It is important to interrogate the words boldly stated by men and women across the country regarding the power of women – “Mosadi ke thari ya sechaba”. There are several organisations and movements which been named after these words, more so, such words continue to be echoed by leaders and speakers at most forums addressing the emancipation of Feminity.
True to the nature of many Setswana words in their complexity and glory, the operative word “Thari” carries ambiguity; it can refer to a rag used by a caretaker to safely secure a baby on their back (originally made from animal skin) but has now evolved into synthetic material. Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe went into detail and explained that, “It is a duiker, sheep, goat skin or cloth used for carrying a child on the back.”
Thari also refers to the after birth that passes through the birth canal almost after delivery comprised of the placenta, umbilical cord, amniotic sac and all the paraphernalia required in keeping the baby safe during the gestation period.
One can only carry a child on their back for so long because at some point the child grows and proceeds to go to school, gets married and eventually start his/her own family. Although this is an awesome cycle, what becomes of the ‘Thari’ that once carried the child on their mother’s back paving way to adulthood? Once this piece of material is no longer of any significant use to the mother and child, it is often discarded and forgotten until another child is born.
Creating a life is probably the most amazing miracle that the human being can experience. From fertilisation the foetus is housed in the womb and is cared for by nature’s processes getting nutrition and nourishment from the mother through the placenta and in the same way getting rid of toxins. The placenta is an organ attached to the lining of your womb during pregnancy. It keeps your unborn baby’s blood supply separate from your own blood supply, as well as providing a link between the two. The link enables the placenta to carry out functions that your unborn baby can’t perform. The placenta is linked to your baby by the umbilical cord. Your baby is inside a bag of fluid called the amniotic sac, which is made of membranes. It is easy to say it keeps the unborn child well, fed and alive. And just to go the extra mile, towards the end of the pregnancy, the placenta passes antibodies from the mother to the baby, giving them immunity for about three months after birth.
After delivery, there is what is called the third stage of labour which is the removal of the placenta. According to Medical Doctor Tuduetso Monageng the placenta is delivered, examined and incinerated or if the family wishes they are allowed to take it home and bury it. Either way it is discarded never to be thought of, let alone seen again. In some cultures not in this country though, the placenta is kept and consumed by the mother over the weeks following the birth. This practice is termed placentophagy.
Now, going back to ‘Mosadi ke Thari ya Sechaba,” yes it has all the positive connotations of being an incubator to human life and primary nurturer until the off spring is ready to take on the world by themselves. However what becomes of these incubators? The Genderlinks country program manager, Gomolemo recently indicated that they conducted a nationwide study and the findings indicated that of all the women that were respondents in this research, 67% of them had experienced a form of gender based violence.
Establishing the link is still elusive but the manner in which ‘Thari’ is discarded may raise a concern that the very children women bear, carry and raise turn out to be the very ones who grow up to hurt, rob, beat up and rape women once they are all grown up. Professor Otlogetlswe highlighted that, “I think the explanation for the violence can be explained elsewhere not in the language, I suspect it is in the upbringing itself.”
“Mosadi ke Thari Ya Sechaba,” after all the nurturing, protecting and aiding in growth, the ‘Thari’ is relegated to the back of the closet to gather dust, or worse still the incinerator only to be forgotten until another child is conceived.