A friend had finished shopping at a very popular mall in the city and was pushing her trolley to the car when the marketing representative of a travel and holiday company approached her with its offer of free vacation accommodation at some select holiday spots around the world.
It wasn’t her first encounter with the company.
Its agents had approached her three times before and had even called her on phone to inform her that she had ‘won’ a package that included free accommodation in a first-rate resort in East Africa.
After that call she didn’t hear another word from them, even though the caller had promised that they would call her back in a few days with more details. So, you can imagine how exasperated she was when yet another agent from the same company walked up to her this time with the same offer.
To get him off her back, she patiently narrated to the agent her former encounters with the organisation and why she would not take them seriously anymore.
The agent asked her if she was invited alongside her husband. “I don’t have a husband, I am divorced," she replied.
"Aha! That must be the reason they didn’t call you back. It is because you are not married. It is only for families," the clown of a sales agent responded, looking very pleased with himself.
Pathetically, for him, a woman and her children don't make a family. Would that company exclude a man on the same grounds?
We may not be able to find out just how many people share this strange concept of a family, but it is yet more proof that in this part of the world, a woman has to lose whenever she decides that for her, marriage diminishes rather than uplifts her.
I was reading an article on www.huffingtonpost.com the other day, where the founders of Divorce Detox, Allison Pescosolido and Andra Brosh, identified about nine reasons why women stay in bad marriages.
From not having the financial muscle to leave to lacking the skills to start a new life and move on, the nine reasons will surely resonate deeply with many of us today.
Now, after my friend’s encounter with that clueless marketer, I am afraid we have to add a 10th reason – a woman would rather die in a terrible marital union than leave.
Well, if she is living in Nigeria, that is.
Each time a woman is killed or maimed by a spouse, the usual outrage is always laced with the refrain, "Butwhydidn’tsheleave?"
Yes, why didn’t she leave? we all ‘scream’ silently, sometimes even loudly. But how could she have? We all pretend that leaving a marriage comes easy to women, even when everything around us clearly points otherwise.
How could she have left when for almost everyday of the rest of her life,the rest of the world would seem to make a career out of reminding her that misery should be her portion for daring to choose singlehood over who knows what exactly?
Then you turn around and wonder why the latest victim of spousal abuse didn’t leave when the first slap landed on her unguarded face. But how could she have? So rather than face and have to deal with reality, many women have resorted to using their children – who themselves are not insulated from the evils of an unhealthy marriage – as a major reason for staying in a harmful relationship.
More often than not, the woman is too scared to act in any other way, fearing that in the end she could drag the children down into the abyss with her. In 2006, we (a group of 17 fellows of the African Regional Sexuality Resource Centre from five African countries) visited a women’s shelter – Sophia’s Place – run by the Project Alert.
Among those living in the home was a woman and her teenage daughter.
The girl revealed (I interviewed her for a story) that her father who was physically abusing her mother was also sexually abusing her and her sister. She was bitter that her mother knew about the sexual abuse, but would tell people that she was staying in the marriage because of the children.
But what could she have told them? That she lacked the skills to restart her life and move on? That she had been conditioned to equate the single life with being unhappy and alone? Or that she didn’t have the financial means to leave?
If only she knew all the demons her mother had to face, I am sure she would have understood better. If only she knew…
The last thing a woman should ever be told is "Yes, you are qualified for this or that, but because you don’t have a husband, you won’t be able to access it." It is even more hypocritical when some of the companies (like the one in question) come from societies where the rate of divorce is literally going through the roof.
Women in our society already have enough worries and concerns keeping them bound as though by invisible chains in abusive and harmful relationships.
And you know what? Many of these apprehensions are very legitimate, so real that I would be damned if a travel company offering a holiday getaway would become yet another reason for one more woman to decide to stick it out when she could choose differently.
Life shouldn’t be that complicated for anyone.