Friday, April 3, 2009

Antenatal & Postnatal Bank

Antenatal & Postnatal Bank
The need to save money for antenatal and postnatal care
By James Achanyi-Fontem, Cameroon Link
The people of Bangwa in the south west region of Cameroon observe specific gender roles. Roles such as pounding in a mortar, grinding on a stone, fetching water and gathering firewood are considered feminine roles, if it is not milling palm oil or tapping palm wine. A man seen performing any of the above roles is mocked as being tied to the apron strings of his wife. It is in light of this that Pa Ndi, coming across her son pounding fufu, feels disgusted. She raises the alarm, attracting neighbours down the hills to the scene. The Assemblyman of the area steps in to calm the situation, and takes the opportunity to advise Atemnkeng and his wife Abangawoh to save money in preparation for the woman’s maternity needs.
What has not been found out is why some traditional customs frown on a male pounding, especially as food is food\and when it is consumed; it turns into the persons who eat it. Kinsmen and women, neighbours of Bangwa Community who were invited to come and witness the scene described it as an abomination of the century. Atemnkeng and his newly married wife, Abangawoh were echoed as having exchanged sexes, he now the he-woman pounding fufu, and she the she-man being the director of kitchen business.
On the other hand, these young educated persons take the scandal by their parent as an embarrassment. Abangawoh tries to learn from her mother, what they have done to warrant the community’s embarrassment? She knows that their village regards pounding, grinding, and carrying of firewood as feminine roles, and the biological mother, sniffed her out doing the unexpected. Though educated, Abangawoh see the embarrassment as a betrayal.
Many were driven to the scene by curiosity, though they knew that it was risky following a mob. Everyone wanted to see things for themselves. Atemnkeng’s mother caught him pants down, pounding fufu for his new bride, Abangawoh. She was mad that her daughter-in-law is subjecting her son to what she sees as a feminine role.
Apart from the young couple that did not see anything wrong in sharing roles, every other persons in the village believed the old lady was totally right. Some described the scene as a bad precedent well and that soon their wives will begin to order them about. They will not only have to pound fufu, but grind millet while humming a song – the men will have to go to the bush for firewood.
As the taboo spread, a community health worker arrived to address the crowd: “My dear fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, it is good community spirit to respond spontaneously to alarms. But this particular call is not a call of distress. It’s a slight domestic affair, requiring exclusive family settlement.” It was with these simple terms that the community counsellor invited the crowd to retire to their activities and leave the rest to him. Pa Ndi, Atemnkeng and Abangawoh were left alone.
The community counsellor told the three that because of the generation gap, the youth and older neighbours sometimes misunderstand one another, but that such misunderstanding could still seek a remedy.
He added that dialogue solves misunderstandings better than tears. No one should have told the couple that sobbing is uncharacteristic of Bangwa men. Abangawoh rather proved to be more hardened because she did not wail.
The counsellor added that, if spouses are not willing to show flexibility to each other, their marriage won’t hold. He advised that in any relationship as intimate as marriage, there must be sharing of responsibilities.
In most cases, it is difficult to settle a conflict without an intruder in African context. As the dialogue continued, an enlightened female counsellor came in and did not allow the story to be reported. She got part of it while going to the market and decided to visit the family of Pa Ndi. She told them that the days are gone when women had no voices. The dominating attitude of men must change, and bring women too into decision-making processes.
This is when Abangawoh came in with her explanation: “Your counselling said it all. Guided by it, we shared responsibility for pounding fufu, each according to his ability, for the entire family. My husband has the energy to pound, and I the skill to shape the result in the mortar. Which of the two roles is more risky? What if the pestle crushed my fingers? I would have only one hand left for the rest of my life. How would I live in a community like …
African village communities are very fussy about gender roles, but it is difficult to find any roles that women can play that men can’t, except women’s biological role of carrying a baby in the womb, which is God-given. It is important for couples to learn that people do not have to interfere too much in others’ marital affairs.
Though Abangawoh lauded the advice of the counsellor who did a good thing advising her husband to do what most men do not do in their community, which is sharing responsibilities with the spouse, she used the opportunity to ask for more rights. There was one entrenched attitude left that the counsellor needed to advise Atemnkeng to change for the better.
Atemnkeng doesn’t want to sit with her partner to discuss anything about their mutual welfare. He takes decisions affecting both of them alone. Abangawoh saw the need for them to save money so that she could visit the antenatal clinic regularly. The need was coming faster than …
This got the counsellor to pick some of the points puts forward to extend the dialogue into creating the antenatal and postnatal bank. He admitted that Abangawoh raised important points, especially as it isn’t easy going through pregnancy for nine months. Pregnancy has specific health needs. So does delivery. You must have money on hand for any eventuality. Though maternal health services are now free of charge in Cameroon, couples should set aside funds in case certain drugs or supplies are out of stock at the health facility. Also, there can be complications and the expectant mother may need to be taken by emergency transport to another hospital.
Though the couple are poor, they have the means to save a little from time to time to meet the needs of pregnancy and childbirth. They will need to make advance arrangement for transport, and will also have to buy supplies for delivery. Pregnancy and childbirth are family affairs. The expectant mother herself should be a central player in decisions relating to her own care.
Working occasionally for a wage and saving it is one way. You have poultry, goats and sheep. If you raise more animals, you can sell some to add to your savings. Your farm crops can also give you some money during the selling season. With a little seed money, there are many income-generating activities that you can engage in.

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