Africa: Joyce, not your regular “Mama Africa”

Africa: Joyce, not your regular “Mama Africa”

Date: August 2, 2012
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Windhoek, 1 August – Many African women are celebrated for their ability to overcome tragedy and suffering. “Mama Africa” is a pillar amongst women who are able to withstand any amount of abuse and maltreatment, and still come out on top. African women’s struggles and stories have given birth to statements like ‘You strike a woman, you strike a rock.’

This teaches us, from an early age that a lot of bad things are going to happen to you because you are an African woman, but you are going to rise above it, and beat the odds. The African woman is kind, loving, patient and resilient. She is the epitome of strength and power. Nothing can break her. Mama Africa describes millions of women in Africa and beyond, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, friends and lovers.

It is for this reason that I have to celebrate the phenomenal woman in my life, my mother Joyce. But I celebrate my mother differently because, in every way imaginable, she is not your regular “Mama Africa”. My mother did not embrace suffering as her birthright as an African woman, nor did she teach me to do the same. She taught me otherwise.

Joyce did everything in her might to show me that suffering is not normal for African women- and it never should be. Again for her, suffering in silence is not an option. Once, while really young, a maid used to bully my siblings and I. Only after the maid burnt a blouse or stole cutlery and then shown the door – did I speak up and tell Joyce what had been happening.

My heartfelt confession earned me a beating – why? I had suffered in silence. Why hadn’t I told my mother before the maid got fired so that Joyce could do something about it? Since then I have never suffered in silence. The lasting lesson to it all – tell someone early enough to do something about it.

My mother is not a rock, if you tried to strike her she would strike you back. She has never normalized pain. Pain is pain, and every pain has a source and if and when you can, find the source of that pain and stop it. Your current suffering will not be rewarded in this life or the next. She who wears the shoe knows where it pinches.

She taught me that nothing comes easy, not for anyone, and that life’s challenges did not target me just because I am a woman. She also taught me that life also owed me no favours just because I am woman. She taught me to never be a victim, always an agent in all my actions – things don’t just happen to you, and if they happen to – take charge of the situation and turn it around.

I grew up a sickly child, and often missed school because of one ailment or the other. This offered no buffer from Joyce’s strict form of discipline. ‘It’s your skin that sick, not your brain’, she would say. She would not teach her children to be mediocre and average.

My mother presented me with a worldview that put women on equal footing with men. Once I came from school crying-there were some older boys at school that had been picking on me. Having learnt my lesson well after the maid incident, I told my mother about this incident when I got home. My mother’s nonchalant response, ‘what do you want me to do about it? You’re the one that has to see these boys everyday, not me. What would you do if they were girls?’ I answered that I would have told them off. ‘It’s no different for boys Sheena-I can’t fight your battles for you. Whatever it is you would have done with the girls do that with the boys.’ And with that, I put an end to the bullying.

So many of Joyce’s lessons felt like punishment at the time. I felt misunderstood and unloved. Why couldn’t I have those mothers that took their daughters to the salon to get their hair and nails done? I couldn’t even watch soapies or talk about boys with my mother. As a different kind of woman, she tried to raise a different kind of girl.

Joyce had had enough with seeing woman after woman be trampled upon and taken advantage of by society or by culture – just to betold that her strength lay in her ability to endure suffering. She had had it with the status quo. She might have been a woman alone, but she sure as hell did not raise her children to fit into the system.

I am everything I am today because of the woman Joyce is. She taught me to be a different kind of woman, and a different kind of African woman. She showed me that being a woman is more than what I look like and how I speak or drink my tea. She presented to me possibilities of being that many other girls never had – being more than a girl or woman as society expected.

So here’s to you Joyce, for being the phenomenal woman you are, that made me the phenomenal woman I am.

Sheena Magenya is a freelance journalist based in Namibia. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, special series on celebrating phenomenal women, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.



0 thoughts on “Africa: Joyce, not your regular “Mama Africa””

Wokoro says:

As I pondered on the August Month of Women, I came across something very brilliant. That is Jesus cared more for us as women than even men. This is because of:
• Our Faith in Him
• Our dedication to service Him
• Our trust in casting all our burdens unto Him.

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