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Is Marriage Still a Private Affair?

For over 172 hours, the French parliament and senate engaged in a heated debate. It was followed with furious clashes and near fist-fights in the National Assembly; the bone of contention was the bill on whether gays and lesbians should get married. This became one of the most debated in the history of France.
images (10)It makes me wonder why many states prioritize being in citizen’s bedrooms and legislating human emotions rather than more precious human needs. While African countries are plagued with livelihood issues, hunger, unemployment amongst others, the Nigerian government also prioritized the passing of a bill that will jail any supporter of gay marriage for 10yrs and more.
Some things are guided by common sense, others are guided by morality. The sensibility in the priorities of our leaders and lawmakers is what puzzles me. In the face of hunger, terrorism, unemployment, poverty, war amongst other burning issues, the investment of the states in legislating the wrongs and rights of the marriage concept needs to be k13128037questioned.
The Suicidal death of a 78yrs old far right French historian as his form of radical opposition to same sex marriage at the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris this week climaxed it all. If Chinua Achebe were still amongst mortals, we would be asking him a question; is Marriage still a Private Affair? 

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The Stranger with a One Eyed Box

Reading the Lion and the Jewel as a child, I saw an old Bale Baroka that was in contest with Lakunle to marry the otherwise beautifulProf-Wole-Soyinka Sidi. That was all I saw. Reading this rather complex drama with so many themes and interpretations again this year, one phrase stuck to my mind, ‘the stranger with a one eyed box.’  What strikes me most is the interpretation I could readily give this in the context of development.
bride priceLakunle captures the character of the ‘stranger with the one eyed box’, the man from the outside world. Lakunle who detests the idea of paying Sidi’s bride price, takes photos of Sidi and hitherto, a picture book is produced about the village. There is the picture of Sidi on the front page. Sidi is overjoyed that she graces the cover and other leafs in the magazine, and her beauty will be announced to the world. To note precisely how well placed she is in the magazine, she asks ‘Is not Bale’s image in the book at all?’ The response was ‘oh yes, it is. But it would have been much better for Bale if the stranger had omitted him altogether. His image is in a little corner somewhere in the book, and even that corner he shares with one of the village latrines.’
LionJewelMetaphorically, the above narrative addresses the power of representation. I imagined it to capture the western process of representing Africa with the picture of its unassuming children floating on their screens as a tool for fund raising. Many times the power of the lens to capture, prove and evoke a particular perception has been used severally by unethical western photographer to create and reinforce the identity of a poor Africa through the faces of the children gracing the papers, television screen amongst other mediums.
You know what I am talking about, those pictures that rape a child’s dignity. Those pictures that go with captions of poverty, hunger, the picture of a teary black child, clad in pants or maybe dirty clothing, with grimy hands, with a little startle and helplessness all over his or her face.
Telegraph.co.uk A tear runs down the cheek of an HIV-positive child at a home for the terminally-ill in Roodepoort, South Africa
SOS-USA.ORGchildrenincrisis

Unicef time-to-share-banner-aug

Many times I imagine they look helpless in the face of an adult stranger clicking away their faces with a camera, seeking not their consent. If you have been in Europe and watched the television, you certainly know what I am talking about. Otherwise, you may not fully grasp this because these pictures like Sidi’s pictures are not taken for the consumption of the calibre of people objectified therein.
Large_format_camera_lensThis issue occupies a problematic place on the theatre of fund raising in international development. Yes Aid Agencies are doing amazing jobs supporting developing countries with fund. They need funds to replenish; they need to make people donate towards helping needy countries and supporting different causes. While the intentions may be great, the medium of realising their objectives remains in questions.
Kevin Cater the Pulitzer award winning photographer of the picture of the ‘Sudanese Girl’ must have undoubtedly had goodkevincarter2 intentions, the award was even better. But the good intents collapsed under the weight of the criticisms of taking a dying child’s picture without saving her. This experience was so bad it was noted to influence Cater’s suicide few months later. The world many times judges actions and not the intentions. The act of capturing a particular moment, a particular expression, a singular scene in a person’s life and continuously recycle it even when the person has moved on from there has come into question severally. Beyond the responsibility of the photographer is an organisation that understands the implications of using the face of poor children as an emotional anchor to justify their actions.
Children in challenging or vulnerable situations in European Media always have their faces obscured to protect them and their future. There is a double standard here as this gesture is not extended to the African child. This particularly disrespects the dignity of the very lives the agencies claim to help. Is there no better way to raise funds without using the innocence of a child who in most cases is unaware of the distance his or her picture has travelled?
A striking connection is made in the fact that the pictures of Sidi like the pictures of these children are not meant for the village a4d75127215f52c18ccd5844527298c4_Sconsumption. These pictures continue to challenge the governance of the countries they are taken from. There was a promise to put Sidi’s image on the stamp; this is comparable to the image of these children donation-form-main-imagebeing iconic to the poor African identity. People, who are subtly pressured to give by the vulnerable positioning of another, will subconsciously see the beneficiary from a position of weakness or as a lesser person. Over the years, poverty has stuck as an icon for African countries; it has even become natural resources of the people. Every natural resource is to be paid for, there are ethics and laws guiding its purchase, but again the poverty of Africa is exploited freely. Lakunle was not going to pay what it cost to have Sidi. To him, ‘to pay the price will be to buy a heifer off the market stall’. Worthy of note, is the positioning of Baroka the Bale of Ilujinle by the latrine, the African government is ridiculed in this process as they are portrayed as powerless in protecting the dignity of their future; their children.
I imagine different scenes, I imagine the power relation between the photographer and the subject, the power behind the lense, the power to define. What will the picture of this stranger look like if the tables were turned and s/he is captured by the child? If a child Kid with camera-1was asked to tell their own story through the camera, what story will s/he tell of that moment s/he was snapped? Will they tell the story of a poor Africa or a warm Africa? The story of a hungry Africa or of their loving father, mother, brother, sister and friends? I am still imagining.
Consciously or not, the Author Wole Soyinka’s injection of the ‘one eyed box’ is a way of presenting how people select and interpret what they want from a field of many activities happening around them.  The myopic perceptions created by this imagery are captured in the word ‘one eye’ which tells that the true context may not be well appreciated. In the case of children who have a long life ahead of them, these pictures, their recycling and usage have them trapped in the contest of vulnerabilitybe12e1b3-099f-4b99-b42b-02e5d8ca01e0 even when in reality the children have grown away.
To the next stranger with the one eyed box intending to click unethically at a poor child and travel with their pictures to landscapes the child may never step foot in, reflect on this. I hear the children speak in Sidi’s voice saying  ‘every time your actions deceive me, making me think you merely wish to whisper something in my ear,  then comes this licking of my lips with yours, it’s so unclean’.
 
 
 
 
 

CEDAW, Femininity, Poem

The Battered Woman

We both came forth from this world as equals.
2582299-chris-brown-rihanna-tattoo-617-409
My name is SHE, I have known HE,
I have a life, but one with fear of HE.
I have left my enemy to define me and my fate,
for everything here has the picture of he on it.
 
HE says I am more beautiful with tattoos of painful
bruises carved by violent and repeated hits.
My experience of  foreplay are, whips, kicks and throws.
My tattoos increase when I differ, when I cry forBody_art,_1907
wanting lovemaking and not sex.
 
They are more when I am rightfully barren
 and worse when I am pregnant.
When I have tattoos on my face, only few ever see it,
The veil of silence masks it.
 
I know I do not want these tattoos,
but my tattoos are justified for nothing has been done to stop it.
SHE is blamed and HE is vindicated.
My only rescue is ssshhhh… msmagazine.comblog20100519abused-women-in-maryland-arent-lying
                                                                                                
 
 
King Kalid Foundation-womens-abuse-english                                                                                 –Written by Adaobi Nkeokelonye (2004)

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Our Grand Mother’s Drum

I love Mark Hudson the Journalist, but I love more his semi-fiction novel ‘Our Grandmother’s drum’ which bridged the gap mark-hudsonbetween travel and fiction writing. It is the story of the lives of women of the Mandinka tribe, Keneba, West Kiang, Gambia. The Fiction name Dulaba was given to it by the award winning author. Bored with his London realities, the young Tubab Marky (as he is called by the women) is drawn to the mystery of the Gambian women and hence set out to honour his curiosity. There he worked as an amazing anthropologist, escaping the researcher’s bias by living and toiling the earth with these women through the seasons of hunger, of rain, of sunshine and abundance. He was not just a visiting tubab (white man), he was a part of them, a member of their Saniyoro kafo (women’s club).  Even though his feelings of difference as a result of his skin colour remained ever present, he stayed through the year.
The ethics of his data gathering has remained in question as it may have been unconsented that he would publish a novel about them. It implies that he stole the secret of the women of Dulaba, creating yet another impression of the European unethically taking from Africa’s natural resources including her poverty and ignorance. Having noted this, Hudson has done a fantastic job situating the IMG_3981women of Dulaba and their lives in the map of humanity. He gave a poignant story vividly describing the people, the culture and the landscape in joy and sadness, he indeed created a portrait of rural African life. As is expected of our rich Africa, 140various subject matters were covered ranging from female genital mutilation, religion and agriculture amongst others. One relevant for this column is the representation of women’s role in African agriculture.
Have you ever heard these comments about women feeding the world? Have you read that in sub-saharan african, women contribute 60-80% of labour in food production for household consumption and for sale? These are few examples of dominant narratives of women in African agriculture. Every time I see this, I have often wondered if I would still find so many women toiling the field as described and I wondered what men did. I grew up going to the farm with my parents (even though I detested it then); I remember there were men and likewise women tilling the earth in neighbouring farms. Farm work evolved around family relationships and so even men, women and children like us played a role. I guardian.co.ukalso remember that my mother and many of her friends in the rural village were in addition traders who I saw in the traditional Afor market. Hence I am startled at the power some of these claim and the figures that they carry have for conviction. Many times I wondered about the lives and stories behind the statistics quoted.  Each one of them noticeably displaced our men in the field and put them anywhere else.
Africa-ag-map-300x299
All of these claims have in the past decades unequivocally influenced the structure and design of development investments in the African agricultural sector. They make a gender case for the challenges of African agriculture and support policy debates in funding and promotion of activities for women in African agriculture.
Like Hudson, in 2012, I carried out an academic research travelling through maps of different claims. I pitched my tent on one of them, following their trajectories right on my desk to confirm the origin and character of evidence supporting it. Four decades after, the origin remained traceable to the identity constructions of women IMG_3982in agriculture by Esther Boserup. Her 1970’s much renowned work ‘Women’s Role in Economic Development’  created an identity for rural women, it put them out there but it also generalized their realities.
There certainly has been substantial changes in African Agriculture, considering the amount of investment that has gone into it from aid agencies over the years. If not for its political expediency, why are these changes not reflecting in the claims? This old data remains shaky and overstates the facts, its continued recycling speaks even more. But Hudson’s work gives me another perspective.
The narratives in Our Grandmother’s Drum gives qualitative evidence validating the claims of the hard working women and the lazy men theory, it is the story behind the claims I have been looking for. Yes, in Dulaba, women probably contribute more than 70% considering the realities that are presented by Hudson. With glimpes of brightly coloured clothes flashing in sunlight we see the African-women-farmers-300x199great mass of women milling over the land in Dulaba. The women of Dulaba spent their life time in a circle of childbearing, domestic labour and manual agriculture summing up in the rhythms created by mortar and pestle as they pound and cook. With their songs and dance, voices of different generations of women rise together, they create scenes of domestic intimacy that excludes the men. From the planting to the weeding time bindeyo when women battle with the earth to preserve their crops, all these putEthnic_Woman_Walking_with_a_Goat_100427-234387-779042 together, amounts to little more than slavery according to Hudson. But where are the men in Dulaba?
Mention is made of young men working in rotations two decades before, planting large fields of groundnuts and millet. Now, Hudson record that ‘while the men liked to sleep through the day, the women had continued their task’ as described. He validates that indeed women may actually be feeding the Gambian world.
As I think of the contrast between Dulaba and the landscape I grew up in, I realise that the world of Africa may be similar in many ways but also peculiarly different. Dulaba in Gambia may never be the same with my landscape, but the importance of agriculture inIMG_4001 (2) Africa’s development cannot be doubted. So now I ask if we may actually continue to focus on the investment on women or do we find a way of galvanising the men and the women through development project without fracturing family and other social relationships? Can the strengthening of our agricultural sector also strengthen the gender and family relationships in agriculture just like in the time I grew up?
Thank you Mark Hudson for the perspectives you bring, but I thank more, Christine Okali for blessing me with this book, she is a dear teacher who has always challenged many of my assumptions.
-Written by Adaobi Nkeokelonye

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Is the Marriage Market Stillborn?

‘… If the bride price is not paid, the bride will die at childbirth’. These words thwarted every ambition for happiness, books (1)progressive living and well-being for the character ‘Akunna’ in Buchi Emecheta’s ‘the Bride Price’. The author used this work as a medium to explore several social issues of which for me, the marriage economy falls into. The theme focused on the politics around establishing a marriage in our society. An important strand in the conflicts it projected is the contentions around the dowry. One will ask why the bride price of a woman is so important. In ‘Akunna’s 400_F_49638666_kfrIsxJnFg2vQurfpzWy2XHMd8ddqzARexperiences, we see a poignant story of faith in the economic difference being educated can make in a woman’s bride price. Through several social upheavals twisted along cultural lines, this work does not just expose how cultural beliefs can rape the mind. It adds to the existing body of knowledge that reminds us of the importance of marriage, not just for meeting physiological needs, but also for its economic benefits as it indirectly contribute to the local economy of people.
According to Margaret Mead, marriage is a socio-economic arrangement where consideration is made of wealth, class and job skills wealth of the man and woman. For better or worse, marriage for Akunna’s society had more than a social relevance. While it is portrayed to be protecting a withering culture of class and caste, the relevance of any victory the ‘Ibuza’ culture might have had in this work is most conceivable in today’s world from an economic lens.
It is not in doubt that marriage is the lifeblood of the economy. Believe me, where the economy is, that is k1312803714413356-3d-marriage-word-sphere-on-white-backgroundwhere all governments pitch their tents. This is proven through by the realities of the over-protectiveness of the rules of engagement for the marriage institution by many states in the world. Within international development, civil right debates are dominated around issues on whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to get married or not, arguments have been made on the emotional and cultural implications of this. Most interesting is the economic dynamics of this new paradigm to private and social benefits. But the fear for the unknown impacts of legalizing non-heterosexual union decades away keeps the decisions hanging. All of this speaks of the importance of marriage to the local, national and global governance.
While many states consider the pressures of legalizing homosexual marriages, most African countries like Nigeria do not find it a images (10)threat. So I am often caught in my thought wondering what the consequences are for my country and others alike.
While the pressure pots are yet to hit our constitutional door steps, shouldn’t we first of all soften on the stance of whether gays and lesbians should get married and worry more on what is happening to the commitments at the heart of the already established marriages?  What in the society has influenced the increase in divorce rate, the desensitization of stigma around single parenting, the delay in age of marriage and more so the rising choices for homosexual relationships? Is there a collision of forces? what precisely has influenced this paradigm shift on the part of men and downloadwomen to produce a loveless economy laced by rising impression that marriages is bond-less and a terminable institution?
Commitment is the core of every marriage. The global economy is driven by sexual, emotional and other forms of commitment between two (or maybe more) people. At the induction of every marriage commitment, a tree of economic growth is planted that increases many sectors of the economy. Need I say that marriage has been the springboard for producing a nation’s labour force? But that core, is threatened heavily, so is the economy.
bld016719Many elucidators have given numerous perspectives in response to the evolving trends; some have charged falling sex ratios, changes in supply and demand balance, rise in age of commitment, amongst others. But then, different societies may have their account of what is changing the pattern of the wind that drives marriages.
Zainab Alkali’s ‘The Stillborn’, gives an insight which may account in certain ways to the position of young women. It represents a 51QTyupPXRL._SL500_AA300_shift in mindset that has organically taken root coming from a disenchantment of a failing marketing approach. De Beauvoir states that ‘marriage is the destiny traditionally offered to women by society’. Marriage is a woman’s destiny, and the hunger to fulfil that destiny injected into every young woman is reinforced with the carrots of a heterosexual intensely romantic relationship dangles just everywhere. With all naivety, the character of ‘Li’ in ‘the Stillborn’ hung to the dream of a romantic marriage that will provide material and emotional support and be the answer to all her problems. In ‘Li’s theory, all she had to do was provide him sexual satisfaction, cook his meal and cuddle him to her breast, and then the dreams will come true.
love-carrots-low-res-iStock_000013121473MediumLike her friend ‘Faku’, these women became disillusioned as their belief and faith in marriage meeting their needs remained a stillborn. Marriage was not a Siamese twin relationship where their heart beat together and two halves made a whole. They had believed a lie, for them, pursuing the promises of the carrot was like chasing a moving target. Finally, there is a shift in mindset for the women and a redefined approach to seal the cracks on the wall of their life. Their new understanding redefines marriage and their expectations; it recasts the patriarchal society and the favoured role given to men. Questioning conventions, ‘Li’ uses her new mindset as a weapon of self empowerment.
Such disillusionment and rapid changes in the economy has raised many daughters of ‘Li’ who see it more practical ???????????????????????????????????????for educated single women to sustain themselves and their children without a man’s help. The traditional value of marriage keeps withering away by the day, in the mind of a man, maybe the character of ‘Habu’ saw commitment to ‘Li’ as a constrain, controlling and confining him to the eventual robbery of his masculinity.
Like gold, diamond and currency markets, the marriage market can suffer swing in prices with small changes to the supply and demand ratio. Such swings can be caused by a changing perception. In the case of marriages today, the swing hits strongly at the level of commitment given by individuals in the institution and those outside.
10318535-married-couple-bride-and-groom-figurine-inside-a-roll-of-us-dollar-banknote-bills-isolated-on-whiteThe lack of that organic growth in the culture that sustains marriage in the heart of people needs attention of everyone interested in sustaining economic growth driven by marriage.
Succinctly, this review has not given an explanation of what is happening to marriages, it only suggests and adds to existing perspectives using works of fiction. The views that the characters in ‘the Stillborn’ conceptualizes may again give insight on how to progressively focus on sustaining our socio-economic development, considering that individual and family patterns fit into larger socio-economic structures of our society.download (1)
Nonetheless, how high the demands for marriage will be in the future will depends on what approach of  development each person and the society adopts. If we choose to consider a holistic approach that prioritizes the well-being and happiness of the people, the marriage concept may suffer a shock as individuals will define marriages on the backdrop of happiness, self esteem amongst others. But if we choose economic approach, then it may continue to survive just the way it is.
-Written by Adaobi Nkeokelonye

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Marriage is a Private Affair

images (5)‘… when it comes to marriage, it’s not that simple’ Nnaemeka said in Achebe’s ‘Marriage is a private affair’.  Iimagese  believe him, considering the different dynamics the marriage concept has produced over the years. Marriage permeates almost every culture and society in the map of humanity, promoting sexual, emotional and other forms of commitment between two (or maybe more) people. That commitment in itself has serious implications to the economic development of a people. It has continued to thrive through many decades and centuries. But in the wind of change, many things wither.
It is amazing to see how like humans, social concepts evolve and change. Marriage too has changed. In growing up days, we were all children of two parents. The only kid who had just a mother had lost his father not long before. As the years rolled on, more students images (6)had one parent and later in life when I visited homes of friends, their parents were more of house mates and that commitment that bonded many marriages was fast withering. More so, some mothers I knew were never called wives before their children came forth.
In this era, the increasing rise of homosexual marriages is undeniable. The changes also spreads to parenting. Few years after Elton John and his husbands’ adoption denials caused media frenzy and increased awareness on homosexual parenting thereof. There are so many intersections to this issue and I cannot exhaust them.
images (3)Whether or not we choose to acknowledge marriage as an institution, it sure has lots of benefit and administrative convenience going for it. Married workers are considered more productive, hence marriage benefits earning. Marriage gives automatic inheritance rights and grants social security benefits. It protects and can reward your emotional investments when things don’t work out unlike when you just date. There are many more unspoken advantages of being married than I know of.
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This week, I am reviewing this concept through works of fiction to help elucidate the politics and drivers of the marriage concept. On my table already is Achebe’s ‘Marriage is a private affair’. Suggestions of other works of fiction I could consult will be highly appreciated.

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Who wears the mask?

my.vanderbilt.edugoodpersonpublicationsThe column this week is aligned to the last post. It’s no coincidence that I  choose to be responsive 20130225_IOM_307to an issue that had reoccurred in the media last week. International media captured the ongoing debate on the sex trade law between the United States government and organisations that benefit from the PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief) funding. Prostitution remains a controversial issue, little wonder I struggle to get an appropriate definition for it.  Hmm… That flesh for cash business; anyone that buys or sells the flesh for cash is a prostitute. Did I hear you say I am wrong? Speaking jocosely, you must be an American politician, a man, a moralist or a judgemental person to disagree with me. You can be everything else but not one of the three gods of Setzuan or Shen te the renowned prostitute.
In the stereotypical way of engaging the issue of prostitution in many societies, Bertolt Brecht Photo by Johny Knightpresents ‘Shen te’ (alias the Prostitute) who lived in ‘Setzuan’ (an imaginary city in China) and relates with masked men. (I say masked men because we rarely know who patronizes a prostitute. Maybe because they are ignored being that their involvement is inexorably, a force of nature that is above the law.) With his noted style of using masks in his work, the writer presents an interplay of characters and scenes that gives insight into survival sex work and the poverty that drives it.
In a time when good nature was rare and the laces of poverty littered everywhere, three gods visited Setzuan in search of one good person. Contrary to the ideals we may expect, the search of the gods yielded ‘Shen te’ as the finest human being in the capitalist impacted city of Setzuan.
In Bertolt Bretchs work, Der gute Mensch von Sezuan literarily translated the good woman of Setzuan; we see a society existing in cycles of poverty. According to Wong (the water seller) there is ‘nothing unusual about poverty’ here. In Setzuan, we are reminded images (1)that goodness and capitalism cannot coexist. The characters in this play proved that evil and criminal acts are necessary for a capitalist system to survive as they grease its wheel. The three gods suffer a dearth in their search because there really may be no good person existing in such a system that is not corrupted by the obscenity of capitalism.images
One begins to question how goodness and morality alike should be prioritized by an individual in the face of hunger, lack of shelter and all the needs that comes with poverty.  How also does a state cladding a capitalist coat suggest that morality should loom over policy decisions that govern issues like prostitution which in many cases, is a detritus of immoral capitalism? A good case in point is this 2003 anti-prostitution law of the American Congress which has not been reversed.
The Anti-prostitution law reads that federal funds may not be used to ‘advocate the practice of prostitution’ or ‘provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution’. Hence it requires that all PEPFAR beneficiaries take a pledge in accordance with the law against prostitution.  The United States is the largest governmental donor of HIV/AIDS funds in the world, hence taking the pledge or denouncing it has huge implication for global health. Prostitution inarguably is a strong component in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the broader challenges of Human Trafficking issues amongst others. This cobweb relationship is inextricable and therefore any policy intervention that ignores it is problematic. Engaging this from a law and policy perspective of international development, the review of this law is neccesary. Through the past week, media has captured activities focused on this as the Supreme Court responds to the amicus briefs filed by UNAid and other organizations for its reversal.
httpwww.lowbird.comdataimages200903girls-love-thief-in-the-mask-012931.jpgIn America, likewise many other countries where prostitution is illegal, the laws are based on ideologies which are morally inspired, lacking sincere grasp of realities. The moral ideologies are often deflated by the verity on ground and compounded by the strategies adopted in implementing the law. Many times through enforcing our law, we discriminate participants in the skin trade by continuously masking and protecting the recipients, and prosecuting, humiliating and stigmatizing the service providers. More women have been victims of this unfair rule except for rare situations where men like the morally upright Elliot Laurence Spitzer (the past governor of New York) are exposed for political gains.
It will be short sighted of me to say that the solution for countries that criminalizes prostitution is in adopting a more holistic approach that equally engages both the supply and demand angle of the flesh for cash industry. Short sighted because I think there is need for the policy makers to understand the intricacies and drivers of the sex trade market. Prostitution in many cases is driven by poverty which must be addressed. It’s also worthy of note that prostitution is an addiction, a means of livelihood, a coping mechanism, a hobby amongst others.
Bertolt Bretchs dramatizes poverty and survival sex as a driver for ‘Shen te’ who proclaims that ‘I should love to stay with one man… stock-vector-teardrop-a-woman-touching-a-masked-man-the-characters-and-the-background-are-on-separate-layers-37520596I’ll like to be good but surely there’s rent to pay’. Cyprian Ekwensi’s narrative in ‘Jagua Nana’ presents us a psycho-social case in point in understanding the drivers of prostitution within the urban African society. With the Character of ‘Jagua’, we find a young woman whose sojourn into the skin trade sprang from her restless spirit and a search for adventure.
Though written many decades ago and representing different social contexts, the two writers through their characters, show that empowerment and new preoccupations can wean women off prostitution. The high point for the two protagonists is seen in their shifts into trading and becoming more useful to the society. While ‘Shen te’ opens a tobacco shop and becomes the angel of the slum, Jagua also goes into socially profitable ventures.
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If Americans where gods, they will judge Shen te, if they had the power, she would know no empowerment.  Many thanks to the absence of PEPFAR in Setzuan, Shente got a new life as the angel of the slum who ran a tobacco shop.  The three gods of Setzuan were clearly non-judgemental,  It appears reasonable to look beyond the actions of a prostitute and focus on the intent. In the face of stinking poverty and lack which gnawed the three gods in Setzuan, the mask of morality dropped. The gods empowered ‘Shen te’ not on the grounds of morality but that of necessity. Where the gods to be judgemental,  their own morality will be deciphered and hence they will be found wanting for sharing shelter with a prostitute.
Through his master piece character ‘Shen te’, Bertolt Brecht calls for us to think outside the conventional box, it persuades a thorough consideration of many issue of obscenity far and above prostitution. A moral law against prostitution may be ideal but should not be a precondition toimg_125927872942_49207_eventoriginal sustainable development interventions. Apart from a possible negative impact on global health, another implication is that some people’s livelihood will be set on fire, children of prostitutes will walk the streets and yet the world will worse. Rather than shut the door on their faces, we must think of how to shelter them. Maybe replacing a law against prostitution with a law against poverty and inequalities can wean those to whom the flesh for cash business provides bread and butter.

prostituttt
A wordle generated specially for the series on prostitution. I have been inspired by the many names I could derive from sex trade.

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Jagua Nana's Daughters

Some topics make you have premature writer’s block, not because you don’t know what to write about but more because you suffer15027760-masked-man-portrait a creative blockage in struggling with how to take it on. This I experience every time I try discussing  issues around  the Skin trade. Where does one start from? do I hold on to the faceless clients of the sisters in the red light district or do I talk about their pimp? Maybe I should focus on the sisters and brothers of the brothel who have been mercilessly judged in different mediums or do I focus on the law that criminalizes or decriminalizes them? As is the case in life, you have to play a game of letting go and holding on at different times in order to gain balance. So I decided to play a game, the game of naming. The world calls the flesh for cash business ‘Prostitution‘ but there are many more names than one can imagine that takes its bearing from this sector. To get started, I went for a wordle game that will help me appreciate all the names I know referring to this controversial profession.  This is what I produced.

johhn

While its amusing to see how much name can be derived from one sector of the economy, I must agree that this has charged me up.  Worthy of note is the fact that for once on this page, the client of the red light district is not masked, he is called ‘John’.

jagua_nanaI explored Cyprian Ekwensi’s ‘Jagua Nana’ recently and I must say it was ingenious in many ways especially when I consider the time it was published. I cannot help but link its characters and narratives to the realities of prostitution in our world. Prostitution is dynamic in the sense that the sentiment around it is very relative. In many countries, I find that it is legalized and regulated, but isn’t it astonishing that ten most happiest countries in  the world’s  are places where the skin trade is legal? From Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, to Canada, Belgium , Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands,  we find that most of the world’s strongest economies legalize the flesh for cash business. On a lighter side, I wonder if it could be a recipe for a happy and economically strong country?

In America and most of Africa, prostitution remains illegal. In fact many commercial  sex workers in Africa are known to engage in survival sex as a result of the poverty they experience. But this is not the case for ‘Jagua’ in Ekwensi’s Novel published in 1961. Having been pressured to marry a young man in the coal city, her marriage was no bliss as infertility loomed over for some years. The strains of infertility coupled with her stifled feeling of carrying on with the role of a house wife led her to the train station and thus her  journey on the Lagos fast lane began. Jagua was not presented as a victim of poverty, neither was her husband poor,  her drive for the skin trade can be judged as a product of adventure.Maybe in our generation, it will be tagged  ‘coping mechanism’.Talking about being in the skin trade as a coping mechanism, Suzy Favour Hamilton comes to mind.

suzy-favor-hamiltonI do not remember Mrs. Hamilton for her masked persona, I remember her as the Olympic medallist, a hard working woman who has achieved so much that we should be proud for. However, a phenomenon relevant to this discussion is well captured in her life’s experience. When she said she had mistakenly joined the sex trade as a coping mechanism against the challenges around her life, it got me thinking. She precisely gave me a mental shift towards the understanding of the drivers of prostitution. She provoked a thinking outside the conventional box of what could make anyone engage in the skin trade. While I still try to probe further, her statement on her disgust for the ‘JOHN’ that broke the honour code and exposed her made me stop.“I can’t expect you to understand, you aren’t in that world… you don’t know this world. You’re making judgements on what you see on television or what you perceive,” she said. Now I agree that some things are not meant to be understood. Even as I hate that she alone was exposed, even as I feel its unfair that  the face of this JOHN did not splash on the screen and in the papers like her’s, and no one asked for him, I may never understand w6323246-carnival-mask-close-up-to-masked-womanhy.

 Jagua and Suzy alike makes me think that there is need to understand the intricacies of this sector before we engage in naming it or better still executing the trade.What does this have to do with international development you may ask? Everything from global health  to unemployment, Human trafficking and poverty amongst others. In the wake of high HIV/AIDS prevalence, trafficking of young women and abusing their right to freedom, with litters of poverty all around us, this issues must be faced.   Hence we must think  and think again, in the light of what we know about the different perceptions of prostitution world over, should it be eradicated or should it be managed?