I love Bob Marley. Not because he could not keep his eyes off marijuana or allow Ganja to rest. No. Despite his weedy brain, Bob Marley could produce so many powerful philosophically loaded lyrics that not even his death 32 years ago, could stop his universal messages which are still inspiring, inspirational and therapeutic to millions. “Who feels it knows it…..” Are you singing with me or still mourning the young peaceful philosopher,Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley, snatched away from us at a ripe age of 36?
Listening to the philosophical lyric: “Who feels it knows it…..” one often thinks of the disadvantaged. Downtrodden. Minorities – women, foreigners, blacks, gay, disables…. You insist I go on counting? Amongst all the minorities, women seem to enjoy the least advantage despite their huge population and contribution globally – economically, socially and otherwise. You might agree with me that the subordination of women in various societies is not a new subject. What is interesting however, is the role certain social or cultural elements – mostly reinforced by Ideological State Apparatus like the court, religion, family, school, police - play towards the successful enslavement of certain social groups in the society. A case in point is the dowry.
Traditionally, the dowry has a dual function. Clearly, it gives a woman some utopia degree of worthless worth and a sense of belonging in a highly class conscious society. Latently, women are enmeshed in the total enslavement and reduced to mere property of men through dowry.
Dowry is money / goods a man (groom) pays to the family of the bride to ask for her hand in marriage. Depending on the culture (or greediness for that matter, of the bride's family), this could run into thousands of Euros (or many cows, camels, boxes of clothes etc and other material goods). Often many potential grooms are intimidated to marry because of the huge cost involved. On the other hand, and sadly, many women often see the bride price / dowry paid on their heads as a sign that their future husbands appreciate their worth (hence the higher the dowry paid, the more respect accorded to the bride in the culture). Likewise, un- married African women or married ones, whose husbands have not completed the dowry arrangements, are looked down on in many African cultures. You talk about marriage competition amongst women !
Unfortunately (and in reality for that matter), dowry colonizes women and gives their husbands " right" to see them as their " properties." What do you expect from a man who has paid thousands of Euros on your head? To treat you with equality? Worse still, often in the case of problems in the marriage, many of these married women find it difficult to divorce or leave their husbands because their family might not be in a position to re-pay the huge dowry collected from the husbands. In fact, in most cases, the families of the women discourage them to divorce. Then comes the social stigma. It is often assumed that the woman (property?) is not good enough for the husband, hence he “has divorced her” (definitely not the other way round). In any case, how does one calculate the appropriate amount to pay back to the ' in-law" after say, a 10 year marriage? We need a marriage accountant here, perhaps!
Personally, dowry is one of the greatest injustices to women. You might now understand why many educated African women prefer to stay single and have full control over their lives.
Before we could celebrate the economic Renaissance of women in certain quarters of Africa, a new SOS message has just come from Ivory Coast. Wait a second….. Now you see why I’ve always said that no group or individual has a single, static or pre-given identity. Identity is multiple. That said, it is then impossible to categorize a group or put one in a generalization box. If the explanation above still does not make sense to you, listen to the urgent message from Ivory Coast. Still singing? “ …. Who feels it knows it…..”
A woman in a small village of Guinkin, Ivory Coast has been summoned by the village elders to defend her right to inherit her husband's property after his death.
Helene Tiro, faces a near impossible task of convincing both the local chief and her predominantly patriarchal village meeting why she lays claim of her late husband’s land, which she desperately needs to “feed my seven children” she has from her 20 year marriage to the late husband. Sadly, her long marriage to the late husband, did not deter the husband’s brothers from selling her husband’s lands after his death without her consent. The result is that Ms. Tiro and her seven kids are made homeless in their rightful home just because her husband and father of the kids died. Worse still, they are effectively denied life security and access to their land – their source of livelihood. Double jeopardy?
Interestingly, in many African cultures, women do not have right to family property inheritance. They are expected to share the future husband’s property. Of course, whether she will be married or not is less relevant. Worse still, how many husbands are willing to share their family inheritance equally with the wives, who is often regarded as a “stranger” by the family of the man? You now understand the motives behind the action of Helene Tiro’s brother in-laws - albeit senselessly discriminatory.
Africans must change their social cognition and attitude towards women. “…. Who feels it knows it…..”
PICCOLO: You kinda right here dude! Women are part of the damn family, so they gotta have equal rights over family inheritance – married or not married. Yea, social equality is the mother of peace and progress. Catch?
USENI: Me, I feel it too. Many - many year I wan marry again after my wife die. You hear: “bring 10 cow , I load cloth, 2000 package cigarette, many money“ Haba! Me I wan marry , not buy property…”
AGAMA: And you didn’t demand the same from your son in- law?
USENI: You start again? My in-law tell you so? Whot concern you with….?
While our friends are busy arguing, let me quickly highlight you on their activities.
After studying for years abroad, Kata Kata’s son of the soil, professor Chandum is back home. The villagers cannot wait to see their son, who has made them proud. Nza the canoe paddler is sent to pick him up on the bank of the kata kata river. Reaching there, the conversation between Nza and professor Chandum starts from appreciating the nature and landscape of the kata kata village to the professor making fool of Nza for lack of knowledge of philosophy and other subjects the learned man deems important. Suddenly, the waves have come. Professor Chandum will soon discover that swimnology is not part of his degree.
Piccolo’s girlfriend is complaining that he has changed to a corrupt man ever since he has started working as a police officer, but Piccolo thinks that he who feels it knows it. He wants to take the girlfriend out for a vacation, only to find out that the parking fee at the hotel is incredibly high. Piccolo with his latest police intelligence (you call it corrupt mind?) has a quick answer to the outrageous bill. Someone else has to pay the bill in an honest or crook way. Before you know It, his bank is the victim – and the girlfriend is not complaining this time.
Agama’s wife has an answer to his excessive jealousy and lack of respect. She has to make him more jealous. After arguing with the wife and telling her she is worthless, the wife has to prove to him that she is after all attractive to other men. Do you blame her for showing these men her nice legs? Agama faints out of shock and lands in heaven. Not even saint Peter has mercy for him.
The Kata Kata customary court needs urgently a native to act as an interpreter especially now the court is handling a lot of local cases. With Useni’s stint at school, he thinks he is the most qualified person for the job. Not even the daughter can convince him otherwise. Ordinarily, the presence of the Chief interpreter, Useni would have made the court’s work go smoothly, Useni’s grammatical deficiency has given the judge’s rulings other meanings. Judicial nightmares?
Aha! Maybe our newly “learned” legal wizard, Useni can help us convince the judge to amend the property and dowry laws humanly. Good idea! That might be easy, but changing the gender psychology in us is going to be a huge marathon challenge.
If you are part of the group that is not intimidated by challenges, join our Kata Kata wagon, in search of a gender harmonious co-existence. Are you ready to leave with us?
Who feels it knows it…..”
You hear the song? Aha!! We leave fearlessly and with optimism.
Yours in Kata Kata,
Editor in chief