Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Zimbabwean women in Diaspora financial bullies

14 Nov 2020 at 05:25hrs | Views
Many married couples, the world over, develop a shared understanding of who does what in their relationship. It is sometimes an unspoken recognition of an inevitable division of labour and responsibilities.

The current commonly agreed "politically correct" plan for marriage is an equal sharing of chores and other duties; but this plan is not followed any more, than it has been throughout history.

In fact, in much of the animal kingdom, there is division of labour which grows inescapably out of different biological imperatives — although here and there, in the animal kingdom, there are surprising instances of role reversal.

But there are roles which are embedded in our natural ecosystem and reversing them may create contradictions. Most societies tend to have gender-specific roles, and it becomes a burden to the one forced to adjust to a role which is "naturally" not his/hers.

Although there is division of labour in human affairs between the sexes, there are changing societal expectations reflected in somewhat different gender roles, at different times and depending on which side of the equator one is. Looking back in time, woman tended to the household duties while the men foraged for food.

In Zimbabwe in particular, men were employed out of the home, while women tended to the household.

The Zimbabwean situation has always dictated that men be adventurous breadwinners, while women manage the home. That meant not only housekeeping, but taking primary responsibility for child upbringing.

However, when people emigrate to the Diaspora, the tables are turned, many women work and contribute as much as the men, if not more. Inevitably, household responsibilities must be shared, but in most cases they are not shared equally.

The Zimbabwean man's reading of expectations in a marriage is that men still fix things and take care of the automobiles. Women still have the primary responsibility for the proper maintenance of the home and the welfare of the children.

If both parents work, for instance, it is more often the mother who takes time off to take a sick child to the doctor, unless the father's schedule is much more flexible. Many women do the cooking and cleaning, while men do the repairs.

Men are likely to assemble the furniture, while women are likely to find themselves with the task of cleaning the same. This arrangement is so deep-rooted in the Zimbabwean male psyche to an extent that any change of the role creates contradictions.

The problem now manifests when the woman gets a well-paying job. In the UK, it becomes easy for a woman to get a job ahead of the man. Many women are in the care industry and earning more than their husbands, while some have gone into nursing, which pays handsomely in the UK.

Unfortunately, in some instances when the monetary power has tilted towards the woman, the man is subjected to humiliating treatment. One case that comes to mind is that of Baba Simba, who became famous after a social media video went viral in 2019.

Baba Simba was going on about how shocked he was when his wife declared that she would go out to see her friends and even sleep there, without tending to her household obligations. It was reported that Baba Simba's wife declared that she would drink wine and any other intoxicating beverages without restrictions.

In her demands, she stated she would do it because her husband used to do the same back in Zimbabwe when he was earning more. Generally, when a woman in the UK is the breadwinner, and being a nurse adds more stripes on her shoulder, trouble might soon start to brew in the home. It is also noteworthy that most nurses practising in the UK benefited from adult entry where their ordinary levels did not count.

Some of these nurses never dreamt of being in the profession in their lives and the shock of such windfall makes them financial bullies. Many marriages have seen their end because men are shocked with the reality they face. If someone tosses a ball around with the kids, it is likely to be the father. If the kids need to be driven to activities, it is usually the mother who does the driving.

She is also likely to be the one buying clothes for them. Social arrangements, such as dinner with friends, are likely to be managed by the wife.  Not so long ago, financial matters seemed the task of the husband, but with the changes in salaries and availability of more jobs for women than men, either spouse may end up managing the bank account, paying the mortgage and, in general, dealing with a budget.

Peter Mabhaira from Leicester narrated his sad story: "My wife is a nurse and earns more than me. She tells me that she can play with her workmates anytime. Some of them will come home and walk right into my house grinning and mumbling their salutations to me as if I am the hired help. "After a few minutes, she too walks out hand-in-hand with a guy.

Only to shout on her way out: 'Iwe ubikire vana takumboenda out na Clyde'."

This culture is strange and completely new, but the wife knows Peter cannot respond in a manner considered abusive, lest the law would deal with him. Paul Chitengu had a more painful story, as his wife denies him conjugal rights. But there are some Zimbabwean women in the UK who are responsible, very human and respectful to their families. Mathew Chikodzonga said he does cook for his children and he is happy to do so because of the respect he gets from his wife.

"The behaviour of my wife makes me respect her, so I trust her more," said Chikodzonga. Dr Maphosa from Birmingham City said: "It is usually the case that one spouse says 'we need this', about a particular expenditure, while the other says, 'we can't afford it'."

Dr Mpofu from Leeds said: "In child rearing, no one parent, by virtue of being the mother or the father, has the last word, especially in disciplinary matters.

"Sometimes parents do not come to an understanding about such issues, and ugly confrontations ensue, upsetting the children. Parents who have different attitudes about education are likely to disagree on how much studying a child should do.

"Children can learn to exploit these differences and become manipulative, which is not in their long-range interest."

Gender roles are shifting and complicated, as described above. One person can be the final word in one sort of issue, like finances, and have little to say about other matters, such as dealing with the children. Still, there are couples whose friends would agree that one person is clearly "the boss".

The individual and more or less arbitrary division of labour in a marriage is not likely to undermine its success. As is always the case, the success of a marriage will depend primarily on mutual respect and affection.

Diaspora now represents a completely new culture and a completely new society with different norms and values. The changes in some cases induce shock and pain, leading to thousands of divorces among Zimbabweans in the diaspora.

Source - the herald
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.