By Amara Thoronka
Just like how childbearing is highly acclaimed and desired in many African cultures, marriage in Sierra Leone is perceived as a great achievement, attainment of true responsibility and a symbol of pride, dignity and fulfilment. It is a common phenomenon in Africa for unmarried women to face embarrassment and disrespect from people and even their relatives for not being married. I am of the considered view that no matter the prevailing circumstance women should neither be humiliated nor embarrassed because of their unmarried status. However, this article is situated on the role of parenting in rendering young ladies unworthy of being married.
From careful participant observation, one would vividly notice the spike in unmarried women. It is no longer strange to see women rushing to be married just after short moment in a relationship. Due to the profound reverence and prestige bestowed by the Sierra Leonean culture on matrimony, many unmarried women advancing in age are even ready and willing to settle with any man just to be married before exiting the world.
The responsibility of making a lady a suitable wife material is largely the responsibility of the family. First, one is born into the family – the child’s first agent of socialisation. Second, the child spends more time at home than any other place, and finally parents are morally obliged to train, nurture and mould their children in preparation for life’s challenges.
Unfortunately, many parents have abandoned the African way of training their girl children, as the alien westernised culture now takes precedence in homes. I have seen and experienced that a good number of Sierra Leonean parents only encourage their female offspring in pursuing education from elementary onto university and pay very little or no attention at all in other essential sine quo non for marriage and happy matrimony. For those parents, all their girls need to have is a university credential and subsequently a job.
Many parents only raise their girls in a way they would become resourceful to them and not their prospective husbands. This selfish and unreasonable manner of nurturing the girl child usually blind the eyes of parents to adequately train their daughters on how to cook delicious meal, sweep and clean or fix the house, launder clothes, respect people, put on decent dress, cultivate common sense in peaceably settling minor disputes and a whole lot of very useful social essentials needed in preparing girls to navigate through maturity circle and become responsible, respectful, modest and cultured ladies worthy to be married and hailed.
Interestingly, a new terminology has emerged in the social spectrum of life. It is called “slay queens.” These are grown-up ladies who do not know and do not even want to prepare food, launder clothes, mop or clean the house. They don’t care about learning the dynamics of society to know the apt skills and abilities required in becoming a good and praiseworthy wife or mother. They have very little or no concentration in or value for education as they deem it less important in their world characterised by chilling, drinking, eating, partying, photographing and having sex with multiple men. Fun is what they call it. Their only preoccupation is to have and maintain an attractive appearance. They will put on skin-tight clothes, fix eye lash, apply eye contact, wear flashy jewelleries and expensive footwear and spray their bodies with costly perfume. They will always carry along designer bags containing their cosmetics and most often very little cash. Sometime, only fare is in the bag. With such appearance, they would now go out and about for “zip uncontrolled” men that would lavish money on them. Is this not a redefined prostitution? This is the second set of “unafricanised” African ladies that have added to the swelling number of future insensitive female grown-ups. The other batch is those who are uncharacteristic of sober matrimony but are not slay queens. These two categories of unworthy prospective wives largely account for the many unmarried women in the country.
Who is to be blamed here? Though the culpability is generally on society, I am of the view that parents bear the greatest responsibility because the home is the first phase in the socialisation process that is morally mandated by the country’s recognised religious books (Bible and Quran) to teach, guide and train young females to become assets rather than liabilities to their future husbands.
In many homes, parents show no sensitivity to the money and properties their teenage girls bring home; even though they are fully aware that their girl children are not into any moral economical livelihood. In other families, the girl child is seen as a source of income and in such domestic environment young ladies are pushed by their parents to go out there and bring food at the table. All such parents care about is what can sustain the family and not raising their daughters in consonance with discipline and morality.
There are those other parents that perceive the world as a free one and therefore encourage their daughters to live any life. Those parents express no concern on their daughters’ friends, dress, association, attitude or behaviour and future. Disciplinarians in the family circle wanting to stringently shape such children or young ladies most often end as enemies of the parents.
With the increasing immorality, materialism, pleasure seeking, unhealthy competition and over-independence of many young women, a good number of men are becoming very scared and cautious to marry. Nowadays, marriage is like a transient contract because of the many divorces and separations. There is a saying that “you cannot teach an old dog a new trick.”
People, especially African men are confronted with serious economic and social challenges which are most often unbearable. Marrying materially sensitive and/or uncultured woman can compound existing problems. Since the days of creation, women are meant to serve as motivators and helpers to their husbands and not sources of stress and problems. Women in the country need to know that the western culture is different to that of Sierra Leone because the “over-independence and over-protectiveness” of women in the west is not tenable in Africa. The cultural reality in Africa is that men are heads of families regardless of their economic status. This is not about gender theories, but rather the reality of what obtains and is deeply embedded in the culture of Sierra Leone and the wider African community. When this cultural narrative is properly understood and embraced then the hike in unmarried women will drastically decline and wife will peacefully and happily live with their husbands.