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Banjani abantwana ngekhaya? Ndebele women included: Celebrating the International Day of the African Child

16 Jun 2021 at 21:56hrs | Views
To be fair to other cultures in Zimbabwe, it is only in Ndebele culture where a woman is considered and addressed as a child regardless of her age. Ndebele women are called abesintwana by their male counterparts. (Abesintwana means a female whose thinking remains at the low level of that of a child) In a Ndebele homestead there is only one elder person and that is the man, the father. Women think like children and will never develop to level of a man according to the local thinking of Ndebele culture. Women defend this notion, some of them; they see nothing wrong in upholding culture and language irrespective of its stereotyping and gender profiling.  

I am a busy thinking right now and I am saying to myself; if our Ndebele culture is upheld: Who is Nomazulu Thata on this special day celebrating the African Child? In the scheme of things, am I still regarded as a girl (owesintwana) with my 66 years? If the answer is yes, because the culture says I am a child then it is time to celebrate this great day will other children starting from Bulawayo the City of Queens and Kings, nationally and continentally. Whoever brought this noble idea of giving a thought to African children is to be commended.

There is not much to argue about in this statement considering the goodness, innocence, godliness, intact virtues in children. To be childlike is to be one with the universe. A child is implicitly connected to the natural flows of basic human existence. There is nothing as pure as the mind of a child. It is the adult upbringing that distorts its growth and its perception of its environment. We need to reflect in our lives as children where and when things fell apart. We realize that it was precisely the time when an adult stole the innocence of a child.

To be born an African child is courageous if we look at the challenges it must endure at its formative years. From the onset, an African child is introduced to pain as virtue: Hard work and pain are implicitly interwoven. This special day of African children brings sad memories; unpacks scars of childhood times. It cannot be helped; it is automatic to give more attention to girls than boys because an African girl-child is worse off than boys in African settings.

At their formative years, a girl-child endures genital cutting. Some of them do not survive the ritual they die. At their formative years, a girl-child is sent for marriage: early marriages are not a myth in Zimbabwe. The girl-child is a human component that squares up debt of the family, she is sent to the debtors' home to be the slave labourer and automatically becomes the second wife or third wife to the man. The girl-children are the ones who are deprived of education in favour of boy-children. It is no surprise that communities remain backward in development when they deprive the very niche that has the potential to develop the entire community and the nation. Let us celebrate the Africa Day of the Child.
Child prostitution is prevalent in our African settings. In the absence of parents who may have perished because of HIV/AIDS, child-headed homes are prevalent in Zimbabwe too. The girls tend to engage in prostitution to compliment the subsistence living in their homes. Our government doe does not recognize street children as a vulnerable niche that demand national attention: The number of street children in Zimbabwe is horrendous. International organisations come to our rescue, and they remove them from the street: a noble move we think will put our governments to shame. In retrospect they are not ashamed of neglect they do not see them: street children are invisible to all of us. We shall continue to celebrate the African child's day.

Child labour is the order of the day not only in Zimbabwe but in most countries in Africa. The children are made to work in mines, agriculture, in fisheries, in domestic homes for little pay or nothing except food. Girls from poor homes are sent to live with relatives, they are made to work as payment for school opportunities, clothing, and food lacking from her biological parents. This is a double bind; how many girl children get pregnant from guardian fathers: they are thrown out of these homes like criminals. The fault is the vulnerable girl and not the male guardian who made advances. Let us continue to celebrate Africa Day of the Child.

Girl-children are subjected to virgin-testing in families even in the second Millennium. When we look at the cases of rape and sexual violence in our societies: the statistics say every 29 minutes a girl, toddler, young women are sexually abused. How is it possible to still expect girls to remain virgins if the societies are violent towards them? The selective morality in our communities is the problem: young men are encouraged to have sexual intercourse at early ages of their lives to practice it but will expect chastity in girls. We shall continue to celebrate Africa Day of the Child.  

Domestic violence exposes children to violence and in the media.  In a feat of rage, when a fight breaks out in the home, homicide is possible: children are victims, dying in crossfire.  children have been killed by partners to punish the other. The children who suffer most are stepchildren who are taken by the mother to a second marriage; are openly at risk of sexual harassment, physical punishment. Such children live in constant fear of being punished for being born. Let us continue to celebrate Africa Day of the Child.

In Zimbabwe children are abducted and murdered in ritual styles. Some are killed and their body parts are harvested for voodoo purposes. Zimbabwe is a nation that prides in high literacy rates the whole of Africa but inconceivable how this back of beyond beliefs that human body parts can make one powerful or rich; out of the realm of good senses. Yet we hear this fear of body harvesting of dead bodies very often. Not long ago we heard the fear of Mugabe family that if the late former President was to be exhumed it was because of body harvesting the incumbent president wanted to do to make voodoo.

Millions of our Children in Zimbabwe miss out good quality education because of dilapidated schools left by former Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith. African governments have failed dismally to build on what colonials left as good foundation for future development. What is a nation without future educated generation? Health care in towns and cities are a death trap, how do we expect our children to be healthy if the services are non-existent or dilapidated.      

Women and girl-children are the last colony in Africa that must be liberated. The continent is not liberated if women are deprivileged in aspects of social, economic, political, and cultural development. There are reasons why Africa Day of the Child was declared to bring attention to governments who are removed and aloof from the realities of the lives of African children. To ignore children is to deprive the nation of its future and generations to come. Please do not be surprised that in this paragraph women are addressed; it is because according to the traditions of the Ndebele we are children.

The Ndebele culture considers women as abesintwana. This does not worry me much for several reasons: When women get empowered and start to run their own affairs, there is no chance a man can oppress and supress the freedom and emancipation of a resourceful partner in the home. A good section of women in Matabeleland are breadwinners making their position in the home powerful and remarkable. It is stupidity of the highest order if a man still thinks in his limited thought processes, he is still the boss in the home and his wife is subordinate to him. Let us continue to celebrate the Africa Day of the Child: culturally it is my day to reflect my childhood journey.
Source - Nomazulu Thata
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