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Calling all childfree women living in Africa

By Nina Steele 

Childfree African women This past Friday, I was invited to appear on the BBC Focus on Africa news channel. It is a live news programme, broadcast globally on weekdays, from 5.30pm to 6pm. As mentioned in a previous article, the BBC is running a series of discussions on the stigma that childless women face in Africa. The segment of the show in which I was included, featured a woman from Nigeria, who was physically attacked by her husband for being unable to conceive.

Unfortunately, these attacks on childless women are not isolated incidents. Women are automatically made into scapegoats whenever a couple is unable to conceive and as such, they become fair game. Everyone feels as though they have the right to attack them, and while physical attack is usually from the husband, they suffer verbal abuse from other family members and even total strangers.

The reason why the stigma in Africa is so acute, is because the culture is still not used to the idea that you can live a meaningful and fulfilled life without children. Poverty and religion among other things, have made procreation into the foundation on which a marriage should rest. Which is why I commend the BBC for lifting the lid on this issue. When an institution as respected as the BBC gets involved, people take notice.

In addition to educating people on the continent about issues related to infertility, it is paramount that as many of the people who have chosen to live a childfree life come forward. It matters that they make their voice heard, because what I keep hearing time and time again, from some of these suffering women, is that you can never be childless and happy in Africa.

But of course that isn’t true. There are women living happily without children on the continent and some of them are not afraid to speak up. In fact, a few of them gave powerful testimonies in a recent BBC radio show. I was delighted by the fact that they kept challenging outdated views held by two religious leaders who were also invited on the show. As mentioned previously, religion is one of the root causes of this stigma.

I do understand why some of those women may be reluctant to come forward. Why run the risk of having insults thrown at you, when you can live your life in peaceful anonymity? I was on the receiving end of this abuse myself, when I decided to reach out to my fellow Africans on facebook, in the form of an advertising campaign, over 6 months ago. But of course I wasn’t going to let that distract me from what I was trying to achieve. So much so that, by the time the campaign ended, the initial negative response had made way for more understanding.

If you are living happily as a childfree woman in Africa, please come forward and share your story. You have the potential to transform the lives of many childless women on the continent, who unfortunately, have come to believe that no woman can live happily in Africa unless she is a mother. You are proof that it is possible.

Send your story to: nina@nonparents.com

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