LET’S jog our memory about dignity - self-worth, self-respect of a woman. Yes, we need to remind ourselves about this, because with Amina’s recent story, I think we are missing, misplacing and mislaying an important point here.
The event of Amina Raphael Mbunda, 26, giving birth on the front lawn of the Police Station should not be taken as a point of temporary public debate. From my experience, we will soon allow it to vanish if not evaporate as if it never happened.
I think it should be taken as a lesson, and indeed a reminder that whatever may be on-going, most particularly about mistreating women should coherently be addressed. Our mothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, grandmothers, and aunts – the list goes on, are not objects, neither are they things or bits and pieces.
These are people; they are independent individuals who have rights and responsibilities that are bounded by legal limits. When one deals with women, and indeed when we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence of something, in my positioning, holy and sacred.
Obviously, I do not want and will never at all attempt to sweep under the carpet Amina’s agony. In fact I am utterly mindful of the seriousness of the incidence, and I am pleased that relevant bodies are working hard to sort out the mess.
While I remain adamant that upholding women dignity especially labouring and giving birth is a none negotiable necessity, but it is better we wait for the outcome of the inquiry. When I say I am attentive to the matter, I mean it.
For example, I wish Amina was given a comfortable and private environment for such a special delivery and parenting experience. But she was disallowed and prohibited this right. This is not good news.
I wish whoever was involved in the saga could have spent at least a second to recollect that Amina needed safety and quality as well as an undeniable provision, as a mother, at that tender age, of the most comfortable atmosphere, for a memorable birthing experience.
But she was deprived and rundown of this facility. I wish someone at the police station had an understanding of a sensitivity of a childbearing and the woman’s merit of dignity while labouring and giving birth.
Unfortunately, Amina’s episode was a confusion and mix up characterised by degrading treatment and mercilessness. It was bad. Back to my agenda. With all these sad scenes, Amina’s issue should go beyond where she gave birth. It should be more than that.
It is about how we should work towards building a society where, as JPM puts it, all are keen to promoting the general welfare of citizens, most specifically women at risk, like Amina. We must protect women’s rights. And we should not go off track. It is not all bad news.
There are pockets of delightful news. For example, we are told, and in many cases citizens have witnessed, more than ever before, Tanzania has made commendable progress towards attaining gender balance, including access to primary and Ordinary Level (O level) secondary education; proportion of women in decision-making level; and representation in the National Parliament.
We cherish, for example, the fact that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to education of women. This progress cannot be refuted. And if we make further progress it means women participation and contribution to the labour force shall mean quite a lot, even to the point of ensuring that Amina’s case does not happen again.
As we fight to ensure that our society upholds women dignity, even beyond labouring and giving birth, something I call a none negotiable essential obligation, let us remember that most Tanzanian women are still relatively poorer in our society in comparison to men.
Something must be done to help them. The society is probably aware that young women still marry before the age of 18 and start raising families soon after, thus reducing their education and employment options in the future.
And I am of the opinion that even when Amina’s epic and tale is over, citizens must be reminded of the need to address the bigger problem of lack of visibility of women in the discourse surrounding their dignity.
For me Amina’s disastrous experience should plant, yet another seed, which should at some point, grow and bring fruits which will exist for the purpose of eliminating all forms of neglect, abuse and violence against women.
If we want women dignity to be a reality in our society, then issues of neglect, physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse and exploitation should be addressed. Our society should be vigilant enough and act appropriately because often loss of dignity for women is exacerbated by poverty and lack of access to legal protection, just to mention a few.
Likewise, since there still exists a concern of self-neglect and that we live in a society where perpetrators of neglect, abuse and violence against women live in our societies, Amina’s pain should be a source of inspiration for each citizen to remember that women still face greater risk due to discriminatory societal attitudes.
Let Amina’s misery be nothing else but a spring of a realisation of the human rights of women in our country. So to Amina and all our mothers, sisters, sisters-in-laws, grandmothers and aunts, rest assured that there are people who sympathise and stand with you. Beyond Amina’s harm or distress, I encourage you not to lose hope. Yes, do not lay down your arms.
As Michael J. Fox once said; one’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalised and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered. Do also be encouraged by James Frey’s wisdom - Be strong. Live honourably and with dignity. When you don’t think you can, hold on. Cheers!