Most respondents felt that huge bride prices were to blame as they left men disillusioned by the concept of marriage and start to view their women as objects they own. But when we look outside the box and take into account the world in general, violence and sexual oppression are serious issues for the global community to address. Hence, if we do away with lobola will this eradicate these issues? I think not. If a man has little or no respect for a woman and chooses to subject her to violence and use her for his personal sexual gratification, he’s going to find an excuse (after all that’s what it is I paid for you!) to assert this behavior, lobola or not. Domestic violence exists in cultures where lobola is not practiced. As a society these are issues we need to deal with through educating ourselves, our peers and most importantly our daughters so they never feel that someone has a right to treat them as such. Should the resulting effect be a total revolt of the lobola practice then thus is the result. The primary objective is respect for all.  The argument for or against lobola will always draw a wedge between people, even people who all agree that violence and oppression against women is despicable.

There is no doubt that the dialogue on lobola and its place in today’s society is an important one and one in which we should all have a say. At present there is a stronger argument against the practice in its current state. All respondents agreed that they would not like to see the custom legislated as it would take away from its essence. One respondent added “There are too many variables to consider such as the family’s socio-economic levels, number of daughters in the family, how loved that particular daughter is, how educated is she, is she an unmarried mother, how old she is, education level of the parents/guardians, what time of year it is etc. Most families would not adhere to the prescribed law and what with globalisation; I don’t think we could fully incorporate different geographies and influence of new cultures.” . One respondent however asked that where one has put themselves through university, who should receive payment? This is question which, if anything, reflects the complexities one would face in trying to legislate. Some have called on some sort of guidelines to ensure that the practiced is safeguarded from abuse and preserved. The feeling is that this would enable people to understand their roles and most importantly the purpose of the practice. One called for a cap on the amount payable. But lest we forget the ceremony in itself is a negotiation. If we regulated in any way then what would be left for the negotiations? Any negotiation requires both sides to listen to each other and come up with an arrangement that is reasonable and acceptable to all.

Personally, as far as lobola is concerned it is each one to their own. In Zimbabwe, the Legal Age of Majority act provides that anyone above the age of 18 has the legal right to marry without payment of lobola. If we were to legislate and deem it unlawful to pay and receive lobola the chances are that we would just become creative in our practice (bootleg lobola). And, how many of us would report our family to the police should they insist on it. There is already a fear of reprisal and isolation in the event that one refuses to have their partner pay lobola from them. For some women, the fear of not being valued (easy come, easy go) floats in their mind and sometimes is the deciding factor. Ultimately if you’re not for it you can marry without the hassle in the hope your family understands. If the practice is still valuable to you, you have the choice of being influential in the process (after all you don’t want to start your marriage heavily in debt) or  do as is expected of you as per your family‘s protocol and hope for the best. At the end of it all we have choices to make; it’s the ramifications that most of us aren’t willing to take on. Most importantly, how we interpret and exercise this practice has a strong and decisive impact on how our children and their children with view the practice.

Hello world!

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Greetings beautiful people and welcome to my blog; the place where anything and everything is up for discussion. Instead of keeping it in lets let it out, lets talk about it until we’ve mastered it and conquered it. Let’s have fun doing it and most importantly, let’s respect ourselves and each other in the process. Much love!