Julia’s Story: My experience of being childless in Africa is a far cry from that of many poor women

Childless African womenI am 52, originally from Gabon and have lived in the Ivory Coast for some 25 years. I now consider the Ivory Coast to be my home and so does my husband, who is originally from France. We are your typical expats, with a lifestyle that we could only have dreamt about, had we lived in France. Children just never happened for us, and frankly, we have not lost any sleep over it, as It’s not something that either one of us was ever that keen on in the first place.

One aspect of being African is that there is never a shortage of children around, if you ever wanted them in your life. Funny how most of my relatives who are very poor have a lot of children and they would love nothing more than to send some of them over to live with us. Those like us with means beyond the reach of ordinary people, are often seen as lifesavers.

Because of our social standing and the fact that most of our friends don’t have children either, we haven’t had to deal with the kind of stigma that some childless people, particularly women, often have to deal with. The most trouble we have had is some nosey workmen asking us if we have children and then looking puzzled to hear that we don’t.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that having money in Africa is the dividing line between those who suffer prejudice and those who don’t. Because poverty is acute here, with no welfare state for the poor to fall back on, people with money are put on a pedestal, and expats are at the top end of that social group. Of course, some women with money are also stigmatised for not having children, generally at the hand of their husbands/partners’ family, however, it is fair to say that their plight is often nothing compared to what poor women often have to face.

Having help around the house means that we don’t have to worry about what will happen to us in old age. We have a maid who has been with us for many years and is now considered family, along with the man who watches over the house at night. We have made a will and have instructed a firm of solicitors to act on our behalf in the event that we were unable to do so ourselves for health reasons. Life is far too unpredictable to leave anything to chance.

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  1. Hi Julia, thanks for sharing your story. Yes money does indeed make a lot of difference to the way one is treated in Africa. My heart goes out to all the childless women who have to put up with being vilified. Let’s hope that with increased awareness and education, they are left alone to get on with their lives. I recognise a lot of the things you tell in your story, as much of it is now my own experience.

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