Commentary on the Article THE FAMILY AS SOCIETAL SAFETY NET
The article on the Family as Societal Safety –Net, published in Nigeria, This Day Newspaper of November 12, 2015, reflects the present picture of family as most people believe in Africa. Marriage as most Africans understand is a union between a man and a woman and the idea of same sex marriage is seen as foreign.
African marriage ceremonies involve elaborate traditional activities, which involve the bride and groom, the two families and the communities. Although the types of ceremonies vary from one community to another, the traditional requirement of marriage relies on the male and female aspects of the ceremony.
Though there have been many changes in technology and culture, there is very little shift in traditional African communities about the concept of marriage. For the African, from marriage we build families. The family is the fundamental unit of society, it is said to be where our heritage begins and where we learn the basic teachings about life.
On another note, this article points out, that, as more women get educated and acquire financial independence, many mothers are working outside their homes. Both parents leave the house for work everyday. These tendencies leave children more vulnerable to mistreatment and misdirection by some vicious house-helps or care givers. Professional caregivers cost a lot and most parents cannot afford to meet the financial demands. The result is that most children stay longer hours with unqualified caregivers than with their parents. It, therefore, deprives the children of the bond between them and their parents. To build strong family bonding, employers might retain more quality workers and greater productivity, if more support and time is given to employees to have access to good daycare and given more time off to attend to family obligations. Raising a family is important to the society and it necessary to pay attention to this essential duty to society.
Therefore, WOW-Africa focuses its programs on promoting healthy marriages, strong families working with parents. WOW –Africa is on the forefront advocating for changes to traditional practices and culture to militate against women and children in various communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Parents have an obligation to establish stable families and attend to teaching the children the truth about life.
As Thomas A. Kempis writes in the Imitation of Christ, “Persons who are taught by truth and not by symbols or deceitful words are really blessed and happy, for they learn the truth in itself. Our own opinions and lack of knowledge often lead us astray, because we do not know the truth as it is”.
The West came to Africa many years ago to teach Christianity and its gospel principles. Most Africans listened to the message of the Christian religion, believed, welcomed and carried the good news. Today the West has come back to Africa and with the power of the television, the radio and the internet to teach us a new version of Marriage. Through the print and electronic media, we hear about Marriage Equality. This remains a hard sell to many Africans as the new truth. The result is that many African countries are threatened with discontinuation of charitable aids or projects to improve the social and economic development of these struggling nations.
African culture and the Holy Books teach us the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”. In other words, do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Africans are committed to loving others as God loves us. They are committed to establishing families as the basic units of the community. They are still committed to the original truth taught in the Holy Books. A new concept is still a very hard pill for many Africans to swallow.
In conclusion, as Pope Francis said during his recent visit to Uganda, East Africa, his visit was meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole, its promise, the hopes, its struggles and its achievements. “ The world looks up to Africa as the continent of hope”
In all, Africa is indeed the continent that maintains its traditional belief and value that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman and strong families build strong communities and nations. As Pope Francis further said in Uganda, , Africa has her promises and hopes, her struggles and achievements.
Unfortunately, clamping down on the spirit of charity because Africa holds on to her beliefs on marriage is unfair. After all, Africa is not trying to insist on her own habits of polygamy. We should say, live and let us live, however in our bliss or truth about marriage and community.
Carol Ugochukwu–Executive Director Worldwide Organization for Women Africa, VP WOW-Africa