A common wedding says women should persevere whatever they meet in their families. But that song has died out and there are changes to the way women are prepared for their families. But are men still considered heads of their homes? YVONNIE SUNDU explores.
Man was given responsibility over a woman from the beginning of time and it could be the reason why Adam was created before Eve.
Fundamentally, the concept of men being the head of households is true. Unfortunately, in many of the families today, men want the title and the perks that go along with it, but many do not and cannot handle the responsibilities that go along with the title.
In Malawi, women and men are still not equal in law. Even where they are legally equal to men, it is common for decisions to be taken by male heads of households or male local chiefs and leaders.
It is often the case that traditionally women have fewer, if any, rights of inheritance. This leads to difficulties in accessing land or finance.
In some parts of the country, women are regarded as being equals of men, but their roles are nevertheless different. So, women traditionally look after the homestead, while men find jobs outside the home.
But a cultural expert believes men have never been head of the house.
“Men are not heads of house per se only the physical masculine aspect that seemingly shows prominence is the male folk’s assertiveness. While in truth, it’s the women who hold the family tree and community together. But whether in a patrilineal or matrilineal society, a woman provides with the husband being a protector.
“That is the more reason why Malawian women have stood it all. It is just that we have not been positive enough to write what women do. There is no event in the society, talk of weddings, funerals that take place without women and if they cannot take place without women, that signifies the role of women in society as heads of the family,” he said.
TA Kachindamoto on the other hand feels things are changing now in as far as the culture of men being heads of households is concerned.
“We were indeed being told by our parents to listen to what our husbands say all the time. But now, the coming in of democracy has led to many women to know their rights and, therefore, cannot continue telling them to persevere what they meet in their families (Kapilire kunka iweko) like it was in the past.
“We are now encouraging people to talk and make decisions together as a family. So it’s no longer men only but both parties. That is why there is high male involvement in many aspects that men were not involved because of the belief men are heads and therefore cannot do some things like accompanying their pregnant spouses to antenatal clinics,” she said.