GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA
GROWING up in the 21st century is probably one of the most undesirable things – many children rarely spend quality time with their parents. Mothers and fathers alike are too busy for their children, both for a good cause and sometimes for no good reason at all.
Apparently children spend more time with nannies, teachers, friends than they do with their own parents, who are so busy with the noble cause of earning bread for the family.
The liberalisation of our economy has created so many self-employed people who are always travelling around the world on business errands.
We have also seen a tremendous increase of traders in the markets and on the streets alike, who usually work long hours because of stiff competition from enterprising business rivals.
The formal sector has not been spared by this competition – people now stay in offices late just to go an extra mile to find a niche in their line of business.
All these are good reasons for one to be away from family, provided one makes up for it when time allows.
What is unacceptable is neglecting your role of guiding children and providing for them for selfish reasons that mainly border on gratification of oneâ€™s social life.
Alcohol abuse is one such social activity that has taken a toll on familial unity, productivity and our moral fibre in general.
World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics on alcohol consumption trends actually show that Zambia ranks high on the list of countries where alcohol abuse is high.
A WHO report that was published in the Washington Post in May last year, said there was no nation that had harder-drinking women than Zambia, where 41 percent were said to binge-drink at least once a week.
Zambian men were equally found wanting in terms of binge-drinking, as at 48 percent, they ranked sixth in the world.
Binge-drinking is defined as drinking at least 60 grams (about 4.3 servings) or more of pure alcohol at least once in the past week.
If these statistics are anything to go by, Zambia faces a serious alcoholism problem, and from what we have seen with our own eyes, men, women and youths are all involved.
Therefore any efforts aimed at addressing this problem should target all alcohol abusers without discrimination on gender or age.
In any case, the effects of alcohol abuse, which I will look at briefly, affect every family member whether child, husband or wife. So why the gender bias when dealing with this matter?
For this reason I beg to differ with the views of a district commissioner who said she would physically go round and remove women from bars so that they could go home and take care of their families.
If Iâ€™m to paraphrase the district commissionerâ€™s statement, I would say – women should not go out to the bars to drink beer because itâ€™s their sole responsibility to look after families.
By implication, banning women from the bars or fishing them out of pubs means that men or fathers have no business with parenting – itâ€™s a woman affair.
This entails profound suffering to the family because we have already seen how alcohol abuse by fathers tends to affect children, wives and society in general.
Quite alright, there are also lots of women abusing alcohol and regular readers of this column will recall that I had dealt with this issue in an article â€œKitchen parties-turned-beer partiesâ€, published on May 1, 2014.
How many children have dropped out of school or have gone without basic needs such as food, clothing and decent shelter because alcoholism either by one or both parents?
Generally, deprivation of oneâ€™s family which can be measured by poor educational attainment, poor nutrition and poor health are common when a large stake of the family income is spent on alcohol.
Alcoholism also has a negative effect on marriages as conflicts which usually result in domestic violence and sometimes death of a spouse, are quite common where a parent or both abuse alcohol.
If I may ask again, how many women have been murdered by their husbands under the influence of alcohol?
How many women have been maimed by husbands who, upon return from a drinking spree, have become irate for finding only vegetables and not meat on the table?
And how many marriages are on the rocks or have broken down due to unending conflicts arising from alcoholism?
There are people who cannot perform conjugal duties and are just husbands/wives in name because most of the time, they go home in a drunken stupor.
What a wife! What a husband!
Talking of parenting – how many children who are brought in homes where a parent or both are addicted to alcohol, have grown up to become alcoholics?
For your information, research by several scholars indicates that children who grow up in homes where alcohol is abused, are at high risk of becoming alcoholics when they grow up. Apart from that, children who are brought up in such an environment usually suffer abuse and negligence; the effects may be life-long.
The effects of alcohol abuse are widespread and they affect the country as a whole. Consider, for instance, reduced productivity due to absenteeism and loss of man-hours.
Alcoholism also puts pressure on state coffers because it creates public health problems owing to clinical problems precipitated by alcohol abuse.
By now, most of us must be aware that alcohol abuse has also been cited as one of the drivers of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted infections.
Alcoholism is therefore a big problem which we need to approach with deserved seriousness as opposed to the talk of fishing out women from the bars.
Why should society allow men to abandon their families and set up camp in watering holes?
If bars are good for unwinding and interacting with friends, then men should carry their wives along. What is good for the goose, I bet, is also good for the gander. Or if they canâ€™t go together because of family responsibilities, well, perhaps there should be a rota indicating which spouse goes to the bar at a particular time, and which one of them remains home with the children.
For example, if a husband should neglect his family for social life, say, for a week, the following week it should be the wifeâ€™s turn to sip and fraternise outdoors.
The point I am driving at is, bringing up children is the responsibility of both husband and wife and none of them should deliberately abdicate this duty because children need both their parents.
Itâ€™s good that our Minister of Gender and Child Development, Professor Nkandu Luo, was quick to condemn the sexist remarks that were attributed to the district commissioner.
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GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA