The wind of change is blowing, sending waves tossing up and down stirring up what has existed undisturbed for centuries. In this rousing the world is being hatched from its centuries-old shell to new birth. We are in the time of awakening, maturing too perhaps. Once again we are challenged to take distance from our own cultures and traditions, our own identity, in order to reflect in a disinterested way on our society and on ourselves. Certainly we marvel at our beauty that often overflows unnoticed, yet still, we also realise there is some mopping up to do somewhere.
The door of change, free entry!
The place of women, especially in relation to men, is one of the topical issues today. Women have been sidelined, dominated by men. Being a woman has been a limiting factor in what one could dream and do at the expense of full self-expression as a human being. Being a woman meant keeping a low profile in the presence of man. Women have been an oppressed and repressed sex. Unfortunately, backed by customs, traditions, ideologies, and theologies; the discrimination went as the normal way of doing things embraced by both men and women. In that way we have managed to live in the falsity of a big lie with a clear social and personal conscience. Thank heavens, we are coming back to our sane minds and awaking from the slumber of deformed ideas on which our society for so long has been organised. We make progress when we are able to see things as they are. Such a revolutionary step in the right direction began centuries ago. Indeed, this is a cause that all men and women need to understand and thus begin to play their part in the eventual reorganisation of society. However, this should never be merely a question of euphoria or excitement. It ought to be directed by a correct understanding of what we are about. A realisation of genuine gender equality demands a clear definition and understanding of the whole issue so that any change in this area does not merely bring us to another form of a lie.
Hence, this book aims to provoke further questions and reflection by exposing the reality of an ordinary woman in a Zambian society. Zambian society, like any other, has developed certain attitudes and behaviour based on a certain worldview which, with time, have become habitual and popular so much that they acquire the status of custom to be respected and transmitted as tradition. People live them and rarely do they pose questions. In so doing a lot of imperfection passes unnoticed for what it really is.
Aware of this danger, when I taught in the skills training centre TYFOTAP, I tried to address this aspect as part of the empowerment process. The centre is situated in a shanty township of ‘Racecourse’ in the City of Kitwe where Missionaries of Africa, through Fr Jean-Marie Beliveau as initiator –with the collaboration of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocation Training –help the youth and women in different skills: tailoring, weaving, carpentry, literacy and nutrition.
Every week we put away carpentry and tailoring tools, for an hour, and sat down to discuss some of the traditional practices, instructions and popular sayings in order to discover how they are either at the base or contribute to the organisation of our society that in many ways discriminates against women. Hence, the issues treated in this book are drawn and developed from the questions that we discussed in class. This is not a work of academic speculation but an exposition based on what those simple women, who had in fact just been taught to read and write, were glad to share from their daily experience. It was enriching to have that group of women coming from at least all the seven major ethnic groups in Zambia. While the topics that are dealt with are drawn from the Zambian context the approach is however a broad one taking into consideration the situation of women in different cultures, religions and countries as well as from studies that have already been made. That serves as a window to see what is happening in other cultures. Though perhaps shocked by what we find, that should help us to reflect on our own cultures, and possibly look at them with a different perception.
The aim of those class discussions was to awaken a critical, reflective outlook on the customs, popular sayings and practices in an attempt to, first, identify the gender inequality in them, appreciate it for what it is and therefore address it from the grassroots. And that is equally the aim of this book. Hence, this book can be useful to the gender equality activists and the teachers who might use it for group or class discussion.
My ideas for this book became much clearer, and indeed I was motivated, during the class discussions with the women and the young people at the skills training centre. The discussions gave me a wide base of concrete cases and experiences which have provided an important backdrop to the issues treated in this book. For this I am grateful to all the people who made it possible for me to have this inspiring and enriching encounter of exchange. My gratitude first goes to my confreres Fr Jean-Marie Beliveau and Fr Maurits De Weerdt with whom I lived in the community in Kawama, Kitwe. Not only did they let me work in the centre but they also gave me room to be creative with what I could, and wanted to do. For that I also thank Fr Antoon Oostveen, at the time the Provincial of the Missionaries of Africa in Zambia, who appointed me to that community.
My thanks go equally to Mr Justin Katungulu who was the Principal of the centre at the time; thanks also to Madam Marie Antonio who encouraged the discussions so much that she allowed her women in the production department to participate as well. I am proud of those women especially for their enthusiasm and openness in both expressing their views and their willingness to talk about their experiences. I acknowledge also another group that took part in the discussions, the students of both tailoring and carpentry, 2002-2003 in-take, who also encouraged me by their interest and active participation.
Last but not the least, I am grateful to my confrere Francis Barnes and my friend Nathalie Morawski who edited the text. To all these people, I am deeply indebted for this book.
A Woman Like Mum
How Popular Sayings and Practices
Contribute to the Discrimination and Violence Against Women
By Evans K. Chama
In A Woman Like Mum, Chama takes an head-on look at gender issues in his native Zambia. Given the prevalent western view on the progress that has been made toward gender equality, it is difficult to believe the level of gender disparity that still exists in parts of the world and, more so, the underlying cultural indoctrination that serves to maintain the status quo. The work takes a hard and honest look at how things are today based on primary research gathered from discussions with a group of women. Chama’s subsequent analysis reveals both his passion and his sensitivity toward the topic; he is not content to just reveal the issues but is intent on coming up with ways to address and change them. A Woman Like Mum represents an important step toward raising the standards of equality and initiating the cultural shifts needed to bring resolution to existing gender disparities. Clearly, the work is highly relevant in Zambia as an educational tool and a change catalyst. Equally, it serves as reminder for both developing and developed nations that with regard to gender equality there is more work to be done. (Nathalie Morawsky)
Outline of the Chapters:
- What is gender equality? Here is an attempt to clarify what is meant of the equality between and woman, to address and correct some false notions about it.
- Can we talk about gender equality in Marriage? Explores whether an ordinary woman appreciates or not the whole issue of gender equality. Or is it just for the educated women to occupy high positions as men? What possibilities are there for equality in marriage?
- Women, their Image and Work: what image do women have of themselves, how does society portray them and consequently, how is their work appreciated? What are the consequences?
- Raising a girl today: with gender equality activism, how do educate a girl child, what is the difference between today and in the past? What education do we give to break the discrimination and improve the image and the aspirations of the girl child?
- I will Marry a Woman like Mum: this is a popular saying. What does it mean? Why do boys say so? What are they looking for? Why don’t girls say I will marry a man like Dad? How is it a gender issue? How does it contribute to the discrimination against women? What men’s mentality does this saying reveal?
- How much does your Daughter cost? Addresses the custom of bride price, its implication, how it contributes to gender imbalance and violence against women, and how are the young people reacting to it.
- My Wife, a Maize field? Investigates the mentality and the consequences of treating a woman as a tool of reproduction.
- Effects of Women’s dependence on Men: explores the effects that women suffer by the way society has trained them to depend on men, especially economically.
- Love potion; Are women just nasty? When women use traditional medicines in the hope to be loved more by their husband; what are they really looking for? Why not so common that a man uses such medicines to be love by his wife?
- Romance; Akatemba cupo: explores a traditional way of showing affection, how is it a matter of gender discrimination?
- If Your Husband does not beat you… this is a saying well known by women but in the back of their mind. Where does it come from? How does that make women submit to violence?
- Why Women are silent when abused? Discusses Women’s handicaps that make them unable to react to violence by husband in a home or in places of work.
- What does being a Widow Entail? Explores the unconscious notion of a widow, the difference between widower and widow, the image of a widow before her fellow women and before men, the abuse a widow suffers
- Property Grabbing, Is it mere Criminal Act? What is a traditional view? What are the underlying conceptions that manifest themselves in taking away property from widow; what is the weakness of the government law that protects the widows?
- Approach to working for gender equality: addresses deceptive signs of gender equality