Do women breast-feed children in Africa?

Breast feeding is regarded in Africa as one of the noblest roles played by the female gender. Women do breastfeed and it is no big deal. Because of the life-giving value of this gracious maternal role, it is done anywhere, anytime, and in the open even, without anybody seeing anything wrong with it. It is a common scene then, in Africa, to see a baby tugging away at its mother's nipples and swallowing mouthfuls of nourishing maternal breast milk without the mother trying to shield her breast. Accordingly, it is often baffling to a visiting African in the West who, before long, gets uncomfortably used to seeing scantily clad women all over the place, on television even, only for them to turn around and shield their breastfeeding babies in the name of decency.

In Africa, the length of time women spend breastfeeding their children differs from person to person and society to society, although women generally permit themselves to be guided by their medical personnel—doctors and nurses (traditional or Western). Generally, children breastfeed until they are just under a year.

Do African women also shield themselves from public view like Moslem women?

Some African women are Moslems and so follow what their religion requires of them; these would shield themselves accordingly. However, African women who are not necessarily Moslems are expected to dress decently, as it is a source of respect for them and their families; dressing otherwise is tantamount to declaring oneself loose. The times are changing though, and different generations are reacting to this differently because of foreign influences. This notwithstanding, an African girl who expects to be respected by her society knows how to dress when and where. Traditionally, a decent woman has to dress respectfully, and this means not presenting herself inappropriately such that those areas of her body considered private are exposed. Today, respectable elderly women will shield their bodies as best as they can. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are mostly dressed in loin-cloths or in gowns and skirts that get as far down as their knees or thereabout. The young are greatly influenced by Western fashion and so tend to expose a lot more skin than their parents did, but, again, they know where and when to dress like this. Even with all the fashion statements around today, an African girl who exposes herself too much risks being seen as loose and irresponsible, even by her peers.

Africa's culture stresses decency in the way a woman covers herself up, the way she sits, the way she walks, and so on.

Can women in Africa marry more than one husband?

This has never been the practice, and so it is not done.

Do girls marry young in Africa?

In the past, when society was without the pressures of going to school, earning certificates, and then struggling to make so much money, a time when all that mattered was the son growing up learning to be a good father, and the daughter a good mother, not only girls, but boys also got married early. With the encroachment of Western lifestyles and values into the ways of the people, things have changed. For a while it changed first for male children who were seen as potential successors to their father's name and titles. It was not long, however, before negative human qualities in some sons came to the fore and some fathers started realizing that their daughters could still manage their families better after them even as wives to other men. Ever since some parents became disillusioned in some of their sons, they started giving their daughters the same opportunities that were before reserved only for the male children of the family. With this changing lifestyle—going to school for long years for example—girls and boys no longer get married early unless they think they are ready for the challenges of marriage. This requires being academically equipped and with a good job such that they can take care of themselves.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >