It is always good to get feedback from readers either via my e-mail address or through personal contact.
The column has been going for over a year now and I have been overwhelmed with the interest it has generated.
This week to mark the end of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, I would like to select two critical issues that were raised by young people in response to the column.
A young lady got involved with a man in early 2000 and they had a child.
As she was a student who still had to pursue her studies outside Botswana, the paternal grandmother volunteered to raise the baby to enable the young mother to proceed with her education.
On occasions the mother visited the boyfriend’s home to see the child. The boyfriend had developed other interests or “moved on” as young people like to say.
The new girl friend felt insecure about the child’s mother visiting the boyfriend’s place, and determined to make the home of the young man uncomfortable for her by ganging up with other girls in the village to make rude remarks.
Comment from Traditional Wisdom
Although a welcome and commendable step, it is a new development for paternal grandmas to support their children in cases of tshenyo (seduction).
In this case the paternal grandma has kept the baby out of an obvious compassion and a sense of responsibility to ensure that the young mother does not loose a unique opportunity to achieve her educational goal.
This kind gesture can easily be misinterpreted by the young mother to mean that the parents of the young man condone the act of seduction or better still are trying to send a message to the young father to put his act together and marry the child’s mother.
Young and vulnerable mothers usually get the shock of their lives to find that their baby’s stay at the paternal grandparents place does not necessary turn ‘Prince Charming’s’ heart towards them.
In the majority of cases it is the parents of the young man who financially support the baby and when the mother is ready to take over the custody of their children, the father stubbornly refuses to give financial support and the poor young mothers feel that suing the man for maintenance may upset his parents who had extended the olive branch.
I would like young people to note the following:
a) Parenting does not necessarily provide a seal for a permanent and peaceful relationship.
Modern day Batswana are more liberal in respect to reproductive health compared to our forefathers who advocated for adherence to strict observance of tshenyo rules, but whether this is an improvement remains debatable.
b) Young mothers should be on the look out for false impressions that may be created by the support from the boy’s parents.
They need to draw a healthy boundary between themselves and the father of the child so that when the mother visits her baby she is not misunderstood to be fanning the old flame.
c) The boy’s parents raising the baby creates a slippery ground for the young mother who cannot clearly interpret that the respect from the boy’s parents does not necessarily mean their son would like to keep the flame burning.
This scenario has resulted in some young mothers falling pregnant again while visiting the first baby.
It is quite obvious that modern society’s liberal attitude is all out to defy those tried and tested cultural practices which were designed to drive those old fashioned values.
The challenge for modern day society is to establish the basis of the relationships so that liberal attitudes do not result in making women unequal to their male counter parts.
A teenage young man says ‘ke ne ka dira motho kele monnye ka bo ke itatola’ meaning, “When I was young I made a person and denied responsibility.”
He says now his son has grown and he yearns to relate with him, but the mother is resistant as she is in a new relationship and has been scarred by the indignity of his rude denial.
Response from Traditional Wisdom
The subject of sex remains a delicate issue in our society. It is a package that should be well wrapped and labeled, ‘Fragile handle with care’ so that the next generation will not burn their fingers.
The flippant statement ‘go dira motho’ is not quite user friendly.
The truth of the matter is that the mother of the child was humiliated by the act that left her with a big belly and nothing else to show for it – no love- no support – no one to say sorry etc.
The teenage boy has now become a man and wishes to see the child as if nothing ever happened. Over the years the teen mother has moved on with pain and found peace in being a single mother.
There is no easy answer to this one except to suggest that the estranged father must find sugar quoted words that will be like healing balm to the mother.
I noted with interest that the father talked only of the desire to reconnect with the child that is now doing primary education, but not so much of the shame of overburdening the mother and forcing her to drop out of school.
It is true that it is never too late to mend especially where human relations are concerned.
My advise is that Mr Coward who has turned over a new leaf should just confront reality and see how he can minimize the financial burden that the poor mother has already carried alone.
No wonders so many of our womenfolk are poorer for having a baby.