The absence of fathers in Botswana society is a social illness that has long been ignored, though it has proven to have disastrous effects. Only a few people would talk of enjoying the presence of their fathers, not only in knowing and interacting with them but also engaging them on a deeper emotional and spiritual level as well as spending quality time with them. Botswana, for most of its part, has for long been a matriarchal society where women raise and rear children, attend to their needs and ensure they go out to be independent and respectable individuals.
The men for long have acted as protectors and economic providers. This was rooted in African traditions but over time it changed.
There are numerous men who take their parenting role seriously. These men know and live with their children, take care of them and actively participate in their wellbeing and upbringing. On the other hand, there are more children who live without their fathers and do not even know them.
The patriarchal leaning of Botswana law, custom and tradition has made it difficult for women to hold men accountable for their actions and not only pay maintenance but also be actively involved in raising these children.
An acquaintance of mine commented that if men were exposed to the challenge of caring for a child from changing nappies to wiping mucous and dealing with everyday dramas, they would view women in a different light.
Of course, many men still believe that women were designed to rear children but this cannot be assumed to be a general truth as there are an equal number of women who do not like and cannot raise children just as with men.
I guess having female reproductory organs does not qualify one as a capable mother. Many children roam the streets being cared for by relatives, family friends or taken to institutions of care when their parents are alive.
Women have carried the brunt of child rearing with an admirable quietness, which, unfortunately, has allowed a lot of men to get away with anything. Botswana is challenged by HIV/AIDS, orphans and the lot and men could have a role to play if only to alleviate this problem. Even though this is not always the case, children who grow up without their fathers tend to face many internal personal issues and may have emotional incapability that they may be unable to deal with. A normal healthy child needs a point of reference of both parents (male and female) in order to develop in a manner that is conducive to proper human development.
Children who are fatherless may face social inadequacy, where they feel different or improper because they do not have or know their fathers. They may also blame themselves, despise the people parenting them because of this confusion and most notably it creates a self esteem issue, leading to abuse of drugs, isolation, promiscuity, anger/bitterness and an unfathomable attitude to the opposite sex. The psychology of a person is quite sensitive and though we may assume things do not affect children, they often do and unravel in later life when they are adults.
In a society where communication and counseling are not common, it is quite difficult to approach these issues, address and unravel them, thus creating an unhealthy cycle.
We cannot question why people have children they are not ready for or do not want but we can work on ensuring we do not repeat these same mistakes over and over.
Not having a father seems common and it’s sad because it should not. Mothers are a point of conversation but rarely are fathers; this unhealthy social set up is popular in southern Africa countries. This manner probably developed in the mid 4os and 50s with the coming of industrialization and active farming.
Men had to leave the homesteads in order to go to the lands, cattle post or even seek employment in areas far from their homes. This left women with the task of taking care of the children and managing the home.
Naturally, this may have caused a dichotomy between the genders as they were not present in the same space of activity and experience. Tradition and culture, for their part, though meant to make our lives easier, have made things difficult for many people, particularly women.
Those who challenged it do so at their own initiative and in their personal lives. Perhaps it could be challenged on a bigger scale and people made to realize the relevance and importance of a close familial unit and the effect of the active role of the father not only as a provider but also as a confidante, guider and mentor.
There are many different family set ups in Botswana from the matriarchal to the single parent household to the child led household. They are manageable but it does not particularly mean that they are acceptable. In the cases where “life” happens perhaps it’s appropriate to accept and move on but simultaneously break the cycle.
In some parts of the world, women are stoned, killed or perceived as outcasts for having children outside of marriage; it’s that way in certain parts of our communities though there is a sense of tolerance. The men are never brought to task so the issue of contraception and child rearing remain an issue for the woman.
Perhaps it’s time women became more empowered and learn from the errors of the past in order to break the unhealthy cycle of single parent household and absent fathers…when these men are not dead. These men, on the other hand, should develop a conscious mind to own up to their actions.
All this has stemmed from a culture of unaccountability and, between you and me, I see the time when it must reach its slow and quiet death.