Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
GETTING busy to meet the day’s deadline as per everyday newsroom custom, a woman walks into my office to pour out the transgressions of alangizi.
She says sorry for coming without an appointment, but given the warm reception, she immediately starts complaining about the misconduct of alangizi against her granddaughter.
I bet most of us know who alangizi are.
If not, these are counsellors who offer traditionally inclined premarital counsel to would-be brides and also married women needing nuptial refresher courses.
On their commercial facet, alangizi are known for teaching women how to please men in bed.
On the other facet, the traditional counsellors also offer paid-for tutorials to adolescents to initiate them into adulthood.
Though, originally, the alangizi culture is from the Eastern Province, it’s their sexually inclined counselling that has popularised their activities across other cultures in Zambia.
But commercialisation of premarital counselling can’t go without fault, and this is actually the downside of the once highly esteemed traditional counsellors.
Nonetheless, you can’t write these counsellors off – some parents will spend anything on alangizi’s terms to prepare their daughters for marriage.
So this distraught grandmother who walked into our newsroom shared that her soon-to-wed granddaughter has reached a deadlock with her traditional counsellors.
The girl will be marrying this festive season and has already gone through all the marriage counselling that there is to be done in church.
Since her family felt the ‘church marriage syllabus’ did not go into the nitty-gritty of bedroom coaching, her family decided to engage alangizi.
The girl is a devout Christian and her pastor would get mad to learn that she was consulting the alangizi for ‘ungodly counsel’.
But her grandmother contends that church counselling isn’t that ‘deep’, so they consulted the komboni women, who do not only offer verbal lectures, but practically demonstrate how things should be done.
She says with alangizi, you are assured of satisfactory results because they subject their students to practical tests before graduation.
Whatever that means, I won’t go into details, but will leave it to your imagination.
To cut the long story short, the family isn’t satisfied with the conduct of two women of Mtendere township that they hired to prepare their daughter for marriage.
After a week of supposed ‘premarital counsel’, the girl didn’t learn anything to write home about.
During the counselling sessions, the two women would be sipping some beer and playing traditional songs from Eastern Province that have been made popular by artiste Angela Nyirenda.
The bride would provide K50 per session for the counsellors’ beer and the women would be playing music on radio while sipping and dancing. The total bill for the month-long counselling was K1,500 and the bride was asked to pay K500 upfront on top of six metres of chitenge material for each of the two women.
The grandmother complained that despite making the initial payment (K500), the girl was instructed to go with K50 for each session as offering to the two alangizi. The other annoying thing is that the family expected the counsellors to prepare the young woman for marriage, but they were just playing music for her while drinking beer.
When the family sat down with the wife-to-be to find out what she was learning, they discovered that she had learnt nothing.
Quietly, the family decided to abandon the Mtendere women and look for other counsellors.
Seeing that the girl was not showing up for counselling, alangizi queried but weren’t happy to learn that she had dumped them.
They frantically started hurling insults at the girl, demanding the K1,000 balance, insisting she had to pay because she had breached the contract.
However, the bride insisted she had already paid enough despite not learning anything for a week. After a bitter telephone altercation with the counsellors, the girl stopped picking up their phone calls.
In fury, the disgraced counsellors bugged into the home of the bride’s aunt and verbally undressed her as well as her husband.
Since the girl’s aunt lives in the same township as the traditional counsellors, she now has to stomach insults from the two women who have made it a habit to go to her house and shower her with unprintable words.
Their demand is that the girl should either complete the syllabus or pay them K1,000 for breach of contract. Anyway, there was no contract signed, but the counsellors just want to take advantage of this girl because, apparently, they can smell the money.
The grandmother is quite annoyed and wants to report the disgraced counsellors to the police if they continue bothering the family.
She shared the story with me so that I could discuss it on this forum and possibly dissuade alangizi from doing injustice to other people’s children.
She says her granddaughter would have gone to her husband’s house ‘half-baked’ if the family did not bother to find out what she was learning.
Well, I was impressed that this family took interest in what alangizi were teaching their daughter. Many families don’t.
They will hire counsellors that they don’t know and trust them to prepare their daughters for marriage without checking what they are doing.
Actually, in this era when the alangizi business is highly commercialised, parents should engage people they know, trust and respect to counsel their children.
Sometimes, it doesn’t need to be a commercialised counsellor, but rather a well-respected couple or family friends. I also believe that the couple-to-be should be counselled together.
The idea is to bring the groom on board. What is common is for our boy children to go into marriage without counselling, whereas counselling is concentrated on the bride. The couple-to-be should be taught together and choose what they want or don’t want together. With this approach, none of them will have an information overload or be half-baked.
As a matter of fact, churches have been counselling the couples, so why should traditional counsellors separate them?
In any case, I don’t think that the premarital counselling offered in church is inadequate, as people would like to believe.
It is just a perception that makes people seek the services of unknown business-minded people who have no best interest of the counsellees.
And if parents aren’t satisfied with the bedroom tips given in church, why not ask their churches to be candid with counselees and go a little deeper?
email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone 0211- 221364/227793