This conversation has been on my mind since 2008, when I was in High School. I did not understand why my German friend at the time had decided to never get pregnant and have her own kids. She was not opposed to adopting a kid who is two years and above. For she had three of such kids already from different countries. Ohh, before you asked if she was doing this because she did not want to get married and blah blah about feminism and women being men haters. This woman was happily married and loved and respected her husband. At the time, I did not understand her decision, considering my background and culture, marriage to me was for kids. But the husband had other ideas as to why people marry.
I remember him telling me there is more to marriage then just having kids, for example sex is one, as he stated. He mentioned that marriage could also mean having someone you can call your own and can rely on at all times. Having someone to share your happiness and sadness with. It is about the joy of saying We and not I. According to him, if the focus of marriage is on childbirth, what happens if one of the couple is infertile? Does that mean infertile people should not love and get married? I was quite so he continued. He said that childbirth is important for continuity of mankind but it should not be the ultimate goal of marriage. It should be encouraged but not compulsory, for not all are qualified to even bring forth a child. I still did not understand but replied, I see. He told me the wife was a philanthropist who is into child education and development in Africa. So the question I never voiced out was, why care about children when you are not interested in having one?
They met during their Masters programme and fell in love. So he was surprised when she rejected his proposal for marriage. He was sure the feeling was mutual, so what could be the matter? She thought marriage would prevent her from pursuing her PhD degree and she could not afford not to do it. Precisely, pregnancy and child care was her worry not marriage. She appreciates the trouble women go through and how time consuming it is to care for a child, not forgetting some get sick throughout their pregnancy and cannot do anything except bedrest. She never wants to feel unproductive because of her gender and the natural responsibilities that comes with it. But fortunately, he knows her potential and proposed adoption. They agreed and got married.
Today, I have come to appreciate her decision not to have had her own children better. This exposure emanates from listening to conversations around me concerning career women and observing the trouble they go through in taking care of their kids while trying to contribute their quota to the development of their countries. Work is not all about income. Some work because they want to make a change and no amount of money from a husband can fulfill that void. I have heard men countless times talking and complaining about how their colleagues who are women are unproductive and not coming to the office because they are pregnant and having some difficulties. How women stay home for three or four months after delivering to care for the baby and slowing productivity. Therefore certain positions should not be given to women because at any point they will decide to get pregnant and give birth, thus being unproductive. Yet work has to continue just like life must. Yet the same men complaining have wives and kids. Their wives are career women who might have also inconvenience their colleagues at work too because of their decision to have a family. The same men who get their wives pregnant and rendered them unproductive are now complaining of how unproductive someone wife is. Yes, you cannot prevent someone from getting pregnant and giving birth because of work, actually some do. But should that be the case? Is it not about time we stop being hypocrites?
Some women are very good at their jobs and are better than men but are denied of certain opportunities because of the responsibilities that comes with their gender. It is either they are pregnant or have a child hence not suitable. It happens all over the world and not a continent or country issue. So if a woman decides she does not want to marry or give birth, it is not because she hates men or children. Maybe she does not want to be denied certain opportunities and be called unproductive. So many women are increasingly not marrying or giving birth because the system is rigid and not flexible for the needs of women. So many women are forced to choose between contributing to the world and becoming mothers and wives. The world did that to them and yet when they make the choice, they are judged and criticized again by the world for being unproductive or feminist or man haters. If the system were to be flexible and responsive to the needs of women, no woman will choose not to marry. As for child birth, it is the will of God, so if you cannot, there is always adoption. So before you judge a woman for her decision not to marry or give birth, know that it is the world that made her so. She is just a victim of the art of the world, always remember that.
It is human beings that designed the system and made the laws. So it is possible and doable to make the laws flexible and responsive to the needs of women. We cannot achieve it at once, but we must start somewhere. Systems must be put in place for pregnant women and nursing mothers so that they enjoy the same opportunities as others. For it breaks my heart to hear and see a woman being denied of an opportunity because she is married, pregnant or have a child. What is her crime again?
For the world to develop, we need the contribution of both genders in all aspect of the economy. It is not about earning income only, it is also about women contributing their quota to make an impact in the world. It is not about superiority and inferiority, it is about team work and appreciation of individual differences. It is not about men and women, it is about respect for humanity. It is not about you and I, it is about us and the world. Most importantly, it is about changing the stereotype and bias against women. It is about time the world come clean and be specific of its position in women’s contribution to development? Because if the world is in support of women in the world of work, then it will make provisions for them and ensure they enjoy equal opportunities. It is about time all the speeches comes to practicality. Talk is cheap, it is about time actions are put in place to match the talk. It is about time!!!
By: Huzeima Mahamadu.