Diasporian News of Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Source: Percy Konadu Yiadom
Abandoning a Positive Legacy: The Alarming Rate of Divorces, Separation and Single Parenthood among African Immigrant Families in Canada, its Adverse Effects and Social Impacts on Family Maintenance and Children Welfare
By: Percy Konadu Yiadom, BSW, MSW
Canada’s policy of family maintenance and children’s wellbeing has been suffering a devastating blow and a big setback among its African and other immigrants. Canada as a welfare nation has always ensured family security, protection and enhancement children’s wellbeing. These positive initiatives are evident in the country’s policies on welfares for the unemployed, subsidized and low-incomes homes for single families, new immigrants and all eligible residents as well as the other social assistances that exist in this country. However, whilst the motive behind these services remained second to none, their usage has gradually been having deterrent effects on most immigrant families. Most women have abruptly abrogated their marriage promises, divorced their husbands and separated from their partners without assessing their capabilities to raise, care, parent and supervise the children alone. Likewise, most men are not innocent either; they have totally forgotten their responsibilities as fathers, husbands and family heads and have left their matrimonial homes due to issues considered surmountable. This controversial issue can be argued from two main schools of thought. There are the pro-feminists who believe that the average African woman has been abused by her husband or partner, and therefore practices like women staying home to cook and maintain the home, being subservient to their husbands are things of the past. Therefore women should be educated and be capable to work just like men; women should have equal authority in the home if not even more authority than the husband. These developments have not only improved the status of these immigrant women but their economic and other potentials have been utilized for the betterment of their families and the entire community. How great do men feel when their wives are working and helping to raise the children, how many men will financially struggle if their wives are helping to pay the mortgages and the other bills which always bring about arguments in the homes.
However, both parents working to maintain the home have its adverse repercussions on the children’s wellbeing and the family maintenance. Who picks the children from school and help them with their home works? Who monitors what the children are watching in their rooms after schools? Who monitors who the school are chatting with on the internet or the phone? Who oversee the general maintenance of the home? These minor responsibilities eventually transcends into social problems if nobody adequately performs them. Children are well cared for, protected and supervised if they are always with a potential care-giver such as their mothers. Let’s consider how many children have been abducted from schools, sexually abused and even murdered because they were walking home themselves, or their parents were late to pick them up from schools and many other excuses relating to parents not being available for their children.
Based on these ongoing occurrences one is compelled to inquire if it is really beneficial for the children and the entire family to always have one parent available whenever the children need them. From a personal point of view, all systems have both pros and cons. The African traditional system of marriage where men are the bread winners, and mothers being children care-providers has tremendous positive impacts, hardly are children abducted and abuse in Africa because there are always mothers available to care and secure their children, hardly are marriages abruptly broken in Africa, all marriage issues are surmountable and divorce is always the last option after all options have been exhausted and failed, hardly did women disrespect their husbands, because they really need them to raise their children together, hardly did both men and women become unfaithful and infidels, because men are obligated to inform their wives if they intend to marry more wives. Though wives permitting their husbands to marry more women sounds weird and ridiculous according to the western ways of life, however, from an objective point of view which is more decent and moral: being honest with your wife about your interest in another woman to seek your wife’s permission or hiding extra marital relations and hypocritically behaving like honest and faithful couple?. Marriages in Africa lasted until eternity because our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew whatever their husbands did, the number of women who were in their lives and the number of children they had, there were no surprises, lies and blackmailing, and therefore responsibilities were borne together and assets were shared together as well
On the other hand the western system of marriage also has immaculate positive components, under this system women are respected, secured and empowered. Men have no powers over their wives and properties can hardly be misused. However, the recent rate of divorces, separations, and single parenthood in the western world can never be under-estimated. Countries like the United States and Canada have witnessed uncountable family breakages in recent ages. Couples murder each other for their life insurances, men have extra marital relations, have children and keep them undisclosed, women are unfaithful to their husbands and engage in all forms of infidelities as revenge to what they suspect their husbands to be doing, children are murdered to avoid parental responsibilities, properties are destroyed due to court litigations to mention but a few. When immigrants migrate to the western world, they normally transfer their values, practices and cultures alongside, Christians from Africa worship in most African and international churches, Africans and other immigrants shop for their traditional foodstuffs in various intercontinental shops, so the question is: why can’t Africans transfer and practice their traditional systems of marriages along the western system of marriages to save most marriages from collapsing? It is believed that the good values and practices of every culture are never left abandoned and stays practiced from one generation to another. Hardly can the average African immigrant totally abandon his/her traditional dishes, so why should we abandon our rich heritage and legacy of always maintaining families and marriages?.
In conclusion, whilst it is a great idea for African immigrants to emulate decent and appropriate western cultures and living standards, including higher education for all sexes, freedom and equality before the laws, freedom of movements, associations and religion, freedom of speeches and comments to mention but a few, it will also be an unpardonable and a grievous error to totally abandon our rich and proud cultural practices, including the maintenance of marriage until eternity, ensuring children wellbeing, honesty and faith within our marriages, women respecting their husbands and the vice-versa, children respecting their parents, teachers and all elders in the community. It is vividly clear that all immigrants in Canada practice their cultures without fear or cohesion, likewise, Africans from all backgrounds also practice their cultures as well, but surprisingly the rate at which our marriages are broken, the rate at which our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters are becoming single parents, the rate at which our children are raised by single parents and the rate at which our children are falling through the social cracks in this land of opportunity need to be addressed now but not later. Our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers need to bear in their minds that getting low-income housing, getting welfare and other social benefits and thinking to be satisfied and breaking your marriage have short term benefits for you but long term irreversible damage on your innocent children’s wellbeing and the whole family institution.