Gender Gender

When women resort to muti: Is there cure for marriage?

Emelda Mwitwa
THE use of love portions known as muti in the lingua franca of Africa, is said to be high among women than their male counterparts.
Women are said to use muti for varied reasons, but common ones include the desire to simply have a man listen to them and to gain mastery over a man’s thinking pattern so as to manipulate decisions in their favour. Other women want to be loved or rather to protect the relationship/marriage from potential rivals.
Generally the use of love potions targets a man’s thought-pattern and ultimately his willpower, because of the belief that men don’t listen to women.
A woman who has no say in decision-making in her own home or one who cannot have a meaningful conversation with her spouse on family matters, is likely to be frustrated whether she is well fed and dressed.
Similar frustration is possible when women’s voices are suppressed in other areas of human interaction such as places of work, community activities or politics in general.
Well, a statement by Pope Francis early this week when he counselled men to listen to women, provoked me into thinking about the effect of male-chauvinism on family and society at large.
I want to dwell more on family matters because the gender insensitivity and relational subordination of women at household level is replicated at all levels of society.
Speaking when he visited the Philippines’ capital Manila, Pope Francis urged men to listen to women and not condone male-chauvinism.
“ Women have much to tell us in today’s society, Pope Francis  was quoted as saying by Reuters to a male-dominated audience at  Catholic University of Santos Tomas when he noted that four out five people who addressed him were male.
“At times we men are too machista,” he said using a Spanish term for male chauvinism.
“We don’t allow room for women but women are capable of seeing things with a different angle from us, with a different eye.”
I couldn’t agree more with the Pope Francis… men and women have different but similar needs and it is the complementarity of these needs that makes their perception of issues different.
For men and women to live in harmony and ensure their gender needs are met; they both need to speak and participate in decision-making.
The desire to freely share one’s ideas, influence decisions on matters that affect you and participating in community activities is human nature and inherent in both females and male.
As humans, we are social beings who want to have a sense of belonging to something that affects our social well-being through freedom of expression and participation.
If one is married, one wants to have a say over their marital affairs. Similarly if one is a community member, they want to take part in decision-making and activities there-in.
This kind of participation will only be possible if it starts at the family unit, because this is where the problem stems from due to our patriarchal family system.
When growing up we are told, “a woman should be seen and not heard” and this in itself promotes relational subordination of women in every sense. And this is what breeds such things as wife battering, infidelity and all forms of abuse.
Innocent as it may look, the suppression of women’s voices at family level is retrogressive and makes women miserable.
If this woman is to be seen and not heard, she will not question her husband when he is cheating on her or else he will beat her or send her packing.
Her relationship with her husband will be that of dependent and guardian, and in his absence, she has no freedom to make decisions, though need may arise.
Meanwhile,her husband will do as he pleases and she has no right to question him. Somehow, male chauvinism is responsible for lack of effective communication and conflicts in marriage.
Whereas in school, girls who grow up in homes where gender subordination is rife, will be timid and are unlikely to participate fully in class activities because of their upbringing.
The boys are likely to emulate their fathers’ leadership style and will equally become husbands of unhappy women.
Under extreme stress, the unhappy wife may go out of her way to melt her husband’s heart so that they could live as one happy family.
Where godly counsel is lacking, some women will resort to love potion just to get their husbands to listen to them. Listening to each is an important ingredient of a happy marriage, no wonder women go to all lengths and breadths just to get a man’s attention.
Not that, am championing the use of love portions, but rather to belabour the point of effective communication and explain why women needlessly go to extremes of lacing their beloved’s food with charms.
Unsuspecting men have eaten all sorts of contaminated foodstuffs by women who want to put them under “petticoat government” on matters that are within a couple’s ability to resolve.
It is so sad how witch doctors take advantage of desperate women to to “help” them put a man under “petticoat government.”
Some of these women end up losing lots of money on muti and their marriages get worse off because no love portion can take the place of effective communication.
Somehow, I agree with a workmate who said muti doesn’t work, but rather witch doctors cheat their clients using indigenous knowledge.
For example if one says put this charm in your husband’s food, but when he comes home, receive him warmly and you should personally serve him his favourite food with a smile.
The woman will think it’s the charm that resolved the problem and in future will rush back to the witch-doctor if the marriage encounters turbulent moments again.
The point is, effective communication and mutual respect is in itself, a “love portion” and can save a couple a lot of troubles.
And listening to a woman as Pope Francis said (although in a different context), is important because women see things from a different perspective.
Not to say that women have no fault of theirs in the breakdown of communication, but rather that the suppression of women’s voices in a real problem in marriage.
All over the world, our male counterparts have a strong ego so much that listening to a woman, though she may have good ideas, is mistaken for a sign of weakness.
What starts as female subordination at family level is replicated in many areas of male/female interaction such as corporate, church or government level. This is the reason why the gender equality campaign remains an uphill battle.
It is for the foregoing that I give kudos to Pope Francis for his counsel to men to listen to women and not be chauvinists. Phone 0211- 227793/221364.

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