“Aminata, a brilliant, diligent and benevolent young lawyer is an acclaimed village celebrity. Yet there are those who will see her only as a woman first and everything else afterwards. To assert her human dignity, she has to passionately resist anachronisms that have warped an otherwise fast changing society.”
Back then, the book seemed like it called for the emancipation of women, equity and the disbanding of outdated cultures that discriminated against women. This included the fact that in the fictional community women could not eat chicken because it was a taboo; women could not become village headmen and they couldn’t inherit land simply because they were women. These are good ideas and I appreciated them back then as I do now. It was just yesterday that I realised the play had another component i.e. the idea of contraception and having small families. Until then I had not thought about it deeply and now I began to connect the dots. As with most women’s rights’ advocacy, access to contraception is a key element. Jumba (the village headman) has a flashback whereby Pastor Ngoya tells his congregation:
“I agree with Reverend Abu-Steiner that every fourth child in every family should be seen as an extra mouth. A mouth to feed, a mouth to stop crying, and a mouth to give medicine to.”
There is the idea that people should not have more than three children: that a fourth child is not a person but a mere burden referred to as a ‘mouth’. On the other hand we have Mulemi who has undergone a vasectomy (never mind he is researching on the possibility of reversing his vasectomy) touting that a smaller family guarantees children’s well-being and allows women to concentrate with their careers and for Aminata’s case, to help other and improve their lives. Sure, but why not make the work place more female friendly such that women are allowed to progress in their careers without being penalised for having families?
The issue here is not that children should not be spaced. It’s that having three children is put across as the ideal and that a fourth child is seen as a burden (just a mouth) as if people do not contribute anything to society. That extra mouth to feed might as well be a future president or the one to discover the cure for a currently incurable disease.
People might be in a position to care of more than three children, maybe eight. Does that mean that the other five are mere mouths? They are human beings who deserve the same treatment as you and I. Finally, shouldn’t there be a policy to guide what kind of literature should be taught in school? That kind of literature should be in line with our national values.
Have any questions? Please feel free to contact me.