After travelling for two months a lot of initial learning conclusions are crossing my mind, but that creative thinking of hope still tries to minimize the size of the negative consequences they might mean. I have a clear self priority to give room for my intuition before rationality. But after being intensively with people from seven different African countries, a few thoughts settled in these cultures impacted me heavily. This mental shake can be due to a simple factor that I believed before this journey: human beings are highly capable of doing and following what a certain group of people take as truth, just in reason of a natural self indulgence, without at least stopping for a minute of silence to ask himself “why?”. In other words, common sense…
A negative image we, not Africans, have from the continent is of black children suffering. Out of the numerous prejudices created by the powerful media, (not always in line with the truth) this seems to be unfortunately real and perhaps the most disastrous effect of modern inhumanities.
I’ll state a few situations we faced so you can feel the sensations that we have practically every day. Afterwards I’ll tell what might be the cause.
1. Is usual to see children, even newborns, in the streets with their mothers while they are moving around the cities or informally working. It’s normal as women take the lead to maintain and raise their children with vigour – Gabi will still discuss deeply about the African women strength. – This babies don’t even have the possibility of staying home in their first year of life, to receive the proper attention, begin to learn and play in a clean safe place. For who had access to all, this detail so far seemed to be insignificant, but now I feel every day the magnitude of this contrast with the eyes whose had this privilege. Gratitude!
2. Is very common to see children selling different things in the streets, such as sweets, beverages and electronics. These young ones work on their own since the age of five and the majority of them are boys. The greatest challenge in these moments, that I’m a potential client, is the turbulence of mental conflicts wanting to help there, in that second. Firstly for not wanting to stimulate child labour; Secondly for not knowing if the money goes to the food in the kids’ plate or for his parents beer that obligate them to work; Third for the concern of taking one dollar out of pocket and generate a riot of people wanting more.
3. Is less common (what’s good) to see children begging, but it also happens daily. The curious is that in this moment the psychological turbulence enters in the next level of complexity, as Brazilians usually have this sharp perception against trickery. There are kids that clearly believe they are smarter than you and only want to take a few dollars as we are white, tourists and maybe look fool… They are always boys. The conflict then is wanting to believe that he is doing that only to help his family to survive. There are other types that are creative and tell an entire story to impact and then the conflict is to hesitate the veracity. And there are cases, perhaps even more severe, of girls and boys that simply by perceiving our presence run to say-ask for “money”, associating our colour to wealth. It frightens to see there clearly is a trauma from racism and colonization transmitted by parents and society.
Along endless enquiries about this topic, we talked with a lot of people to understand further the potential causes of this role of the African child. We’ve been speaking to people of different skin colour, social status, apparent intellectual fortune and financial abundance. All searching for an impartial knowledge.
In these interactions we comprehended a cultural essence very characteristic of the countries in the south of the African continent: the common sense that as many children you have the better. What triggers most times the “social objective” of getting married early and elevate seriously health risks, mainly HIV due to the lack of awareness regarding preservative usage.
According to what we learned so far, the main factor that justifies such wish is to think that more people can work to contribute for the family maintenance in the future. The particularity is that we are talking about children starting with five years old… So it is just a mad logic to believe that is normal for a child to not have childhood and forget that he needs to learn to live, so who knows when grown up he can work in line with his purpose and therefore closer to his personal fulfilment. It’s also a significant irresponsibility to remind an elementary human principle that parents must take care of their children and successively, the cycle of life.
In the case of daughters there is also the future financial reward, as the custom of paying dots for the bride’s family in youth marriages still exists broadly, way more than we imagined. – Gabi will also get into details in this topic soon. –
In Brazil we know there is a group of people with a similar concept about having children, due to the same social education absence. The painful in our country is to know that even in a context of severe inequality, a lot of people who had access to education are brave enough to invent malicious critics about this disadvantaged group. I’ve read impolite comments judging that these people intentionally have a lot of children to fraud and live from public social programs, such as Bolsa Família. (Which is a conditional cash transfer program from the government to subsidize families below the poverty line.) The first ignorance certificate of these individuals is that they don’t even know how the program works, its rules with a limit to beneficiary children and its requirements. The second proof of intellectual inability is that they don’t even know how to make a simple math, as this would indicate that the strategy of having children only for this benefit wouldn’t even been profitable enough to the investor-mother… Please, back to school my friend.
And note, this comment is nothing about politics, just about logic and common well being…
Naturally to generate a child is the most precious gift that we have and the most truthful sentiment of love! I’m not a father, but I’m a son! However in the modern society we’ve created together, to have children you require a responsible planning to be able to raise them with dignity until they became independent. Each one in his own pace of course, I still have friends of my age that still didn’t manage to became…
What reveals the magnitude of this problem is to think that today we are talking about an average of five children per mother in Africa, according to the fertility rate published by the UN. This is a continent average, what means that there are countries of which this figure gets to eight children per mother. Amaze! In the case of the underprivileged families, unfortunately the majority, is simple to make the calculation that for a very low monthly income, as more mouths to feed more food is needed to buy… Not mentioning housing, school, health and love. If we elucidate this habit considering the African feminine fertile population times five we get to an alarming global result.
The most concerning piece is that it became a very common social pressure. When they ask our age and how many children we have, they get shocked to hear that we still don’t have any, being around thirty years old. At least we talked with a few young people (cheers for the generation X, Y, Z!) who are conscious to question this unreasonable pressure and put themselves against this custom.
So far the learning we can take is that education can start today to change the humanity path and we cannot give up, don’t matter how challenging it may be. For the children as it compromises this very close future when we adults won’t be here anymore, so one more reason for us to think twice and open our eyes for tomorrow. We must innovate the way to bring more consciousness to the people of all ages, gender and beliefs to question themselves whether what the common sense “tells them” is in perfect harmony with their deserved free will.