African man finds the courage to tell his mother that he is the one who is infertile and not his wife

By Nina Steele 

Family meeting in an African villageA man from Niger had to come clean to his family about the fact that he is infertile and not his wife. As is always the case, when he and his wife were unable to conceive, his family automatically blamed the wife. The story is part of a BBC documentary by reporter and filmmaker Aicha Macky, entitled “My journey to accept being a childless woman in Niger”.

The aforementioned man and his wife had been summoned to a family meeting by his mother, during which she accused her daughter-in-law of being a witch for not allowing her son to remarry. She convinced herself that by remarrying, her son would produce the grandchild she so desperately wanted. During the meeting, the man said this to his mother: “As you have decided to try my wife in a public court, I publicly announce that I am infertile. All my tests have confirmed it. My wife has sworn never to leave me”. On hearing this, the mother-in-law got down on her knees and wept at the feet of her daughter-in-law.

Another woman recounted her own story of trying to conceive unsuccessfully during her 19 years of marriage. Her husband is now dead, but just like the other man in this article, he too stayed with his wife until the end, in spite of all the pressure from his family and the community at large. She recounted how her late husband was often offered the hand of other women in marriage, but always stood by her. She remained his one and only wife until his death.

On hearing these positive stories, Aicha Macky concluded that it is possible for a woman to live a fulfilled life in Niger without being a mother. As the title of her documentary suggests, although she hasn’t completely given up on motherhood yet, she is resigned to the fact that it may never happen.

When it comes to the issue of the stigma childless women face in Africa, the positive tone of this documentary is a rarity. Most of the stories I have come across usually follow the same script. The women deemed infertile are chased out of their communities by their husbands and families, and the men go on to remarry. Also, I cannot recollect many stories of men admitting to being infertile. Usually, even when they suspect that this may be the case, they refuse to be tested and prefer to let their wives take the blame. I hope this story is shared widely because of the potential it has to change mentalities on this issue.

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