A woman who runs holding her breast has got nothing pursuing her! I remember the very first time I saw this African proverb when Tabitha Onyinge Omenya posted it on her Facebook wall. The first thing I wanted to do was laugh out loud.
I wanted to do an LOL.
However, I didn’t.
Listening to any radio talk show in town you will discover how endangered our women and children are. Unfortunately, our women are not running towards the loving arms of a dad. Instead, they are running, as far away as they can, from him.
It is therefore no surprise that if you blink your eyes this coming Sunday, you won’t notice that Father’s Day has come and gone. Save for the four fathers I saw yesterday on Victoria Rubadiri’s Victoria’s Lounge, many women and men have nothing to celebrate as far as fathers are concerned. Four years ago, I heard a conversation that shocked me between a group of women.
I don’t need a man in my life, neither do I need to get married, one of them said. All I need is a good looking man to make me pregnant. Because I have everything I need to take care of a child or two I don’t need a man in my life.
I wouldn’t like to downplay the fact that men, including me, have done nasty things that have caused the society to look down upon fatherhood. However, I strongly believe that having a dad is very important for the development of a child.
Children borne out of love songs and balads
We use songs a lot during our sessions and end up learning and discovering a lot of ways we can empower our boys better. One of the songs we have used is Mapenzi by Kidum. I asked the boys to discuss the lyrics and who was its intended consumer. I asked if they could notice what the song is about, who is being addressed and what inspired Kidum to sing the song.
I asked one of them to sing the song
Zama nimezama ndani ya bahari, la penzi lako (I’m drowning in an ocean of your love)
Siwezi kusonga mbele, kurudi nyuma (I can’t move forward, can’t go back)
sijielewe (I’m confused)
Haya mapenzi ya fujo hayafai (This complicated love isn’t necessary)
Kama wanipenda jaribu kunipa raha (If you love me, try to give me happiness)
“How would you use these words to a girl?” I asked.
“To convince her that I need her love,” one of them replied.
“And what are the results?”
“We end up having sex,” another boy said. “We have usually have sex in the toilet when our parents are asleep,” he added.
“Okay,” I said after a long silence. “What if the girl offers to give you a life jacket so you can save yourself from drowning? What will you do? Was Kidum telling a story about someone else or was he sharing his own experience?”
Looking back over my shoulder
I still remember the very first time I witnessed a kiss. I was 11 years old. An uncle of mine, the most beautiful girl at Kajomoko Primary School and I were coming from school in the evening. I was walking in front, oblivious of what was happening behind me. Along the way – for some unknown reason – I turned my head only to see my uncle grasp the girl’s neck before their mouths hungrily and furiously came into contact.
Because I was there, and they must have noticed I was staring, the kiss lasted a short 28 seconds. In between the time the kiss begun and ended, I thought about nothing else but “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” by Bryan Adams. I had heard the song on Sundowner, on KBC English service.
To really love a woman
To understand her – You gotta know her deep inside
Hear every thought – See every dream
And give her wings when she wants to fly
Then when you find yourself lyin’ helpless in her arms
You know ya really love a woman
I spent many years after this kiss searching for an experience that could bring Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? to life. And along the way, I left behind multiple broken hearts. Now that i can clearly think about it, I know most of these girls had fallen into the trap of thinking they had found someone who really loved, appreciated and accepted them. How I wish I would have had an experienced man take me aside and teach me how to become a responsible man.
It isn’t a surprise to me that the boys I work with are just like the many of us out there. They also want to be accepted, appreciated and loved. They also want to do the same. The only problem is; they don’t know how to express themselves because no one taught them how to properly love others.
We have discovered that these boys have never had the opportunity to dissect songs and consider what message could be lying underneath every lyric. Upon hearing that they should take responsibility over their actions by treating girls as they would like other boys to treat their future wives and daughters, the boys look start consuming love songs and treating girls with respect.
The first time I asked them to look at themselves as fathers and husbands, silence enveloped the whole room. Even Promise who is usually so quick to throw in a joke, kept quiet. There are many women, girls and boys looking for someone to make up for their dad’s failure to connect with them physically, emotionally and spiritually. Unknown to them, they must have been a result of the coming together of passionate teenagers drunk and high on a love song.
Call to Action
My work with children in schools and juvenile prison is proof of how much the world needs fathers (and if there are none, father figures) who are actively involved in their wives and children’s lives. Much as many of us never grew up enjoying the privilege of having a loving and actively involved dad around, I believe we can end and break the vicious cycle of irresponsible fatherhood.
We don’t have to wait for someone to come up with a love song whose story line has nothing to do with us. As you head back home, envision yourself hugging your wife and embracing your children and getting lost into their world. In the end, you will discover that spending time with your wife and children will be the most precious thing they will treasure for the whole of their lives. Start thinking how your family can provide the same experience to mothers and children who desperately need the guidance of a father-figure.
Have a lovely weekend, will ya?