Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
LAST month, Zambia observed a highly commercialised Black Friday – how people went in a shopping frenzy!
In Lusaka, when Game Stores which had a number of goods on sale opened its doors at 00:00am, hordes of shoppers pushed their way in, in a rare shopping rush to pick discounted items on the shelves.
The situation was similar in other chain stores around the country.
The price cuts on selected items were just for that day that comes once in a year.
So, it was an opportunity for people to get electronics and other household goods, including groceries that wouldn’t fetch that ‘cheap’ on an ordinary day.
How people shopped; how they spent; and how bad traffic was around the eastern parts of Lusaka; was just amazing.
I reckon that many shoppers who were leaving the shops with trollies full of discounted goods, were just acting on the spur-of-the-moment.
Well, we are actually in that season of the year when impulse shopping is common and the shopping frenzy we saw hasn’t died.
Families want to celebrate Christmas and New Year in style – with lots of food, beverages in the house and many are already expending – some on impulse and only a few do so prudently around this period.
Those who are still planning their Christmas shopping are busy ferreting around for price bargains and making comparisons between one shop and another.
Retailers take advantage of this period to rake in more money through bargains and aggressive marketing of their products and services.
And statistics of Christmas expenditure make news every year and reveal growing expenditure patterns around the world, including in developing countries like ours.
Certainly, this is the reason why January is known to be a month when families tighten their belts.
After the mass shopping, mass consumption of food and drinks including alcoholic beverages, comes financial stress in the first quarter of the year.
In a twist of fate, households that are having too much to eat and drink this season, will in the next month be struggling to put food on the table, pay school fees and provide other school requisites for the children.
I attended a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting where the school management shared that the first quarter of the year is a difficult period in terms of collecting school fees.
Many parents default, making it difficult for schools to meet their operating costs.
So, now schools are encouraging parents to pay school fees during school holidays, and in December, some schools actually give discounts for those who pay in the first two weeks of the month.
My gut feeling points to the festival shopping frenzy as the reason for parents and guardians failing to honour their commitment to school fees and other school-related needs.
Come January, some children will be in need of new uniforms, shoes, note books and school fees, while parents will be struggling to meet these needs.
Ideally, you would expect parents to set aside money for school fees, before throwing parties and stocking their pantries with foods and drinks.
Is it wrong to celebrate Christmas and New Year?
Of course not, there is nothing wrong with taking part in the seasonal festivities if it’s within your means. And why not go on holiday and spend time with family if you can afford it?
What is wrong is to engage in extravagant shopping or senseless consumption of alcohol and food at the expense of your family’s wellbeing.
From a Christian perspective, Christmas is not about spending money. It’s a time of the year when we remember the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ to humanity and how this has changed our destiny.
So, its celebration shouldn’t be exaggerated. In remembering God’s gift to us, the festive season should be a time of sharing with the needy and of course our families.
Last week, I found myself in a group of women from my church that were visiting undernourished children at the University Teaching Hospital.
It was amazing to see the needs of the tots and their mothers in a community full of plenty.
Some of their needs are tear-jerking – just food; a pair of shoes; nappies; just a chitenge wrapper; and perhaps a spare blouse or skirt.
Failure to have a balanced diet is the reason why some mothers I met will be spending Christmas in the hospital.
I met a mother who has been nursing her son in hospital for malnutrition for over a month because she can’t afford things like groundnuts for the baby’s porridge, kapenta, beans, eggs and milk.
The baby is now relatively well-fed during its stay in hospital, but I don’t know what will happen to it when it goes back home.
When discharged after enjoying some balanced diets in hospital, some babies do get readmitted to hospital for malnutrition.
These are some of the people we ought to remember as we celebrate Christmas.
Also for me, Christmas time should be family time.
The mothers and fathers who are fortunate to go on industrial break this season should take advantage of their vacation to bond with their spouses and children.
But what we see during this season is that men as well as women prefer partying and drinking alcohol away from their families.
For the affected children, it’s a time of loneliness because their parents always want to go out and merry-make with peers.
In my view, the best company one could ever keep in a festive season is with family.
Celebrating with family will keep you in check of the festive period excesses such as over-expending on food, alcohol and many other unnecessary things.
Being with family will also remind you of your responsibilities and the needs of the family that lie ahead.
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