Allen Kanamugire is a graduate with a well paying job. She drives a nice car and is servicing a mortgage for her apartment in one of the leafy suburbs of Kigali. At the age of 29, her life is a dream for many. But there is one thing that she is not planning to add on her list of achievements. The single mother of one has no plans of getting married, but looks forward to having another baby as a single mother. Why are some young educated girls opting to take the route of single motherhood?
“It’s not a choice I made out of the blue; I had to consider a lot of factors. Relationships are a hustle and I think life is too hectic to dwell on that,” Kanamugire says.
In the Rwandan culture, when a girl becomes of age, she is expected to fall in love, get married and then have kids.
However, experts say there are several reasons why some females choose to be single mothers out of choice. In the past, single motherhood was never out of choice, but a result of reasons beyond ones control, like divorce or death of the spouse, among others.
Joyce Kirabo, a counselor, says the phenomenon is largely as a result of evolution of societal norms.
“In the old days, society would consider a woman as ‘accomplished’ only when they got married. Today, people look at being single as fashionable. Women now prefer to manage their own lives and the lives of their children,” she says.
Kirabo says that the level of education also has a lot to do with the path women are choosing to take and as such, they are more into their careers than settling down to start up families.
“Some women choose to be single so that they can enjoy their freedom and the fact that some of them actually have good jobs and can solely support themselves doesn’t help,” she says.
The hurdles associated with the marriage institution could, on the other hand, also be the cause of this new trend that women are opting for.
“There are many problems that married people face and this creates a biased impression for those who haven’t joined, or are yet to join, the institution of marriage. Sometimes women decide to stay single instead of taking on the hardships that come with managing a family head on,” Kirabo adds.
Kirabo, however, advises women to make choices wisely in order to avoid regrets.
“Marriage is not mandatory, it’s not even a legal obligation, and as such, every individual has their own choice to make but as a counselor, I would advise one to have a partner because a single life has so many issues too, including recklessness,” she says.
The down side
For Pastor Antoine Rutayisire of Anglican Church of Rwanda Pariosse, Remera, this drift is a result of people’s love for materialistic lives.
In regards to single parenthood, he argues that the trend is a result of girls who love materialistic needs and end up sleeping with men who provide these goodies-the result is unwanted pregnancies.
“Some young women can’t afford the nice things they want in life and if a man who can offer them these things approaches them, they are vulnerable. That’s how they end up pregnant by men who were never serious about staying with them to begin with,” he explains.
He says that children brought up by single parents are affected in a way that they fail to receive the love and care they deserve from both parents.
“It’s always better for a child to have both parents while growing up because being raised by a single parent has consequences and parents should consider this while making certain decisions.
“Secondly that mother raising the child alone might have the capacity to do so but sometimes, it affects her in emotionally as she is the sole caretaker of the child,” Rutayisire points out
Why single parenthood?
Deborah Ineza, a single mother to a 4-year-old, says that society is changing and women have become more independent; they don’t want to rely on men entirely.
She says that men too have become negligent and have run away from responsibilities, leaving women bitter.
“Our forefathers took on their responsibilities. It was unheard of for a man to abandon his family as children also signified wealth and strength,” she says.
“Men of these days have no morals; they have become so irresponsible and selfish. I wouldn’t blame a woman for staying away from them,” Ineza says.
Ange Ingabire, a young entrepreneur, is of the view that women understand that it’s not the best thing to stay single, though circumstances influence one to do so.
“I think it’s out of ‘disappointment’, and the fact that women no longer depend financially on men, it becomes easier for them to walk away and stay single,” she says.
She argues that it takes two to tangle; therefore, men have a hand in this.
“What I have seen is that people don’t discuss expectations before they go into a relationship which leaves plenty of room for disappointment and unfortunately, the woman takes on the greater blame, if not all of it,” Ingabire says.
Is it cool to be single?
“I think that single women who don’t want to have kids are just selfish. Do they think about their parents and the fact that they want grandchildren? A woman abandoned by a guy with a child or children didn’t ask for it. That is just sad,” says 29-year-old Flo Umutesi.
“Cool? It’s more like consolation,” says 34-year-old Jessica who has been married for close to five years. “Since when is it cool to be alone? You need a companion, someone to share life’s most precious moments with.
“However, some women are really intimidating and easily scare off guys. Some overzealous feminists with CVs the size of a small island, often find themselves single without even choosing to be. They eventually tell you that they chose to be single because no man could handle their status, but that’s not true,” Jessica says.
For Emmanuel Kanobana, economics has affected how people relate nowadays.
He says, “Today, both women and men seem to be equally educated and can be breadwinners if they are employed. When a woman is employed and seems to have it all, a man earning an almost equal amount will be intimidated by her.
“Some women pursuing great careers are also out looking for men they have something in common with. What does he do? Does he fit in with my social circle? When you put all these factors into consideration, you’ll find that it takes time to find a suitor and in the end, staying single, especially if the woman has enough money to care of herself, might just be the only option,” Kanobana says.
Laban Bizimungu supports women who choose to be single and independent saying that marriage is overrated and isn’t what it used to be.
“Relationships have become something else and when things go wrong, it’s the women who carry the blame. Why should they continue to suffer at the hands of irresponsible men? I don’t blame them for wanting to be single,” says Bizimungu.
Adding to that, Uwera says, “Even when the guy cheats on her, people will say, ‘something is wrong with her, that’s why he cheated. If he beats her, they will say, ‘she must have made him angry’. It is always the woman’s fault in one way or another. I’d rather not be blamed for someone else’s failures.”
What’s behind the rise in single mothers?
I don’t think women prefer to be single mothers, or even just single. I imagine that the majority make such decisions based on what hand life has dealt them. It’s obvious that when one goes through a disturbing relationship; they might not be enthusiastic to jump into another one. It’s not common for women to choose to be single mothers but I understand why they would make that decision.
Phiona Kamikazi, fashion designer
I believe there are several factors that may result in some women opting for the single route. For instance, some of these young, educated and employed women are in control of their lives, they love their independence and space. They might not want to sabotage that by being in a relationship, or men might just be intimidated by them.
Christine Mutesi, customer care service
I think some women work so hard to achieve their goals and dreams, and once they set their lives straight, at some point, they feel they don’t want partners who might come and disorganise their lives, thus, choose to stay single. Some women are afraid of losing the things they worked so hard for, or destabilising their well-set lives.
Praise Mutesi, sales person
There are many factors that might lead young, educated and employed women to embrace single living.
For instance, despicable marriages they’ve probably seen, and maybe even previous relationships with partners who had a phobia for commitment, making them feel unworthy of being loved. In regards to single parenting, it is mostly because of unserious partners.
Anita Mutesi, marketing and sales person