Living in Rwanda as a single woman is not for the fainthearted.
Sometimes it feels like the Rwandan society has managed to spit the single girl out of its gut like a virus.
As soon as one graduates from university, the marriage reminders start setting off from all corners. It is as if the city is filled with ‘public aunties’ that are strategically located along your pathway to remind you of the next ‘logical’ step in life.
And, the place of work, which is supposed to be grooming young women into hardworking, powerful individuals that should occupy better positions in their careers are also often times an assembly room for this kind of talk. How preposterous!
One might perhaps think that churches are any better refuge for the single woman, but it’s probably the loneliest place for them. Different programmes will be developed, for mums, teenagers, fathers, even kids, but never for the single woman. Trying to fit into these programmes usually makes her stick out like a sore thumb.
One young woman that constantly led worship in one of the city churches was once told by the pastor, “imagine how long you’ve been placed up there on the pulpit, it’s a pity that no one has decided to make you their wife yet.” How stomach-cringing are such comments?
The entertainment and nightlife can be welcoming for the singles though. There’s a silver lining for every cloud, right? Only problem is that by hanging out in clubs or other night spots, one easily gets branded – ‘poorly raised’, ‘ill-mannered’ are some of the tags placed on young women trying to have some fun.
The dating life will come as comfort; you’d think? Here is a sneak peek into the dating scene in this city. Chances are that a woman will be asked how she intends to return home from her first date. If you read the previous sentence and you found no issues with it, then you are part of the problem.
If she is ‘lucky’ and gets dropped off after the date, chances are that the guy will constantly and subtly remind her how he is God’s gift to humanity. Or to women. Then there’s another interesting category, those men who will be brave enough to ask transport fare from the girl after a hangout. With a straight face. These have been nick-named leeches; can’t think of a better name.
Then, for the women who moved out of their parents’ homes and are living by themselves, a lot awaits them. The amount of ‘shooing’ they have to do for irresponsible men, one wouldn’t fathom. It’s apparently not uncommon for young and older men to self-invite into girls’ apartments for sleepovers! Some have the audacity of telling these girls things such as, “Your place is really nice but I’m sure you feel lonely sometimes, so here I am (as a gift from God) to take away your misery.”
Oh, and lest I forget. Where is it written that a Rwandan woman should not stay alone, independently before she gets hitched? Why does it come off as taboo? Usually, people’s faces cringe, (house brokers too, whose job is to take your money and find you a house) on hearing that a young woman is interested in staying alone.
The real question is, what will it take to let single women be?
The author is Rwanda’s first female saxophonist. She strives to impact people from all walks of life through her music and creative writing.