Gender Gender

Making marriage work against the odds

ZAMBIA’S High Commissioner to Australia Frank Bwalya with his wife Joyce Nkunika

Gender Focus With Emelda Mwitwa
AT the wedding of Zambia’s High Commissioner to Australia Frank Bwalya, President Edgar Lungu made an appeal to the newly-wed couple to work at making their marriage work.
The President, who was represented at the wedding by Defence Minister Davies Chama, said the country needs to have strong families. He justified his appeal that it’s the strong families that make a nation strong.
These are sentiments that we all well know or have heard countless times, but perhaps without pondering on them deeply.
Mr Bwalya, who is a former Roman Catholic priest, bade farewell to bachelorhood last Saturday when he wed Joyce Nkunika.
Why does a solid family matter so much that it is considered a pillar for a strong nation? You may be wondering, obviously.
To start with, a strong nation is one which is productive and enjoys socio-economic growth because its citizens are making their social system work in their different spheres of influence.
I also have in mind a nation where developmental goals are met and individuals get their aspirations fulfilled because they belong to a strong nation.
In a strong nation, the social system – at family and government levels – affirms child education and learners attain good results at every level of education.
And strong family support makes people successful in life because from home, they get the much-needed empowerment to invest in their tomorrow.
Morality is one of the fundamental pillars of a strong nation because children grow up in homes where they are socialised to the norms and values of society. Unlike their friends who grow up on the streets without proper parental guidance, children who grow up in a proper family set-up are kind of insulated from common social vices such as alcohol and substance abuse, crime, early sexual debuts and teen pregnancies, among others. In a good and close-knit family, children get the opportunity to learn mannerisms, respect for others, especially elders, and how to avoid bad behaviour that could ruin their lives.
This explains why children who grow up on the streets are usually hooked to alcohol and drug abuse, pickpocketing, while others graduate into hardcore criminals.
Some girls and boys on the street end up becoming parents at a tender age because they lack familial protection from sexual abuse, casual sex and its offshoots.
Nonetheless, it is in a strong family set-up that children will receive the right to life and be able to grow up; live healthy lives; get good nourishment and protection from harm, be it physical or psychological.
Well, I considered this topic because we are living at a time when the family is beset by so many problems – high incidence of divorce, juvenile delinquency, parental negligence of children, alcoholism and substance abuse’ as well as sexual violence against children.
These problems denote the weakening of the family system, ravaged by an alarming divorce rate which has a telling effect on parenting and socialisation of children to our norms and values.
A family is an important social system because this is where we are nurtured to grow and survive the rough journey of life.
It also energises community members to become productive members of the social system.
With a proper family backing, people get motivated to perform well in school, while others fare well in commerce and workplaces because a happy family just spurs them on to meet their goals.
A family is that important to the nation, the reason why President Lungu urged Mr Bwalya and his wife Joyce to make their marriage work.
Other people who spoke at the wedding encouraged the ambassador and his wife to make good of their marriage.
The bride’s brother, Billy Nkunika, urged his sister to “look at your husband as a human being not an angel. Human beings make mistakes.”
Basically, the speakers were urging the couple not to take a U-turn on the life journey that they have agreed to walk together.
And seeing families disintegrating at an alarming rate, I concur with the speakers at the wedding by urging the couple to build a strong family that will inspire young people.
There are young people who have no interest in marriage because of the bad things happening – spouse battering, infidelity and murders committed by the victims’ intimate partners.
Looking at these social vices of our time, we need strong families in Zambia to put our children in check and also preserve the moral fibre of society.
Our youths are going wayward because most of them are growing up without proper parental guidance, therefore end up making wrong choices in life.
Some of these young people come from broken homes and end up taking the wrong turn in life because they cannot cope with the divorce of their parents.
Divorce has serious consequences on the mental health of children, ranging from depression, resulting in unpredictable irrational behaviour, to poor academic performance caused by failure to cope with their parents’ separation.
Teachers will tell you that children that come from broken homes tend to bleed inside, and often can’t cope with the separation of their parents.
Circumstances may force some of these children out of their homes because they can’t get along with their stepparents.
For your information, not all the children we see roaming the streets are orphans; some are thrown into destitution by the separation of their parents.
The other challenge that comes with divorce is failure by fathers to adequately cater for the needs of their children, and genuinely so, in some cases.
Many fathers are financially incapable of running two homes, which is why they default in providing child maintenance to their ex-spouses.
So divorce has potential to shatter many lives in a family, especially children. This is why before people say ‘I do’, they need to be very careful that they are making the right decision.
And when they wed their dream partners, they need to work hard at making their marriages work. A good marriage does not come by chance, a couple needs to make it happen.
Failure to make it work will wreck family unity and, in the longterm, do harm at national level with devastating effects on economic output.
And as the family gets weakened by such factors as divorce, absentee fathers, juvenile delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse, the repercussions will be felt at national level too.
While productivity in a nation will plummet without strong family support systems, the future of our children will also be at stake if we deny them that social security that only the family can provide.
What I’m not saying is that people should persevere in bad marriages for the sake of children, neither to impress society.
I am urging us to make the right choices, and make marriage work if we happen to enter wedlock with the people we love.
There are so many couples that have made it work, that those contemplating marriage could learn from.
That said, congratulations to Mr Bwalya and his wife Joyce. I wish you a happy and blessed marriage.

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