Lameck…

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African culture and abuse / black family / community education / domestic abuse


It is April 2017 and Lameck Makwiramiti is trending in Zimbabwean communities. Lameck is the man whose daughter was impregnated by a neighbour’s son. The neighbour then took it upon herself to be awfully abusive to Lameck’s daughter whilst she was pregnant. Lameck subsequently brings his daughter back home and looks after her and his grandchild with no support from the family of the boy who impregnated his daughter, years later, this evil neighbour/monster-in-law passes away.

Lameck began his own revolution and the way in which the situation itself unfolds is the most feminist issue that I have witnessed coming out of Zimbabwe. Lameck represents a willingness to speak against oppression and other wrong deeds on a personal level in a manner that defies the psychologically taxing manner that has been ingrained within Zimbabwean culture, which is; the manner that forces us to bury our pain and ‘grin and bear it’ because expressing ourselves, especially when we defend ourselves or speak against the things that are wrong, is deemed disrespectful to ‘others’.

Good for this man Lameck because Zimbabwean female in-laws are notorious for treating their sons or brother’s wives badly. Lameck attends the funeral and goes against the cultural norms of praising the dead by standing up and addressing the gathering with the facts of how his daughter had been treated; he then goes on to warn everybody there to be truthful about the deceased and her character and stop calling her a good person, because evidently, she wasn’t. He then threatens anyone ready to defy him and anyone who dares eat a meal at this funeral with a slingshot, then packs up the food, takes it away to go and feed the local homeless people and other labourers in the area.

I fell in love with the story because it will assist the Zimbabwean community in unfolding societal issues regarding the culture, the law and abuse of different sorts at the hands of in-laws; and of course, how fathers ought to stand up to defend their daughters. Lameck savagely overthrows cultural ideas and challenges popular notions of Zimbabwean masculinity and fatherhood. we witness Lameck going against the grain, he digresses from the agreed cultural script used for mourning the dead by exposing his daughter’s mother-in-law as cruel, evil and abusive towards his daughter, instead of showering her with untrue praise. Lameck defends his daughter, whom by the way, has had a child outside of marriage (this is considered shameful within the culture). May every man with a daughter please stand up and speak out against their ill-treatment. It is fathers like Lameck that will squash harmful and dehumanising cultural norms and liberate the womenfolk in Zimbabwe.

Mother’s Day 2017

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black family

img_1502It’s Mother’s Day, I get to count all my blessings and think about motherhood and how privileged I am to be a mother of four as I am treated to arts and crafts, some juice and toast in my bed.  I realise that some women pray every day to stand in my shoes because they do not have children of their own; or can’t be with their children due to a whole range of reasons.

My typical week consists of waking up my kids each morning to get ready for school, and doing school runs. Depending on the day, I might have appointments for doctors, dentists, after school activities and of course homework. Weekends are about lying in and eating pancakes for breakfast, then afternoons are for days out and or sports training, depending of course on their mood. Now, we have basketball or football training on a Saturday; and yes, my children are girls. Believe me, there are some girls that enjoy getting dirty and sweaty, racing on scooters and bicycles….and making a lot of noise, which I love by the way. Nothing beats a 3-year-old waking up at 4am cos she can’t sleep and decides to play the ukulele. Other kids would only be too happy to crawl into bed with their parents. Nope! not mine. I could suddenly be blessed with a song at odd hours of the morning. They don’t mind, and neither do I to be honest. 

Generally, my girls love the museum, the zoo, soft play….and food. Yes, they love food, too much and it is a joy to watch them eat.

It’s funny how the simplest of things; such as hearing your children’s laughter, can bring so much joy and make the heart so fond. The treat this morning and every other day when they bring me home a picture or a painting from school. The cuddles and kisses that express how much they love you when words fail them; and especially when they are full of cold and with a snotty nose. Of course, it’s not always rosy, sometimes kids get you crazy, they can behave badly and annoy or embarrass you. Sometimes they want too much of you or too much from you, and the impossible from you; and they act out when they don’t have their way. But most times, it’s all love, as they are present to allow me to mother them and experience the privilege. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Race Equality Framework Anniversary Event 2017

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diversity issues

21 March is marked by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On this day in 2017, I was invited to attend the Race Equality Framework for Scotland event. One of the main visions for the Race Equality Framework, is to ensure that all people living in Scotland are healthier, happier and treated with respected; and that opportunities, wealth and power are spread more equally.

To think that there was a time in the United Kingdom where it was the norm to come across clearly visible signs in public places that would say “NO IRISH, NO DOGS, NO BLACKS”. There was police brutality because black people were being killed by the police, and that led to rioting (the Brixton and Tottenham riots). Not surprising, these riots and issues were not really covered in Mainstream media, and so because of this, some white people may not understand the black experience of life in the UK. Rolling forward to 2017, the current political climate in the UK has fuelled distasteful comments and behaviours by non-black people in any space, be it in a learning, social or working environment. These attitudes, comments and behaviours negatively impact on black people’s self-esteem or confidence and reminds black people that even though they are visible and have been ‘allowed in’, they must not be loud enough to be heard, that nobody cares to listen, that they are not relevant, that they should know their place and that regardless of age, level of education, or experience, that they dare not advance beyond their white counterparts. 

They have it on paper that the Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and other areas within society. I often say that the Equality Act is often only worth the paper that it is written on as we continue to see black people being fitted into stereotypes and be treated unfairly based on those stereotypes. We continue to see that black males are most likely to be stopped and searched by police for no reason. We continue to see a stereotype around black men and boys fitting certain crimes. We continue to see that there is an understanding that migrants come to the UK to deliberately live on welfare because they are lazy. We continue to see black people humiliated at work, in meetings, in classrooms or lectures; we have heard of lecturers using their bias to mark students down because of one petty reason or the other. We continue to see the unfair treatment of black single mothers, as well as the unfair treatment of black prisoners within the prison system. We continue to see black children stereotyped as aggressive and loud etc. although I must admit that inequalities exist amongst non-black people and also the poor indigenous people of this country, the aforementioned stereotypes determine attitudes and how blacks are treated around opportunities at work, within education housing and so on.   

Thank God for this framework, at least someone is willing to make a positive impact for equality for all by eradicating racism.

How the system can sometimes fail our men and children.

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black family / domestic abuse / domestic violence

domestic-violence-and-men

This morning whilst reflecting, I thought about how men are subject to domestic violence and abuse yet society does not seem pay enough attention to this. Even though men experience Domestic Violence and Abuse on a smaller scale compared to women and children; some men are vulnerable, and feel helpless because the system favours women as there is a general perception that men are most commonly the perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Abuse.

It is well known even though it is not widely spoken about that; some women for reasons best suited to their own interest and agendas, would without a flinch of guilt, nail their partners to the cross by telling lies and show no remorse. Such women do so with malice and with the intentions to deliberately destroy their partner’s livelihood, their jobs, and to even ensure that the man is deprived from seeing their children by the authorities involved. These men have found themselves victims, and because of the stereotypes around men being the main culprits of Domestic violence and Abuse, they have been unfairly sentenced or dealt with for alleged domestic abuse/violence that they have not committed. Sometimes, as we have seen in the media, such situations have driven men to suicide, severe depression, excessive drinking and men becoming victims of circumstances of sorts, as they become caught up in a system that does not examine circumstances in-depth.

Quite often, professional such as Social workers, and health visitors are called in if children are involved. Such professionals hold the ‘power’ when it comes to issues such as child protection and working with vulnerable adults. However, as we may have heard or read in the media; we need to be found criticising some of their practices and hopefully can have dialogue on behalf of innocent men because we are very much aware of the dangers involved with professionals exercising too much power. A lot of the time, many aspects that could help towards treating falsely accused men fairly are overlooked. Also, quite often professionals come into the equation with a biased view that determines how they will work with a family undergoing domestic violence and abuse; and ultimately how they treat the alleged perpetrator. Quite often, we may have observed that being a black man and in this situation, does not help either as social workers and other professionals use their bias and misunderstanding of black men. Also, a lack of knowledge around cultural aspects influence how professionals work and execute their cases. It is extremely important to note at this point that whilst the mother of these children places the future of her children in jeopardy (if she is being malicious); there is also the risk that these children will lose their father and be placed into a system that is considered safe for them, yet aides in emotionally damaging them as they struggle to get used to a different environment and form different relationships whilst their father is cast out.

The social work and such professions should recognise the need to be aware of issues of power and potential misuse of power that can lead to discriminatory and oppressive practices that ultimately affect families, as practices that overlook the biases of the professionals, as well as the use of stereotypes are being enforced, that determine the outcome of cases and do an injustice to children ultimately as the family is broken by what is understood as being the law.

Daddy Issues

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black family / community education / domestic abuse / identity / Uncategorized

daddy-issues

The term “daddy issues” is a term that is thrown around and used in a negative and dismissive way towards women. In our black community, it is used to “diss” women by ill-informed people, man and women alike; yet no one seems to take time to think about the realities of men and their lack of stability, failing to take up leadership within their families as men and responsible fathers; and opting instead to have babies all over the place and moving on to potentially ruin another unborn child’s life when they decide to move on again…. like a nomad. These men are the real reason why children grow up with “daddy issues”, yet everyone unconsciously laughs about it.

According to some people, the term “daddy issues” is used to describe women that seek male attention more than normal or women that have an unhealthy relationship with men, presumably because their daddies abandoned them when they were young. The term seems to refer to a woman who is looking for a man like her father, so that she can have a second chance at winning his approval.  Similarly, to the information that I have considered on the internet, it is said that “daddy issues” has something to do with Freudian psychology where a female subconsciously re-enacts her relationships with her father in romantic relationships, or does the opposite with romantic relationships to “compensate” for what she did or didn’t have with her father. The following are examples of females that have been labelled by this term;

-a female who has been sexually abused by her father, or a father-like figure and becomes hypersexual,

-a female whose father abandoned her family, who then develops trust issues because of it,

-a female who had an abusive father, or father like figure, who unintentionally seeks out abusive or damaging relationships.

You may very well consider that the issues are quite deep and maybe the term “daddy issues” should not be foolishly thrown around as it does in our communities. Even though the term is used to just put a woman down by insulting them or calling them crazy, clearly, it’s nothing to laugh about. It is my opinion that sometimes this term is also used by men as a way of skirting around certain serious issues within relationships. This term can be used to avoid confronting the actual issues in a situation, thereby just summing things up by using this term to shut a woman down. For example; instead of taking part in positive problem solving tactics, some men may dismiss problems and refuse to be accountable by assigning the problems to the woman having so-called “daddy issues”. In a particular example that comes to mind; a certain man refused to address his boozing or alcoholism as it were, by being in denial with the fact that the way he over consumed alcohol affected his family. He ascribed the issue to his wife having insecurities around men who consumed alcohol, even when they were not drinking in excess, because his wife grew up with a drunkard father. When a man victimizes a woman with this term, he doesn’t have the capacity to support her as a friend or better half. Also, a man (or woman) that throws this term around is unfamiliar with the issues and circumstances behind why a woman may be presenting as having “daddy issues”. I suppose it’s on them to educate themselves.

Women go through and endure so much. Even if it is the case that women have “daddy issues”, does standing by, merely labelling a woman help her? Are men right to walk away and abandon their children knowing the effect that it will cause in the long run? or is the fact that there seems to be a culture of irresponsibility amongst black men, the very reason why we continue to have fatherless daughters in our communities?

Where is the logic in knowing that in the long-run, their children will in-turn have “daddy issues; and the same term that they use on other women will be used on their children? Why is it ok for men to walk away from their responsibilities as husbands and fathers, and not take those responsibilities seriously, then have the privilege of name-calling a woman that had a dysfunctional relationship with her father? Why are some black men at the side-lines putting down single mothers, and at the same time exploiting women for sex?  Why are some black men putting down single-parenthood when they are the ones without the backbone to keep their families intact? Is it fair to say that men are the cause of the “daddy issue” problem and they need to be the solution, by knowing how to be providers, leaders, fathers and husbands?

What do the men in our community do about breaking the cycle of children that grow up without fathers, that then turn into adults that are dysfunctional? How do the men in our communities break this cycle instead of mocking women out of their own ignorance, not realizing that they are a part of that wider problem? A re-education is required…. I want to challenge you into thinking about the source and the outcome of dysfunctional behaviours and attitudes, that in turn create broken families, and how that becomes a vicious cycle in the black community, as the very kids brought up out of such communities become ignorant fathers, and mothers with these so-called “daddy issues”.

 

Social Services and Migrant families

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African culture and abuse / black family / community education / diversity issues / identity

social services and migrant families.jpgThis piece attempts to explain the dilemma faced by the clashing of cultures and attitudes to upbringing when it comes to families in diaspora; and may help in further examining issues of identity in diaspora; and to understand migrant parents better as well as avoiding misunderstanding these parents based on the immediate societal norms, especially where we have seen, in most cases migrant families unnecessarily dissected and potentially destroyed by the systems in place. In this article, I will use a petty example without going in too deep, because I want to keep this article short.

Migration involves the loss of one’s own language, attitudes, values, social structures and other such things…. The loss of one’s social structure and culture can very well cause a grief reaction as it is overly emphasised that migrants must follow the laws of the land. In the United Kingdom, the idea that not hugging your child, not getting a birthday card or not telling your child frequently how much you love them, equates to child abuse. There is a bias that comes with overlooking the fact that specifically to some cultures, the identity of someone within a family can be ascribed to the role of that person……for example, because of a father’s role within the family, he may not have physical contact such as hugging with a female child, it may be viewed as off-limits or just unfitting. The role of a father does not encompass comforting a child by hugging in some cultures (that’s a motherly thing), however, in Western cultures, not hugging your child may be viewed as abuse in the category of neglect or emotional abuse. In my experience within community work, there were often issues with migrant families and their assumed emotional abuse towards their children according to UK standards, because it was and still is the norm within the health and social care sectors, to use Western diagnostic criteria on people from other cultures to measure “abuse”.

The horrors of the Social work system, as it is often practiced within this instance, has left parents in fear of having their children removed, due to Social workers overlooking the cultural aspects of the upbringing of immigrant children. The same can be said for within the court system as lawyers and judges make biased decisions in custody cases, especially where the family is interracial.

Granted that the laws of the land must be obeyed; and, the fact that some children are in situations that require intervention, my sentiments however are that quite often, foreign parents come away from the experience traumatized and branded as bad parents because of the perceptions of those with power whilst dealing with their cases. Surely, the dynamics of wellbeing vs power-play ought to be examined here. What is striking is how determined the social workers can be to remove children, to wherever they deem is a safer environment. Quite often, children are removed and taken to homes where they are brought up within cultures that ignore their own black culture and other factors that aid to the importance of knowing one’s identity as they become isolated from people that look like them and from their culture. The horror of any parent in such a situation is having your children returned to your custody after a while; and the child/children has adopted parts, if not whole chunks of a foreign culture that are unsavoury, and with that, unfortunately comes an unpleasant lifestyle that clashes with the family’s own culture and values. In such a situation, the parent is now forced to adapt to the unwelcome changes and must grin and bear these (unpleasant) changes; if not, they risk being branded a bad parent and once again go through the traumatic experience of the family being dissected and destroyed.

On the flipside, it is quite common amongst migrant families that their children could sometimes use the system to their own advantage by manipulating it to have their way. It is not unheard of that some teenage children know that they can access material things such as their own flats (accommodation) and high-tech gadgets once they are ‘in care’. This knowledge causes some children to tell lies and make false allegations to position themselves to acquire the aforementioned. Of course, health professionals are not trained to sniff out which kids are being genuine and those that are not. They have one size fits all policies that state that all children must be believed; and all parents accused must undergo this traumatising and unfair treatment and of course their stories must not be believed over the children’s stories, because all grown-ups lie and all children tell the truth! Simple! Easy as pie! I digress…

Non-the less, there is no doubt that a shift from cultural changes and assimilation into western ways can result in a high rate of problems with identity crisis, mental health problems such as phobias, depression and in some unfortunate cases, even suicide amongst immigrants and their families, as they try to adapt, especially where they are threatened by social services policies that may include having their children taken away from them.

 

What did we learn from Stunner and Olinda?

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community education / domestic abuse / marriage

kaboompics

October time is when I would normally write about relationship issues, but 2017 began with bang as the Zimbabwean community witnessed a very sad and disturbing domestic issue between the so-called celebrity couple Stunner and Olinda Chideme. The couple made an unusual choice to air their marriage problems on social media, giving the public an insight into their scandals of infidelity, their finances, their unashamed disrespect for one another, and so much more. The story unfolded into an ugly blessing, but a blessing non-the less because the Zimbabwean community is now able to unpack lessons from the situation to benefit themselves or their interests. The story has a lot of parallels that other people can relate to, especially here in the diaspora, where many Zimbabweans ought to use this story as a gateway that will enable them to discuss and open up to the issues of domestic abuse, which they have refused to confront in the past, or have preferred to be consciously ignorant about.

There are lessons to learn for mothers- who see their daughters in Olinda. There are lessons for parents who have not taken the time to teach and nurture their sons to be protectors and providers. There are lessons to learn for married couples around gender roles and relationship dynamics. There are lessons to learn for single women looking for lifelong partners.  There are also lessons on how we ought to choose our life- partners. There are lessons to learn for young boys that believe they can get by without an education or a trade; and of course, there are lessons to learn too for men, especially those who believe that they can charm a woman with their good looks and great sex in exchange for material and financial provision.

All the afore-mentioned are the lessons to take from the surface of the story; but what about the background story? What about the stuff that the public didn’t get to see or hear? What/ who were Olinda and Stunner’s support networks? Who tried to help them overcome their problems? Could it be that no one helped them effectively; and that is why Olinda took to Facebook crying out for help? Were there familial betrayals, disloyal in-laws? Could it be that Stunner was not the only person “milking” his wife financially? Why couldn’t this issue be resolved behind closed doors? Why did it become so public? What about their children? Where were they when the madness unfolded? Did they witness any of it? if they did what support networks have been put in place for these children? What have we learnt about resolving marital/household issues? What have we learned about friendships and relationships?

How do you recover from something so emotionally taxing such as what this couple and their family went through? How do you get over and forgive a cheating spouse? How do you trust a dishonest spouse? How do you respect a spouse that has shown you no respect? Is such a marriage worth fighting for, or is it better to cut it loose considering that Olinda made sacrifices in order to give her husband the lifestyle that she thought he deserved; only to be betrayed and repaid with disrespect and the heart ache that we all witnessed on social media. Did Olinda deserve the savagery that mentally broke her considering that she had taken on the wifely responsibility of elevating and improving her husband’s life? Do we (the public) have the right to question Stunner’s morality?

What do we think now about money? What is our attitude toward money? What do we think about a man’s role as husband and provider within the home? What do we think about a man’s role as protector of his family? In this instance, where did Stunner fail? Should we be cynical about long-distance relationships, are they worth all the stress?

Stunner and Olinda’s relationship has been an eye-opener to the Zimbabwean community. Whatever the lessons we have taken from this sad love-story, we need to look at ourselves as a community and realise that we, collectively need to do better in teaching one another right from wrong. It is our responsibility to change our mind-sets on the issues we have learnt from this story and begin to cultivate a sense of honourableness in everything that we do, as husbands, wives, mothers, aunties, uncles, community elders etc. We must cultivate a message of love- real love and real respect for individuals. We need to take pride in hard work and not be infamous for using other people for what we can take from them. Anyway…… I have argued many times before that Africans have a different view and understanding of domestic violence issues. Most people used African cultural lens to view Stunner and his position in the scenario even though he was passively aggressive in his manner. As an advocate for Domestic violence and abuse, I was struck by the many aspects of abuse that were presented in this scenario. Even though Olinda was presenting herself in a manner that did not command sympathy from some of the people who watched the drama; in my opinion, she was (is) the victim of psychological, emotional and financial abuse, and she was exploited for her money and whatever else luxuries that she could provide. To get a better understanding of domestic abuse issues, please explore the issues at https://m.facebook.com/preventionofdomesticviolenceandspousalabuseuk/