I like to start my 2020 series of write-ups on personal financial management with a focus on how the control of financial resources affects the rights of our African women; after all we are in the month of March, a month when we celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations.
If you have ever lived in Cameroon or sub-sahara Africa as a whole you must have heard/seen/experienced some or all of the following:
If you have ever worked and earned money, then you must have felt the power of money. It feels so good when the paycheck gets into your account, you feel alive and invisible, and you are vulnerable to spending recklessly. You have also probably felt the pain of losing money, through a bad investment or a scam. Generally, you do not hold yourself accountable for poor money management, but you will question and ask for all details of how your money was spent, if you gave it to someone (say your wife, sister, friend) else to manage. So, you agree with me that having control over money and other financial resources equals having some serious power and as we also know, unchecked power always leads to abuse.
If you wondered why some men stop their women from working and earning money, wonder no more. If you also wondered why some rich men in Africa, would prefer to spend a lot of money on parties, alcohol and other show off gestures that make people adore them and practically worship them, than spending money to empower others to get rich like them, wonder no more.
Financial abuse of women in Africa, is something that is hardly spoken about. This is because our cultures have strangely given the man so much power over management of financial resources; so much so that some men even see their women as assets or belongings. When the man is the sole provider, there is always a temptation to treat the woman at some point as a liability. This is the foundation of all sorts of abuse in love relationships.
To make the matter worse, many African women also see men as a source of income, some consider marrying a wealthy man an achievement.
I had a very interesting experience in 2004 while studying in South Africa. I traveled to South Africa in December 2003 after haven graduated from the University of Buea in 2002. You realize that I had been a student most of my life before traveling to South Africa. I met this lady (let us call her Susan for the purposes of this write-up) classmate and we became friends.
It so happened that we decided to study together towards the first semester exam; this meant we had to spend like 3 full days of study together at my place. So, on day one of our studies, we went to a supermarket to buy some food and drinks, considering we planned to study the entire day.
As we approached the counter (till) to make payment for the items in the shopping basket, I was quick to settle the bill – my upbringing and experience had me wired not to let a woman pay for anything during such occasions. As I paid, the receipt was issued and Susan ensured that it was put in the plastic bag that carried the food items. We went to my place, ate and studied really hard during the day, with a couple of refreshment breaks.
The lesson Susan taught me came at the end of day one, just before she left my place, she handed me the receipt from the purchase plus cash amounting to half of the receipt total. I was shocked and tried to resist and she gave me a very serious look and said “we are both full time students being sponsored by our parents; I can’t have you paying my bills”.
Research shows that many couples find it difficult to discuss money in the view of sharing responsibilities. Some African men out of pride do not allow their women to make any financial contributions towards the running of their homes. I believe that many African countries are missing out on the contributions that their women can make towards their socioeconomic growth.
As we celebrate women’s month this year, I like to challenge my fellow African men to make a self-assessment of the financial relationship they have with their women and make the necessary amendments. We can also do better for the future generation; we cannot continue to allow our girls to go into marriage as financial dependents on their husbands. My plan is for my daughter to earn her own income before getting married.
In celebration of women’s month this year, we (Africa Finance Academy) will be hosting an event with details as follows:
The event is free, but we will urge you to reserve in advance so that we can plan accordingly.
Happy women’s month to all the beautiful and strong African women in the world.
By Collins Mazu
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