The curse of preferring customs to freedom

Like the Rwandan saying, “you can take a cow to the well but you can’t force her to drink,” entails a big percentage of the rural women.
Breastfeeding doesn’t come easy for rural mothers who have to toil in the fields.
Breastfeeding doesn’t come easy for rural mothers who have to toil in the fields.

Like the Rwandan saying, “you can take a cow to the well but you can’t force her to drink,” entails a big percentage of the rural women.

They prefer respecting all existing cultural trends that discriminate against women than embracing the freedom and freewill that comes with gender balance.

The Government of Rwanda has worked tirelessly towards empowering women, amending laws that protect women against any form of violence though some women would rather live in the ancient discriminative way all in the name of respecting their abusive husbands.

“It is not that they don’t know their rights; women simply believe that it should be the husbands to decide their fate and day to day life. This is why many get battered but they never even bother to report to the authorities,” says Amiable Nsabiyaremye, a Human Rights activist.

Nsabiyaremye’s sad statement describes many of the women in remote areas. Family planning, ownership of property, home chores, among others, all come with a husbands orders and demands.

“I don’t see the problem with my husband selling property without my approval. I believe everything at home including the kids belong to the husband,” says Sifa Uwimana, a resident of Kamashange in Rusizi district.

Uwimana’s friends talked her into accepting that men were entitled to ownership of all property. According to Uwimana, many women would end up in family wrangles because they sold this or that in their home!

Early this year, a man reportedly committed suicide in Nzahaha sector after his wife sold a basket full of sweet potatoes. Following her husband’s death, the woman would never forgive herself for selling her deceased husband’s property that provoked his death.

“Mumukyo nyarwanda, umugore agamba kwubahiriza umutungo wumugabo,”the deceased’s wife kept regretting. The phrase means that, “as a woman who respects the Rwandan culture, she should have respected the man’s property.”

Many women are so lost in respecting their husband’s property that they deprive themselves of their own rights!
In villages, many women spend their whole lives begging from husbands or even respecting good for nothing husbands, as they try hard to keep their marriages based on traditional beliefs.

“I refer to my husband in the plural form. This is to show him that I love him,” says another married woman who preferred anonymity.

Often, men in these villages are never addressed by their name; they have to be given names and referred to in the plural form. An even bigger problem arises when cases of violence become existent among families. Kinya-rwanda sayings prohibit women from putting out in the light their family wrangles.

Infact it’s referred to as ‘hanging dirty linen in the open for all to see.’ As a result, women are often bruised but all they can say is, ‘niko zubakwa,’ meaning, ‘that’s how homes are built.’ Many neighbors get to realize cases of violence when it’s too late, because wives are great at pretending that everything is okay.

Culture also hinders family planning in a way that women wait on their husbands’ decisions. They cannot negotiate for safe-sex and this is made worse if children with the same gender are born—men will dictate on having more since their decisions should never be questioned. 

“It’s the women to blame for the interference with their rights, men definitely enjoy whatever women offer them because they believe they are being honest to their husbands,” said Yamini Nkurunziza,a Health Counselor and husband.

lillianean@yahoo.com