In African society it is always presumed that any child growing up needs both a father and mother figure in their lives, and to this everyone agrees. This same theory and assumption desperately kept many women in their marriages even if they seemed like they were sitting on sharp 9-inch nails.
In Buganda, It was common to ask, “abaana bange bakuletedde nga tebalina kitabwe?” A statement that can be loosely translated as, “do you want my children to grow up without a father?”. Many issues would happen and mothers would stay in their marriages just for the same reason, sometimes plus many other factors.
This was perhaps for the mental well-being of the child, comfort and social acceptance among his peers that were perhaps playmates or classmates. This would be manifested in how orphans would be treated be it simple or double.
A few months back, a friend of mine in her early twenties met a gentleman that swept her off her feet. He asked for her hand in marriage which she agreed to. This young couple decision to take everything to the next level and make it halal (Islamically permissible).
The very first thing we both thought about as we drew a work plan for this journey was to engage her father and inform him about it. He would then have to meet the gentleman that stole his daughters heart away.
The gentleman too talked to his father about the current situation who met his son’s future father in law. It was too exciting a period as all of us were on untold pressure mixed with excitement and joy. The nikkah (wedding) was being arranged and clearly this was new to everyone!
Fathers began moving up and down in a short time, meeting one another, different people, making decisions here and there, deciding on where the function should be, how it should be, who should host, who should attend, and how many would attend.
As preparations for the nikkah were going on, I kept wondering what it would be like if the girl had no father. What would she do basically, I wondered in my head. I instantly thought of all the girls that have grown up without a father and want to have something similar to that. Those whose fathers are absent in their lives by choice or not, permanently and temporarily.
Since the final verification of the groom is done by the father, I kept wondering and pondering about who would do that for these fatherless girls. Would it be their mother, distant uncles or something, I wondered to myself as I shook my head horizontally.
In a few days after that at that, I talked to another friend that requested to see me from one of the busiest restaurants in Kampala. Her situation was exactly something I had given thought and then ignored till further notice. She was raised by her maternal family solely and had only met her paternal family maximum 3 years back. A family that only occasionally meets at burials, graduations, Ramadhan days, and the 40 days dua of the dead. She too had met a prince charming she would want to spend the rest of her life with, by the guidance of the Almighty but had no idea about where to start from.
“Sarah, where should I take him first?” she asked. I was as confused as her but couldn’t display this. Should the Prince Charming be taken to her mother because she has seen her through the storms and smooth sails for more than two decades, I thought to myself.
But equally who will meet the parents of the future husband on behalf of the father? One of her paternal uncles, I thought I had succeeded at last having come up with such an amazing answer. Before I could utter it out, I immediately thought to myself, “what do they really know about her? What will they choose for her that they know she likes?” I was blank now and decided to just give her a listening ear and an understanding face.
I sat down at the opposite end of the table and listened to the confusion that ran through her head as she narrated everything. A river of tears rolled down her chubby cheeks as the stammering grew intense that she couldn’t utter a word anymore.
I moved to her, hugged her and I could try and feel all the pain inside her. She said just one last statement, “Allah knows, He has a reason and the best plan as to why daddy is not present.” Tears rolled again she couldn’t hold herself together anymore. At this point, I couldn’t agree more that fathers are equally important figures for their girls in the mid twenties as they are to the ones in the earlier stages of development.