I talk to young Rwandans and the view is that we are going through tremendous social change in such a short space of time. Changes that take generations now happen in moments, we are always surprised by these changes but the signs are there.
The story from what I’ve seen is that men think women in Kigali are too materialistic, and the women think men are selfish. There is a grain of truth in both generalisations; but we must look at the cultural roots of this problem.
Historically we valued cows, this was a very visible form of conspicuous wealth, we often told our girls to marry the one with the most cows but now our cows live in the bank.
Women are also capable of earning greater salaries than men, particularly in administration, so it becomes an issue of matching her earning power and not just providing for her. So this is where the misunderstanding arises, the bar is set higher.
Some men can also be seen as selfish, as wanting it both ways; to have the sanctity of marriage while maintaining a playboy lifestyle. Some men will claim that African men are programmed that way, but we know better.
The problem is now women are developing the same habits as men, “What a man can do, a woman can do” to quote p-square. So men cry foul when women are promiscuous, selfish, deceptive and cold; but who taught them this?
The biggest hit this year has been “Potensho” by the Ugandan hit masters Radio and Weasel – the song extols the chances of a simple girl having potential to do anything.
Most people are unaware of their own potential and even less the potential of others, last weekend I saw such a situation on Friday.
All my friends fell for a girl and were all vying for a dance, but when she lifted her arms she had teargas. She had sulphuric ammonia of dry sweat like she had been working in Gatsyata lifting heavy engine parts all day.
Several men tried to approach her but started crying as the stinging sweat watered their eyes. “Alina Potensho” we all sang “if only she could get some foreign direct investment of like 1,500 Rfw for deodorant, she would be perfect, it’s cheaper than a gas mask.” My friend said.
It is like “My Fair Lady” or Cinderella, taking a girl from a different background and remoulding her into a new being. She spoke English and French perfectly, had a degree, had worked up from poverty on her own, and yet she wasn’t “good enough.”
The same men who felt disregarded by materialistic women were themselves dismissing a diamond in the rough. You will see that girl in a few months and she will be driving her own Rav4, will have invested in the deodorant and will not even remember you.
Be careful when you see people, they might be someone someday, in Rwanda we never look at potential, just what we see with our eyes, and the eyes are easily fooled.