The frightening ‘normalcy’ of domestic violence

One of the funniest stories my mother ever shared with me was a story about violence.

Actually there were two – one is just less funny owing to the horror I still feel when I imagine how it could have all turned out.

My mother’s side of the family had some colorful characters, chiefly my maternal uncle papeNever (the father of Never) and my maternal aunt mmeDubekile (the mother of Dubekile) who were both ex-combatants and had a penchant for regarding physical violence as the best conflict resolution strategy.

The first story my mother told me was of an incident that occurred when I was three days old.

My mother said that when I was three days old I was nearly killed by my uncle papeNever (her big brother) who had drunkenly and wildly swung an axe on the bed I had been laid on.

My uncle papeNever had burst into the hut my mother was resting in wielding an axe in hot pursuit of his wife, my aunt mmeNever (the mother of Never) over an unspecified dispute.

But generally, papeNever didn’t let not having a good reason get in the way of giving his wife a good beating – especially when he had imbibed.
On that day, my mother had arrived from Beitbridge hospital with three-day old me – her first and newborn baby – exhausted from the rigors of labor, fatigued from the journey by bus from Beitbridge town which was concluded by an arduous trip in a donkey-drawn scotch cart that had to negotiate its way over and around bumps, ravines and crevices to get to her parents’ homestead in the hinterlands of Tshapfutshe.

And on that same day, my aunt mmeNever had been tasked with preparing a hut for my mum and she had taken to the task with much gusto seeing as she and my mum were very close – sweeping away the cobwebs on the thatched roof, applying a new layer of cow dung to polish the mud floor and making herringbone, chevron and checkered patterns as decoration.

She had attacked the mud walls with a stone to smoothen the inner wall surface and also used rich red, grey and white soils to paint the outer walls of the mud hut which she decorated with precise drawings of flowers on one side and shapes inspired from a deck of cards like the diamond, the heart and the ace of spades on the other.

I know all this because my mother had described it – she approved very much of cleanliness and was highly particular about the details of maintaining a presentable hut.

My aunt mmeNever had apparently done a sterling job on that day.

Everyone was excited about me, perhaps they were more excited about Virginia (my mum) the spoilt last born in the family, becoming a mother.

My uncle papeNever had missed my mother’s arrival as he had gone drinking – presumably.

Which is why when he had chased after his wife, all the way from his own homestead, yelling while she screamed – both of them failing to enjoy the beautiful orange hues of a setting sun in the horizon – my uncle had not known that mmeNever’s intended destination was the hut at the far end of my grandparent’s compound where my mother was resting.

He had chased after her, following blindly with the singular intent of catching up with her and teaching her some manners.

My aunt mmeNever had rushed into the hut and immediately dived under the bed which rested on bricks to elevate it (it made sweeping much easier) without offering any explanation to my mother who had been sleeping and oblivious to all the commotion.

Before my mother could gather her wits, my uncle papeNever, who had been about to catch up with his wife had also burst into the hut seconds later swinging his axe wildly – more for show than with any intent to actually strike his wife.

He was like that my uncle papeNever – always seeking attention by abusing his wife whom he knew everyone adored then waiting to be restrained and pleaded with and begged to ‘please calm down and stop doing this’.

On that day however, my uncle papeNever had not known several things.

He had not known that my mother was back from the hospital, he had not known that I was on the bed and that the bed had been changed from its usual position during mmeNever’s frantic spring cleaning so when he swung wildly, he tripped over one of the suitcases on the floor and his axe arced and impaled a shawl I had been wrapped in on the side of the bed where I had been laid.

My mother had moved me earlier to breastfeed me and had fallen asleep and had not laid me back on that shawl.

My mother told me that she had screamed. Screamed at her big brother.

Screamed for my grandparents to come and see, see papeNever try and kill her baby.

And my mother’s screaming mingled with mmeNever’s own screams for help whilst I obligingly joined this chorus with my own cries.

My uncle papeNever had not seen me yet and upon realizing who was in the hut he had tried to reach out and hold me, to quiet me down and meet his new niece but my mother would have none of it, screaming that he must get out.

It was my aunt mmeDubekile, my mother’s big sister, who had dragged my uncle papeNever out of the hut and then proceeded to viciously pummel him with fists, kicks and all manner of ex-combatant fighting moves until my grandmother had cried out to say she would not have it… she would not have anyone try to kill her son before her very eyes.

I was a newborn when this happened but my mother told me of it with such vividness that sometimes it feels like I remember the violence through her narration and experience of it.

The other story my mother told me, I cannot get into it in this post. Maybe next time.

I was reminded of this story some days ago when I read of a man that killed his 10 day old baby whilst trying to assault his wife.

It frightens me that the more such stories appear in the media, the less outrage and action they provoke.

I think that no matter how much we witness these incidents or read about them – we must never regard them as normal or as an unchanging and unchangeable aspect of life as we know it.

Perhaps we tend to think of domestic violence in terms of what ‘other’ people are doing and never in terms of our own actions, attitudes and choices.

It frightens me that violence against women, against children, against men should become a normative way of life as reflected in our media.

And I am frightened by our collective nonchalance because in many ways, I think the biggest challenge in fighting gender based and domestic violence is the perception that violence is not only normal but inevitable in our nation’s homes.

p.s: apparently my father hadn’t even had a chance to see me when this incident occurred as he was away on business in Bulawayo… so you can imagine how much ‘drama’ (I am understating it) it would have caused if any harm had befallen me

May I live as I believe

I woke up to a distant memory.

19 years ago an 11 year old staged a mutiny, rebelled against ritual and stood her ground against custom…. *sigh*

I’m making it sound more dramatic than it actually was.

Let me start again.

When I was young I went to boarding school for the better part of my Primary education and the family ritual was that we had to spend one holiday of each calendar year visiting my mother’s side of the family in Tshapfutshe and Tshaswingo, places that were remote and snuggled very close to South Africa.

Each year. Religiously. Without fail. Non-negotiably. We were packed into the car by my mother and transported to my maternal relatives.

I loved my mother’s side of the family but I did not like the discomfort of staying with them.

I adored my maternal grandparents but I couldn’t stand the fact that there was rarely a book to read and I would resort to picking up random scraps of paper in despair just to quench my thirst for the written word.

And my mother’s side of the family spoilt us rotten whenever they got the chance.

Goats slaughtered. Chickens and sheep too.

My maternal uncles would fall over each other parading their prized cattle before my grandmother insisting theirs was the fatter option to slaughter for the new arrivals who graced them one holiday per year.

My mother’s side of the family was full of fun, side-splitting family drama and one was guaranteed days of endless laughter, adventure and ‘royal treatment’.

But that holiday. When I was in Grade 6, I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t have a special reason for not wanting to go – I just didn’t want to go anywhere.

I wanted to stay at home in rural Siyoka, by the Makhado highway, close to the Jopembe hills and about 20 kilometres from Mazunga and approximately 80 kilometres before Beitbridge town.

This was home. It was where I wanted to be. I did not want to be anywhere else.

I was rather untactful in broaching the subject with my mother (something that the 30 year old me can now admit with the requisite winces and cringes).

I had interrupted my mother in the stream of her enthused speech about the pending holiday plans for Tshapfutshe… the clothes that needed to be packed, the date of departure and the estimated day of return as well as the things we could look forward to.

I had interrupted my mother midstream to mumble, “But I don’t want to go”.

Now I have to make something else clear.

These trips to my mother’s side of the family where ritualistic in more than one sense.

They were a ritual because we always went.

One holiday out of each calendar year we would be packed off.

But these trips also represented a more veiled struggle on the part of my mother who would begin negotiating with my father long before the holidays in order to get ‘clearance’ to ship us off.

And whenever we actually made the trips, it represented an immense triumph for my mother – she would have bargained her way into making the trips a reality and keep her family from complaining of how little they saw of us.

My father was stingy with us.

Not in a mean way. Just in a proprietorial ‘these-are-my-precious-kids-and-I-cant-really-trust-anyone-to-take-better-care-of-them sort of way.

It must have been annoying to all our relatives – both maternal and paternal – who wanted to have us over but had to contend with his ‘mother bear’ attitude.

Guarantees had to be made.

Guarantees that we would be safe while we were away. That someone would keep an eye on us at all times and that my father would be immediately informed if anything went wrong.

To understand this quirky behavior that my father exhibited you can read my blog on him titled “My Father – a man of emotions”.

Back to my mother.

So here I was. All 11 years of me. Interrupting my mother’s excited torrent of speech to say, “But I don’t want to go”.

She stopped and looked at me, “What did you say, Delta?”

And I looked at her and repeated a bit firmly, “I said I don’t want to go”.

I am not sure but I must have worn my expression.

My expression that said you can beat me up right now but I will keep saying exactly what I am saying and you can pack me up kicking and screaming to this holiday you’ve planned but I will keep reminding you that I said I don’t want to go.

The others were quiet. Looking at me like I was a troublemaker.

Looking at me like I would get all of them in trouble too.

My mother was Sotho, very light, with a light peppering of hair on a mole on her chin that was made more discernible by her light complexion and she had a fierce temper.

My mother’s anger was like spontaneous combustion when you tripped her up. Instantaneous. Lethal. And unbridled.

Her temper was made more fearsome by the fact that she was – on the surface of it – very accommodating, easy-going and warm until you got on her wrong side.

So here I was, 11 year old me saying I didn’t want to go and spend the holiday with her side of the family after all the trouble she had gone to with behind-the-scenes negotiations to make this trip happen.

I hadn’t meant to blurt it out.

But it slipped out. As a mumble. An ill-timed mumble that unfortunately coincided with her catching a breath in mid-speech.

I had said it and now I did not want to swallow it. Because I meant it.

And because the others were watching me.

And because I knew if she hit me I could take it.

And also because I had a niggling suspicion that if she hit me, my father would not be pleased that my mother was resorting to beatings just to get me to go on holiday.

My father would probably have said (rather gleefully and triumphantly I imagine) something like, “Leave her alone, if she doesn’t want to go let her stay”.

In any event that’s not how it went down.

Instead my mother gave me a penetrating stare as if to weigh the level of my determination by the look on my face.

Then she completely surprised me by saying, “Fine. If you don’t want to go, you are not going.”

Then she turned to face the others and kept talking, more enthusiastically now.

Painting vivid pictures of all the fun those who were going would have – placing emphasis on those who were going.

The conversation took a rather sour turn from there.

My mother spoke of how those who were going would naturally have to go into Beitbridge town and get new clothes.

Those who were going would naturally be gifted with chickens which they had permission to come back with and add to their existing flock.

Those who were going might even see my SA-based maternal uncles who would be coming down for Easter with lots of goodies just for them.

In fact, said my mother, those who were going should prepare a list of what goodies they wanted from South Africa so she would make sure that they were delivered.

And so it went. The subtle emotional blackmail. But I stood my ground.

Yes, it would have been nice to have all the benefits of going without actually having to go but I just wanted to stay home.

And so I stayed. And they left me. All of them. A whole holiday at the homestead by myself with no one except the help.

No one to play with. No one to talk to. Nothing.

That was when I wrote these lines of what was meant to be a poem;

We choose to stay when we can go
And sometimes we choose to go when we can stay
So I guess life is about choosing

I think I may have written a lot more than that but it escapes me now. Anyway.

That incident taught me something. The power of choosing.

If I could choose now, I would go.

I would go to make my mother happy had I known I would have her for such a short time in my life.

But what’s done is done.

I am very big on choices and on owning the consequences of those choices.

I have stayed in bad places because I did not have the courage to admit to myself that I had put myself in a bad situation.

And let me tell you something. Sometimes people are places.

They are places we create in our lives and stick to even when they’re so clearly wrong for us.

I have found that knowing I have the choice to go is what makes staying a delight.

There are places (read people) that I will never leave because they matter to me.

But then there are places (read people) I have come across and walked past.

Regardless of what others may have thought, regardless of what they will think and regardless of all the ‘fun’ they will have on their journey – I will always chart my own path.

I will go where I want to go.

I will love who I want to love.

I will leave whomever I want to leave (as others will choose to leave me too at one point or another).

I will be who I want to be.I will not apologize for this.

I will always be the girl who stays when others go or the one who goes when others stay for no other reason than that it is my choice.

As I turn 30, I remind myself to not inconvenience myself just to fall into the plans of others. I remind myself to live as I believe.

I am what I am.

Of all the things my mother got right (and there are many) - my brother Dalton is the best of them!

Of all the things my mother got right (and there are many) – my brother Dalton is the best of them!

My father – a man of emotions

My father was a man of emotions, the strongest of which was love.

He loved us (his children) with a breathtaking intensity. There is no doubt in my mind we were his greatest vulnerability.

I think we were a vulnerability he either didn’t care to conceal or simply didn’t have the means to conceal. His love for us was fierce, overt and abiding.

My father was not a very expressive person. Yet his love for us was so incongruous with his nature – it forced him to wear his heart on his sleeve.

My father could never abide to witness the pain of any of his children. He was incapable of stoically absorbing any hurt we endured. If any of us got hurt – it always affected him deeply.

Considering what a tough and fearful man he was perceived to be – we found this trait endearing and slightly amusing.

My father would get so agitated whenever one of us got hurt, regardless of how minor the ailment appeared to be.

He hated not being able to protect us from getting hurt. I knew (and took for granted) that he would always try to place himself between us and harm.

My father could never endure the agonizing spectacle of our wounds.

I remember when I was about 7 years old and had tonsillitis. I got hospitalized and operated on. My father was tormented by every hospital visit – fearing that I might have died in his absence.

We teased him behind his back for a very long time after that. We laughed at how he would send an ‘advance party’ to my room to check that I was still breathing while he waited anxiously in the lobby.

One day, my big sister Shonisani stumbled, fell on the tarmac and scrapped her knee. My father made her miss school, took her to the doctor to get her knee checked out, insisted that they place a bandage on her scrapped knee (it was totally unnecessary) and then he purchased lots of unnecessary painkillers which the doctor had not even prescribed.

To be honest, I did not count her injury as being anything noteworthy – her pain of course was something else – but the knee didn’t look too bad to me.

But the highlight of my father’s fretful vigilance over our wellbeing occurred the day my brother Dalton came down with malaria (or something which presented with malaria-like symptoms).

To this day my father’s reaction is a laughter-inducing topic. It is probably one of my fondest memories of him. My laughter and my tears often accompany that recollection.

Dalton fell sick in the most random and undramatic fashion. I, for one, was totally unimpressed with his symptoms thinking that he was feigning the illness.

Part of my nonchalance originated from the fact that I was nearing the end of a fantastic thriller novel and could not afford any distractions.

We, the children, lived at home while my parents mostly stayed at the family’s business complex in the Siyoka village of rural Beitbridge. The complex incorporated a bottle store, a grinding mill, a supermarket and a vegetable garden/market.

My big sister had seniority, we all deferred to her and when Dalton fell sick – it was my sister who decided the ailment was serious enough to alert my parents.

Knowing our father as we did, we had developed a habit of not getting alarmed about minor injuries or ailments so as to not set him off.

My parents’ arrival was heralded by a cloud of dust swirling from afar as my father – true to form – sped to the homestead without a care about how many of the neighbours’ chickens he might run over in his haste.

It was an altogether hilarious sequence of events.

My father strode into the room, with my mother anxiously in tow (Dalton was the ‘baby’ in the family). My father instructed that Dalton be brought to the lounge immediately.

I ditched my novel long enough to catch the unfolding drama that inevitably took place when my father had a sick child on his hands.

I arrived in the lounge in time to witness my father laying out the last bottles of medications he’d brought along with him.

There were dozens of over-the-counter medications and pills on the table. I wondered whether he’d looted a pharmacy on his way home but that was unlikely – because Siyoka village has no pharmacies. This must have been his own stash kept (with dread) in case of emergencies.

My father proceeded to engage Dalton in the most unconventional diagnostic dialogue I have ever seen. It went something like this:

My father would ask, “where does it hurt Dalton?”

And my brother would respond with something vague like, “my head hurts”.

Without further prompting my father would point at some packet on the table and tell my mother, “give him one of those”. My mother would comply.

As soon as Dalton was done swallowing, my father would ask for the next symptom, “so what else hurts?”

And that question would also elicit another ambiguous response from Dalton who’d say something like, “my throat feels itchy”.

My father would then ponder that response while glancing over his collection of medicines before grabbing a spoon and saying to my mother, “hand me that bottle over there, with the green lines”. My mother would comply.

Then Dalton would have to drink a half teaspoon of whatever it was (probably cough mixture).

When he kept pressing Dalton for more symptoms he eventually got rewarded with a feeble description of how Dalton was feeling cold one moment and then feeling hot the next.

This particular set of symptoms seemed to leave my father stumped. He started reading some of the labels on some of the bottles to find out if they could remedy this hotness and coldness his precious son was enduring.

Eventually, it was my mother who (helpfully) ventured that it sounded like malaria, but didn’t that happen when you got bitten by mosquitoes?

My father immediately announced that Dalton had to get into the car – they were going to the hospital right away (which is what I had personally thought should have been done all along, but no one asked me).

Dalton got better. But I will never forget how my dad frantically tried to single-handedly kill cure Dalton with his pharmaceutical ‘concoctions’.

That was my father. A man who watched over us vigilantly, who loved us with the entirety of his being.

He was a man of emotions. Ultimately, he taught us to love unconditionally or not at all.

I miss him. He did not live to see the woman I have become. I like to think he would have been proud.

In loving memory of my late father, Desmond ‘Dazzman’ Manavhela Ndou – who gave to me the gift of self-expression and taught me to value the counsel of my own heart.

When we were virgins…

I have neglected the blog for a while and I apologize for so abrupt a departure without even the courtesy of an explanation. And my return to my cyber-home should be announced by a thought-provoking, scintillating and intellectually titillating piece (I think) but I will do no such thing. Instead, I just want to take a step back from the intensity of thought and poke some fun at life, my self and the naivety of youth. I am one of those people who suffer from the affliction of learning best by viewing life through the lens of hindsight…

When we were virgins, we were curious about sex; particularly confounded by how such a small ‘hole’ could possibly fit that big swollen thing?

And it never made sense how such an ugly looking ‘thing’ (seen from the awkward squint of a strategically angled mirror) could have such a mesmerizing effect on men in the first place?

When we were virgins, we were curious about sex; about what it felt like to do ‘it’ and how there could possibly be anything comfortable about having someone lie on top of you for any length of time?

When we were virgins, we hastily washed our private parts making sure that our fingers did not unnecessarily linger to explore those inconspicuous folds of skin.

We did wonder why they were stashed so surreptitiously between our legs that they could not be clearly viewed – cementing the feeling of shame that was associated with owning that sort of genitalia.

...who controls who?

When we were virgins we did not know that men could summon tears at a whim, cry out in exaggerated agony over an erection while insisting the pain of arousal was so excruciating that we had to ‘relieve’ them because we had been the cause of their discomfiture.

When we were virgins, we knew a lot about sex… gladly brandishing our hand-me-down; second-hand information like treasure troves only to find that the reality distorted these embroidered tales of sexual narratives.

When we were virgins, we envied those who’d gone ‘all the way’ – who bragged about mysterious aches and pains; about the intoxicating feeling of power they derived from refusing with ‘it’ only to surrender ‘it’.

When we were virgins we marveled at the tales of those who were ‘experienced’; who spoke of watching the egos of men ostensibly breakdown begging for ‘just a taste’ of their hidden treasures – never knowing it was all just a ploy to turn their hymens into spoils of sexual conquest.

When we were virgins we thought we’d wait until marriage; give to our husbands what we’d give to no other but the noble resolves often succumbed to the unparalleled powers of male persuasion employed by those who seemed to inevitably know the ‘right’ thing to say – the promise of a ring being to us the guarantee of it.

When we were virgins, we sometimes felt burdened by the status but we were raised to regard it as an incomparable privilege; even though it was like having a constant mark on our backs making us seem like targets for every testosterone-filled male that sensed ‘prey’ and moved in for the kill.

When we lost our virginity – for the wrong reasons or for the right ones – we crossed the Rubicon; becoming women without knowing what we were getting ourselves into and trading the innocence of girlhood for the turbulence of adulthood.

We were virgins once… and free (or did we just have the illusion of liberty?)

Writer’s Note: I don’t really know what triggered this post – perhaps the self-deprecatory humor I entertain whenever I see my youthful naivety reflected in the untainted countenances of my young sisters or perhaps it’s provoked by the sadness of knowing we can never spare our little sisters the pain of being deceived, lied to, used and eventually discovering the disillusionment we call womanhood (or has cynicism gotten the better of me?)

Affirmative action is overrated and here’s why…

One of the issues that has been frequently thrown at my face whenever the issue of gender equality arises is the question of affirmative action and the preferential treatment given to girls and women which disadvantages their male counterparts.

To me affirmative action has the same limitations that every other instrument being used to elevate the status of women has – and it is that these things only help women who want to be helped and who bother to take advantage of the opportunities availed to them or claim the rights provided for them.

Affirmative action does not help the girl whose end goal is not a career, a life outside the home or even a remote desire to contribute to the society in any other way save through child-bearing.

With affirmative action, we do not attempt to take the proverbial horse to the water troughs but we make the herculean effort of bringing the trough to the horse and still fail to make it drink.

To me, empowering girls does not begin in the classrooms but it begins in the homes.

Our upbringing has a huge bearing on who we aspire to become and on what we believe we can achieve.

...the world I come from

It is my contention that the manner in which we raise our daughters subconsciously reflects our aspirations for them, what we hope for them, what we expect of them and what we envision their future will become.

Raising a child is always premised on futuristic assumptions, the idea is to transfer knowledge and information that we believe will help this child in the future, which we think will be relevant, crucial and indispensable to them in adulthood.

The manner in which people raise their daughters tells a lot about what they believe that child’s eventual place in the world will be and what role they are preparing that child to assume later in life.

I believe that African mothers, have fallen into the unfortunate habit of raising daughters through the use of crippling and dis-empowering stereotypical dogmas that do more harm than good.

Of the things my mother taught me, in terms of skills transfer – there is little that I have made use of or will ever make use of in the life I have chosen to carve out for myself.

The values she taught me through those skills remain cherished but some of the practical aspects of her tutelage are rendered obsolete and inapplicable in the world I have come to occupy, in the woman I have chosen to become and in the aspirations I live in pursuit of.

A few examples are in order.

My mother was one of the hardest working women I knew and everyone else attested to this – the woman was a manual labourer par excellence who commanded the respect of our neighbours in Siyoka village for relentless work in the fields, at home and everywhere.

She made me look bad (lol).

When I was young, I hated manual labour and I loved reading. It is not that I could not do the work – I simply hated it!

But my mother (may her beloved soul rest in peace) was a slave driver of great renown and all the other relatives found some pretext to send their daughters over to our homestead to ensure that they were inducted into my mother’s school of excruciating, hard and sweaty labour.

...images from long ago

But all this is an unkind digression, back to the examples of how incongruous my mother’s life skill training turned out to be.

My mother taught me how to paint the mud hut walls, insisted that I wake up at the cock’s crow to sweep the yard (as if it could not wait until a decent hour); raised hell if I used the wrong soil to smoothen the hut ledges or if I failed to keep my fingers stiff enough so that the patterns and lines didn’t look crooked and smudged whenever I polished the mud floors with cow dung.

My mother insisted on crushing the maize grains using a mortar and pestle (ingigo) until there were small granules that it seemed pointless to even go to the grinding mill and convert it into mealie meal because by the time she was satisfied the job was half done.

She ignored the blisters that formed on the palms of my hand, was not impressed by the unbearable agony I felt at having to lift anything above my head because my arms would protest after hours of grinding.

She had no sympathy to spare when we had to walk distances to get firewood or when I complained of a stiff neck and aching limbs – she was hell bent on ensuring that I would not be an embarrassment to her “wherever I went” (a euphemistic way of referring to a future married life).

Though she never said it, I always knew at the back of my mind that all this frenzied drilling in manual chores was to ensure that I did not humiliate the family and specifically my mother “wherever I went”.

I said earlier that the way we raise children is indicative of what our aspirations for them are, of what we expect them to become.

Sometimes in order to determine what we think children, especially girls, need to be taught we must have an idea of what we believe they will become and prepare them accordingly by transferring skills we think will benefit them in adulthood.

...the fate that could have been mine

Using this as a premise, I could then possibly conclude that from the way my mother raised and trained me she anticipated that:

1 – I would obviously become someone’s wife (hence the emphasis on washing, cooking, cleaning, sweeping and all other domestic chores)

2 – Not only would I be someone’s wife; I would be a rural one at that (where else would I use skills such as grinding corn, gathering firewood, fetching water from the well, painting mud huts and using cow dung to polish the mud floors?)

3 – I would become a field owner eking out a living from subsistence farming (why else would I have had to endure the back breaking torture of a 5am to 7pm non-stop hoeing and weeding session at the fields whilst enduring the unforgiving Beitbridge heat?)

Well, my mother was right about one thing – I did become a wife and she was wrong about everything else.

I don’t farm for a living – I write. I don’t live in rural areas and hardly find time to enjoy living in the city because I work hard at what I do, from morning until night – not hoeing but blogging.

I don’t wake up to the sound of cock crowing but I do wake up to the shrill, piercing sounds of an alarm not to fetch water from the well but to read and study in my endless quest for knowledge.

I don’t go miles in search of firewood but I have travelled miles in pursuit of self-discovery – to better appreciate where I come from by exploring the unknown.

I don’t grind corn any more but I relentlessly pit my ideas against the equally fierce ideas of others – finding a way to learn something knew by embracing the diversity that allows great minds to differ.

The conclusion of the matter dear reader is that I am not what I am because of affirmative action but I am what I am because of my upbringing, largely because of the influence of the men that raised me.

Affirmative action didn’t make me get good grades – that was just the result of my self-confidence which I derived from the support and encouragement I got from my fathers who insisted that my brain was just as good as anyone else’s.

Affirmative action can be used to level the playing field in terms of providing equal opportunities for men and women but it will not keep women in jobs if they’d rather be home; it won’t keep young women in lecture theaters if they’d rather be in maternity theaters.

Affirmative action won’t keep young girls in classrooms if those girls have been raised to believe that their place is an a home – so instead of seeking an education, they’ll opt to seek potential husbands.

Affirmative action won’t convince young women that they can afford a higher standard of life by simply exerting themselves when they’ve been raised to believe that all that’s expected of them is to find men to take care of them.

Affirmative action is like holding a cup of water to a person’s mouth, persuading them that the water tastes nice, convincing them to take a sip and even getting them to fill their mouths with the water but not being able to make them swallow it because you can’t make them believe that they are thirsty when they don’t happen to think they are.

Men shouldn’t feel threatened by affirmative action, boys shouldn’t feel done down because the truth is – as long as women continue to raise their daughters with no expectation except that they become mothers and wives – they won’t have much of an advantage anyway.

They’ll just believe what they’ve been told since childhood, they’ll just internalize the stereotypes handed down to them by their mothers and ultimately they’ll benefit nothing from any system that fails to change their mindsets about who they are and what they can become.

Sometimes, all a girl needs is to be raised by her father because her father isn’t trying to train her to become anyone’s wife or mother – he is just interested in seeing her become the best she can be.

Because if you raise them right and raise them well – no girl would even need affirmative action to give her a ‘leg up’.

Let’s not overrate affirmative action whilst underrating socialization and upbringing.