By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published November 13, 2009
In 2006 in Kenya when Edith Wambui Waiyaki Otieno, a 67-year-old woman, married Peter Mbugua (a clear 42 years her junior) many eyebrows were raised about the absurdity of the situation. A year later the African continent was stunned when 23-year-old Farai Mbereko of Zimbabwe confirmed that he had not only impregnated his 40-year-old biological mother whom he described as sexy but that he was marrying her. Such occurrences leave people wondering what has happened to masculinity in Africa. BETHSHEBA ACHITSA reports.
The era where men were the providers, the chiefs, the decision makers and the heads of the family are long gone and now an all powerful woman who can run farming communities, take initiative in feeding their offspring and make decisions regarding the family has emerged. With education open to them as it was to men, the evolving woman on the African continent has expanded her territory beyond the kitchen and the bedroom. But while this has been good on one hand these changes have taken a toll on men on the other hand.
Today men are frightened of the working woman not because of anything else but her money. The working woman will not hang around with a jobless man who cannot feed and educate his own children. Lack of money has caused once peaceful homes to suddenly disintegrate and has led to the increased number of divorce cases. Though many will come up with theories to explain what has happened to masculinity in the present day world; economy more than anything else is the force behind the changing nature of masculinity in Africa.
The sudden loss of economic control over family and destiny is making men uncertain and hesitant. Without the necessary wealth to marry their age mates, economically-dependent young men like Peter Mbugua opt to marry economically-well-off women (even if they be as old as their great grandmothers) for financial security.
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As some men accept their fate, others are fighting back in the best way they know how. The latter resort to rape, violence and looting as a way of saying they are still in control. After all, they reason, masculinity is not about who they are but about who they want to be. The likes of Farai Mbereko marry their own mothers not because the women have proved to be stronger-minded than they are and thus influence their decision making. Such young Mbuguas and Mberekos, no longer sure of their identity, abandon their not-so-well materially-endowed age-mates for the richer but elderly Wambui Otienos or mothers.
For now, many are grieving over the loss of masculinity in Africa. However, the sudden change in the family set up has had its effects on both men and women. While some women pretend that they are after all not in need of men as long as they can provide for themselves, the reality is that many of those financially stable women are reeling in desperation. Such women, afraid that their age-mates aren’t interested in them, go for the poor, economically unstable for sexual exploitation.
All in all, as much as human rights bodies continue to fight for gender equity, there are certain facts that cannot be changed. Scientists and technology may convince women that they after all do not need a man to sire a child, but not one of these facts can replace the position and the role of men in the society as dictated by their gender and sex.