KENYA: Facing pressure to have a child

Pressure to have a child

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.

Maryanne Waweru Wanyama

Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, a mother of two boys, writes for a living. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya with her family. Maryanne, a Christian who is passionate about telling stories, hopes blogging will be a good way for her to engage in her foremost passion as she spreads the message of hope and faith through her own experiences and those of other women, children, mums and dads. She can be found at Mummy Tales.

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UK: You’re beautiful just the way you are

UK: You’re beautiful just the way you are

I’m sharing today a letter to my daughters but not just to my daughters, to all your daughters as well. Come on Mums and join me in being the antidote to the norms and expectations of our society. Please make sure you celebrate your girls for who they are and not how they look. Let’s commit to sometimes going without make-up, to never talking down to ourselves and to often making a fool of ourselves in the name of fun. Only when we lead the way can our young daughters know it is OK for them to be truly comfortable in their own skin and to be able to say “I am beautiful and accepted just the way I am”.

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Dear beautiful girls,

You are nearly nine years old, still young, still with so much life ahead of you but sadly already you want to be grown up. To be able to go out alone with your friends, to have your ears pierced, to wear high heels and to dye your hair.

I know it is fun to think about how life will change as you mature and to picture what a future boyfriend, house or car might look like and that’s OK. We can all dream, it is good to dream but it is also good and right to enjoy the moment. To be content to be nearly nine, to take the time to cherish playing with your dolls, going on bike rides, crafting treasures and making camps.

My heart bleeds when I see you try on an outfit and look at yourself in the mirror and then take it off and throw it on the floor as you feel it doesn’t look good. You see it hug your beautiful little fleshy tummy which is just part of how your body is changing as you grow. It must be so hard to be only eight but to have the height and body of a twelve year old. I understand where the discord comes from but I want to assure you, that you are beautiful just the way you are.

God made you in His image and He doesn’t make mistakes. Each one of us is unique, we come with our own gifting’s and looks and that makes the world a really rich place. I know it is a cliché but honestly, it would be boring if everyone was the same. What I need more than anything, girls, is for you to be sure of who you are. What makes you you? Let’s figure that out and then cling to it. Hang on to your sense of self for dear life as the trouble, the downward spiral comes when you get sucked into the media lies that there is one prescription for beauty.

Over the years this perception of the perfect woman has changed: in the 50’s it was all about the hourglass figure, by the 80’s we had the Amazonian supermodels and today the desire is to be size zero. You do not have to follow the trends, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. You tell me I am beautiful and you know I am far larger than the average woman, you adore your Nan but also talk of her ‘crinkly’ face and one of the most beautiful woman I know has a massive scar on her face but her sunny disposition and kindness shines through.

Let me just assure you that it won’t be make-up, hair colour, tanned skin or a slim body that mean you are beautiful; it will be the traits you show that make up who you are and what you are about. Miss E your desire to protect your twin, your creative streak, your dry sense of humour, your love of snuggles and your hunger for what is right are just a few of the things that make you truly gorgeous.

Miss M, for you it is your passion, your willingness to challenge authority, your soft vulnerable side that you don’t often show, your generosity and your sense of fun that draw people to you. Those things are beautiful. They are the things that make me proud to say I am your mother and because I’m Mum I sometimes have to make myself unpopular and remind you that you can’t buy those shoes or wear that very short skirt as it is my job to keep you safe and to help you enjoy your childhood.

So yes girls, sometimes you are going to think I am the worst mum ever and you might cry and you might scream at me as you think you are old enough to make your own decisions and to follow what the world is saying is current right now but for me what will always be in fashion is you. The authentic and true spirit of my special little girls. When you choose to be true to yourself and perhaps step outside the crowd you are beautiful.

I couldn’t be more proud of the wonderful young women that you are growing into.

Love you so much, Mummy xx

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Michelle Pannell from the UK, who blogs at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.

 

Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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SPECIAL REPORT: #WorldMoms at #WorldBank This Week for #SMCSO15

SPECIAL REPORT: #WorldMoms at #WorldBank This Week for #SMCSO15

#WorldMoms at #WorldBank this week for #SMCSO15

NEW FINAL CollageFantastic news! Writers from World Moms Blog will be traveling to the World Bank Spring Meetings (#SM2015) in Washington D.C. this week to help spread the word about the ongoing dialog between citizens from Civil Society Organizations (CSO). World Moms Blog founder, Jennifer Burden, and contributor, Cynthia Changyit Levin, are thrilled to be headed back to the World Bank CSO meetings to represent moms around the globe concerned about the futures of ALL children no matter where they were born.

Civil Society meetings are bi-annual events hosted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  Non-government organizations like UNICEFthe ONE CampaignA World at School, and RESULTS send representatives to speak on panels to talk about development policies. Citizens from all over the world can join in and voice their opinions about the best ways to fight extreme poverty and speak out about how World Bank programs affect the lives of people in their countries for better or worse.

We’re honored to be lending our social media skills in a partnership that started at the 2014 RESULTS Conference when we met World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim and continued as we attended and blogged about the 2014 Fall CSO meetings. This spring, we’re returning to help the World Bank to engage in conversation with our audience of concerned moms on topics of importance to us as world citizens: Ebola, Education, Nutrition, and more. We’ll be live-tweeting flagship events and even hosting a panel discussion about social media and citizen activism to move the world toward education for all.

YOU can help take the meetings and the conversation about ending poverty far beyond DC! Please join the conversation by:

  • Following the Twitter hashtag #SMCSO15 and the Twitter accounts of @WorldMomsBlog@JenniferBurden, and @ccylevin so you can join in the conversation and re-tweet posts that you like using the #WorldMoms hashtag.
  • Joining live-streamed webcast events (listed below) and leaving your questions/comments on the webcast page for the moderators! Each event has a hashtag so you can engage with the panel and audience through Twitter.
  • Leaving a question for the World Bank in the comment section of this blog. We’ll try to ask it in the panel discussions and town hall meetings we attend or ask our contacts at the World Bank about it to get a response to you.

Here is the link to the full schedule of live-streamed webcast events. The list below calls out some of our favorites that we are most excited to attend. Pick one or more that interest you and join us virtually. You may even see us in the audience!

Creating Jobs and Improving Services: A New Social Contract in the Arab World

#breakthecycle and #menaeconomy

Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. ET
Join us for a live discussion where panelists will address the need for a new social contract to meet the demands of the current generation of citizens in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Power of Faith to Help End Extreme Poverty

#Faith2EndPoverty

Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m ET.
Location: World Bank Group Headquarters, Preston Auditorium & Online

Can people of faith help build a movement to end extreme poverty? Can they seize this opportunity at a time of conflict in some regions — some of it driven by groups claiming religious justification?

Latin America: In Search of Lost Growth

#RoadtoLima

Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Time: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. ET

How can Latin American governments stimulate growth while preserving social achievements? What growth levels will countries of the region achieve in 2015?

2015 Spring Meetings Press Briefing: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim

#WBLive

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015
Time: 8:45 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. ET

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim will address the press during the World Bank’s 2015 Spring Meetings.

The Power of Nutrition

#PowerofNutrition

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. ET

Join us for a panel discussion on the importance of investing in nutrition; the challenges countries are facing; and concrete steps towards scaling up high-impact programming for child nutrition.

Future of Food: A Conversation with Jim Yong Kim & David Chang

#Food4All

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET

Hear from a development banker, a renowned chef, an agricultural expert, a woman farmer, a culinary professional and others about the future of food, and how we can work together to feed the world.

Trust, Voice, and Incentives: Learning from Local Successes in Service Delivery in the Middle East and North Africa

#BreaktheCycle

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015

Time: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET

Join regional policy makers, practitioners and civil society representatives for a discussion on what it will take to instill adequate accountability and motivation among public servants and service providers toward meeting citizens’ needs.

Water Security for All in a World of Scarcity

#WaterSec4All

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015
Time: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET

Water security is emerging as the number one global risk in terms of development impact. An expert panel will share their experiences and solutions for addressing water scarcity challenges with a view of the social, economic, and political implications.

Ebola: The Road to Recovery

#EbolaRecovery

Date: Friday, April 17, 2015
Time: 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. ET

WBG President Jim Yong Kim chairs this high-level roundtable at which the heads of state of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will present their Ebola recovery plans to finance and development ministers and international partners.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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SOUTH KOREA: Shame and Single Motherhood in South Korea

SOUTH KOREA: Shame and Single Motherhood in South Korea

The month of May in Korea is “family month” and includes Children’s Day and Parents’ Day (as well as Teachers’ Day and Buddha’s birthday). It’s a celebratory time here, especially as it coincides with the mild temperatures and blossoms of spring. These last two years the month of May has also included a much quieter celebration – Single Mothers Day.

To be a single mother in Korea is no small thing. Women who find themselves pregnant out of wedlock are often pressured by their friends and family to have an abortion or to give up their child for adoption. 90% of children who are adopted from Korea are born to single mothers and, unlike in the West, the majority of unwed pregnant mothers in Korea are over the age of 25. The women who choose to keep their children and raise them as single parents are very few and the discrimination they face is astonishing to someone like me who is not from here.

The shame associated with unwed motherhood is not just the burden of the woman to bear. Her parents, her siblings, and her child are all subjected to it as well. It is often kept a secret for as long as possible since the repercussions of people knowing can be dire, including loss of job, home, and social status. Many of these women can no longer live with their families, as is the custom, the disgrace and shame is so great.

This is so interesting to me, coming from a country whose president was raised by a single mother. Single parenthood is by no means considered ideal in the West, but no person, politician or otherwise, would dream of speaking ill of mothers who are working hard to raise a family on their own without fear of immense (and well-deserved) backlash, the prevailing sentiment being: Don’t they have it hard enough? (more…)

Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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ISRAEL: Sometimes The Right Thing Is To Be A Bad Mother

ISRAEL: Sometimes The Right Thing Is To Be A Bad Mother

As parents, I think we each have our shining moments, average moments and moments that we, unsuccessfully, try hard to forget.

And we each have those moments when we are torn. Torn between our own needs and our kids needs, be they real or imagined.

I had one of those heart “tearing” moments this past week. I have been exhausted, not feeling well and in need of some kind of relaxation, not to mention in need of some one on one time with my husband. On the spur of the moment, on Saturday night we made the decision and the reservations to go away for one night on Tuesday night. We made plans for our three kids who live at home and our other two are grown up and soldiers are in the army. I was literally counting the moments.

On Monday night, my eldest son, who is just shy of twenty-two, was hospitalized through the army. He had an ear infection that was draining and not clearing up with oral antibiotics and he was in a lot of pain. And I was torn.

I was exhausted and feeling under the weather. And while I felt I should go see how he was, as a nurse I also knew that he was okay and that it wasn’t urgent. He also kept telling me I didn’t need to come in. So my husband went to see him. Without me. (Which has to be a first for me in situations like this.) (more…)

Susie Newday (Israel)

Susie Newday is a happily-married American-born Israeli mother of five. She is an oncology nurse, blogger and avid amateur photographer. Most importantly, Susie is a happily married mother of five amazing kids from age 8-24 and soon to be a mother in law. (Which also makes her a chef, maid, tutor, chauffeur, launderer...) Susie's blog, New Day, New Lesson, is her attempt to help others and herself view the lessons life hands all of us in a positive light. She will also be the first to admit that blogging is great free therapy as well. Susie's hope for the world? Increasing kindness, tolerance and love. You can also follow her Facebook page New Day, New Lesson where she posts her unique photos with quotes as well as gift ideas.

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