Help me end the extreme vilification of childless women in the developing world

By Nina Steele 

As a British woman of African descent, I know what being childless in Africa feels like, and in many cases, it is a brutal affair. For most Africans, childlessness is still an alien concept for which they have zero understanding.

I see ending the stigma against childless women on the continent of my birth as my calling and recently, I started reaching out to Africans via social media. As expected, some of the reactions were quite extreme. Until they came across my website, most Africans had never heard anyone tell them that being childless is ok and that unlike what they have been told until now, it is not a curse nor the end of the world.

Naturally, some of my western followers not used to the African ways of doing things, felt uneasy about some of the comments and some made their feelings heard. Even I, born and raised in the Ivory Coast, was shocked at first by the reception my articles received.

My first reaction was to ban some of the people posting extremely ignorant and insulting comments. Then I realised that doing so was counterproductive, because these were the people I wanted exposed to my message. The more they read about positive experiences of being childless, along with my advice to all those struggling to come to terms with it, the more likely they are to change their views on the subject.

Indeed, the only way in my view to end this stigma is for all Africans to be exposed to stories after stories of childless people getting on with their lives in peace. They have to understand that unlike what they have been told until now, being childless can be a very positive and uplifting experience.

This is a campaign that is likely to take years before we can see real change in attitudes, after all, I am going against an entire culture and tradition, and people are not going to take my message lying down.

As they say, those to whom much is given, much is also expected, and as Oprah Winfrey put it “much is required”. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I came to the UK 19 years ago, with nothing. Today, I am living the dream. I am married to a very good man and living a peaceful and joyful life, beyond anything I ever dreamt possible. As a childless British African, I see it as my duty therefore, to use the voice and platform I have been given to help women in Africa and the developing world as a whole.

Culture change takes time, particularly when you are dealing with a part of the world where a great number of people are uneducated. But in the same way as Female Genital Mutilation has now been banned in many parts of Africa, I and many others can end the extreme vilification of childless women. It is a fight we must win for the sake of future generations.

Would you like to help end the stigma against childless women in Africa? If so, do get in touch: [email protected]

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