Many cultures have always thought of marriage as one of partnership but a tribe in Tanzania has taken it one step further.
In the village of Nyamongo of northern Tanzania, some women who reside in the Kurya tribe are redefining the roles of marriage. For married couple Mugosi Maningo & Anastasia Juma, their union is based solely on economics. When the two women met, Maningo’s husband had left her ten years prior because she couldn’t have children. Juma’s marital situation changed when she left her abusive husband after her firstborn, then was left to care for two other children after being left by two other men. Left on their own, these women decided to change their circumstances for their families.
Land ownership is traditionally held by men and most don’t question the validity of it, but in this situation, women are fighting against age-old traditions in order secure their families’ futures. Maningo and Juma are challenging these roles by practicing “nyumba ntobhu”, which means “woman marrying woman”.
Established years ago by Kurya elders, this was done in order to protect women from losing land ownership if their husband died or abandoned them. This practice is allowed by the Kurya tribe’s elders since it benefits the community, but more importantly, it validates the power of women in this village. While there is a Kuryan law which stipulates that only men can inherit land, women get around it by marrying a younger woman who has children or can have sex with a male partner to produce male heirs.
For Maningo, this arrangement has not only ensured her land ownership, but the freedom to choose a partner, and not necessarily a man. While same-sex marriages in the West include a sexual component, this is not seen as an important factor in the Kurya tribe. Maningo and Juma who are both heterosexual, see having male sex partners as a way of bearing children, and a choice they get to make not imposed on them. Having the right to decide whether to take on a male partner reduces the likelihood of abuse, child marriage and genital mutilation on women.
It should be noted that “nyumba ntobhu” marriages are only recognized in tribal law, not Tanzanian law. Not all Tanzanian women practice same-sex marriages, but the incentive of controlling property and having the choice to have a male partner or not, has made this practice an attractive, and often, a safer option. In addition, male partners who help women bear children must honor this tradition and give up their paternal rights.
As someone who was raised in a country where women continue to fight for equality, I can understand the attraction of this practice.
In Tanzania where patriarchy and gender inequality are dominating forces in their culture, same-sex marriages like Maningo and Juma’s are uncommon but necessary for communities to survive. While I know that marriages are not perfect, the concept of “nyumba ntobhu” works for the women of the Kurya tribe. Who knows, maybe one day, “nyumba ntobhu” will not just be a practice but a way of life for Tanzanian women.
Do you know of any similar types of arrangements in your country?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Tes Silverman.
To read the article regarding this post, click below:
Photo Attribution: Rasheedhrasheed
Are you a single woman currently enmeshed in the dating scene? Do you find it easy or difficult to find someone to date because of your success or independence? Being a single, independent woman should not be seen as a disadvantage, but in China, women are being targeted for not conforming to what’s seen as part of their tradition.
A recent advertisement has been circulating in China where a woman who may still be single after the age of 25 is labeled as a “Sheng-nu” or “leftover woman”. It is believed that women who have not secured a marriage before a certain age are not as favored by prospective suitors. Those who have been “lucky” enough to be matched are considered to have their future secured, unlike these women.
In this day and age, dating in any culture can be challenging. Finding the right person to connect with takes time and commitment, and should not be forced. The video in question shows how these women are pressured by their parents, going so far as listing profiles of their daughters at a Marriage Market in Shanghai. Shanghai’s Marriage Market at People’s Park has been around since 2004 and has been widely used by parents to find matches for their daughters whom they believe are past their prime. While the Market also lists profiles of men, it is those of women that have raised the alarm to fight back.
The advertisement is meant to bring awareness to the issue of women being discriminated against for not wanting to be part of what has been a tradition in China for many years. Part of the hold on this tradition is the thought that marriage is seen as the ultimate success of increasing one’s familial line. Any delineation from it is seen as turning away from one’s culture. Another reason is that women are seen as unable to fend for themselves, and need a man to support not just her, but her family as well. One heartbreaking segment is of a woman who sits by silently while her mother speaks about the difficulty of finding a mate for her average-looking daughter. Or a father saying that it would bring him heart disease if his daughter couldn’t find “the one” because she’s too picky.
While the idea of finding a mate in any culture is part of the norm, finding one because of a society’s view on unmarried women is subject for concern. The objective of being married off becomes the focus, instead of what they really want for themselves. This is happening even in this modern culture in China, where women work and are able to provide for their families
Shouldn’t women be acknowledged and supported for having the courage to say “no” to a tradition that’s forced upon them by their family and society?
Instead, so many women are caught between a rock and a hard place. To refuse to be matched by their parents would be the ultimate disrespect, but to acquiesce to an age-old tradition may only bring unhappiness.
The women in this advertisement do fight back by letting their parents know via video that they, too, want marriage, but on their own terms. They ask for support instead of disapproval for their success and independence.
As someone who grew up with strict parents, dating was nonexistent for me until I was in college. While I didn’t agree with my parents’ rules about dating then, I appreciate them now. Dating in my twenties gave me the opportunity not just to find the right person right for me, but know what I wanted in life.
The women in this advertisement may initially be seen as victims, but their desire to speak out against being labeled and let others know they deserve to be happy, make them worth remembering.
To see the video regarding this article, clock below:
This is an original post written by Tes Silverman for World Moms Network.
What do women in your culture think about marriage by a certain age?
Photo Credit Wikipedia commons: Traditional Chinese Wedding Ceremony by kanegen kto288 (talk)
There’s a reality that’s been gnawing at me for a long time. I’m talking about the pressures that face women – unwanted pressures from society.
As soon as you hit the age of 25, people start asking, “When will you get married?” After your wedding they will ask, “When is ‘our’ firstborn arriving?” If your firstborn child is a baby girl, they will ask, “So when are you giving ‘us’ a boy?” And if your firstborn is a boy, they will ask you, “When are you giving ‘us’ a second child?” Even if you are lucky enough to give them all of that, they will demand a third, fourth and fifth child, because you must give them a namesake. In my African culture, we name our children after our relatives. It is a great honor to have a child named after you. Therefore, every relative will constantly put pressure on you to have more children so that you can give them a namesake.
In my country, there is a certain celebrity news anchor who recently married an equally famous gospel musician. The wedding was in December of last year, just eight short months ago. Since then, the public has been DEMANDING that the lovely couple give them a child. The public reacted horribly when the woman recently shared an old photo of herself on social media. It was a throwback photo of herself as a teenager in high school, reminiscing of the good times she had in her youth. The photo somehow made it to a popular online entertainment and gossip site, and the comments that followed the post were shocking.
“Stop showing us photos of your past, we want to see photos of you pregnant!” the commentators yelled.
“So now you are showing us photos of when you were a girl? Why not of now? Are you trying to hide something? Are you barren?” another asked.
“Give your husband a child now otherwise he will go looking elsewhere,” another said.
“If you’re having problems getting pregnant, inbox me. I’ll sort you out,” another offered.
Hundreds of comments followed, all of a similar nature.
It made me sad. Why does society put so much pressure on people? On couples? On women? What if the couple is not able to have a child? Or if they have been trying, unsuccessfully? What if they have suffered pregnancy loss – something they may not want to openly talk about? Or if they do not even want a child in the first place? Is it the public’s business? Society’s business? Their relatives’ business? Or is it between the husband and wife?
Seriously, as women, we have a lot to deal with, and we do not need societal pressure adding to our nightmares. Unfortunately, that is exactly what we face. In a society where a woman’s worth is valued by her reproductive prowess, it is indeed sad. In my culture, a woman may have achieved many notable feats and broken the glass ceilings over her head, but if she is not married (or, even worse, does not have a child), then she may just be nothing. Society will be harsh on her. That is, if they even recognize her.
But you know what else is interesting? Who is this society that we are talking about? Who are these people?
It is you and me. Us. We are the society. We are the same people who, when we meet a friend who got married over a year ago, will, while shaking her hand, be staring at her belly, trying to catch a glimpse of how swollen it is. Or whether it is swollen at all. Sometimes we do it consciously, sometimes we don’t even notice we are doing it. It just comes naturally. And then we talk with our other girlfriends saying “Lucy is not getting any younger, I wonder when she’s planning to start having babies.” That’s the pressure I’m talking about.
We all need to be a lot more sensitive to what fellow women go through. I hope you and I can make the difference.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Mummy Tales in Kenya.
Photo courtesy of Frank Douwes / Flickr.
I recently attended a wedding and observed one of our local customs that gave me pause. In a Nigerian wedding, there it is tradition for elders to offer marital advice to the new couple during the ceremony. Interestingly, in most cases, all the advice is directed to the bride. Is this because people believe that a man is hardwired with knowledge of how to make marriage work? Or because they feel there is no reason for a man to know anything about making marriage work? Or is it simply because most of the wedding attendees who give advice happen to be women? I watched as speaker after speaker gave the couple advice, consistently directed only to the bride.
Since the groom at this particular wedding received no advice, I thought I would offer some, just for grooms.
- Don’t be afraid to say I AM SORRY. Your wife may forgive easily, but this is no reason to keep offending her deliberately. Apologies should be sincere, and you should never apologize just for the sake of it.
- Make your wife feel important. Treat her like she matters, and be considerate of her feelings. Respect begets respect. My husband once said to me, “We are not just spouses we are friends.” Be sure to build a strong friendship with your spouse.
- Make family decisions together. Communication is key in every marriage! Don’t try to shield your wife from troubling situations. Instead, let her know what is going on whether with work, and let her share your burden.
- Be grateful. Appreciate your wife for all that she does, and never ever take her for granted. Always recognize her for her contribution to the family, work and household.
For marriage to work beautifully, I believe that BOTH parties must make a conscious effort. Most of all, the couple must set goals together, and review them regularly.
What advice would you give to a groom? Is it the same advice you would give to a bride? What are the wedding customs where you live?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria.
Photo credit to the author.
I recently discovered that there are 5 things deemed the most stressful in life. The topic came up in a conversation I was having with a friend and I was shocked to check two boxes out of the five that were listed! Box 2. Getting married, Box 4. Moving.
“How did you get here,” begs the obvious question!
Well, we have been working on our home for a little over a year now. Like many who have done it before, we have had to learn the hard way that construction is no easy feat. Whatever your plan, expect it to take double the time and cost twice as much. Somewhere within that space, my longtime partner proposed to me. So – yes! – we also had a wedding to plan. We had originally planned for a small affair at the beginning of the year, anticipating to move into our new house before July.
As life would have it, owing to work obligations, we had to switch things around. Now we are getting married AND moving into our new home at the same time, mid-year. Through all this, I have felt tested more than ever before. In between wedding planning, my day job, community work, dealing with the construction, and being a mother, it has often left me stretched too thin!
I must say though, I feel this is what we as mothers and women are best at. We handle it, all and all. Week by week I read amazing stories on World Moms Blog about women and mothers the world over that inspire me and sustain me.
Even though, it feels like I am in the eye of the hurricane, my feet are firmly in the ground, my focus is sharper than ever, and I am not wavered in my resolve. How? Well I am a World mom aren’t I?
What challenges have you endured as a woman and a mother? How do you manage it all?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania.
Image credit to the author.