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To understand and unlock these and other puzzling questions, Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah, a lecturer and an investigative journalist in London, conducted a survey on 244 African women, married and unmarried, aged between 21 and 40 in England, UK.
Quite disappointingly, only 150 out of the 244 women approached did respond to the initial questions. 25 out of the 150 initial respondents, then willingly and confidently provided profound information on single African women abroad.
Of the 25 women who agreed to be intensively interviewed, 15 were single, 5 were in serious relationships, and 5 were married. They were from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The term ‘single’ or ‘unattached’ as the respondents explain, does not necessarily mean living without sex. It only refers to people who are not married or who do not have “serious” partners.
Important Statistics 92(approximately 61%) out of the 150 respondents described themselves as single or unattached; 31 (representing 21%)were in serious relationships, and only 27 (forming 18%) were married.
Those in the Prime Years group (21-25, 22%), Vital Years group (26-30, 27%), Borderline group (31-35, 32%), and the Danger Zone group (36-40, 19%). Note, that because of the small sample size, the fallacy of generalization may be committed if these statistics or findings are viewed as a perfect representation of the real situation in England or the West.
The Reasons so Many African Women Abroad are Single
Perceived shortage of decent men in the West: Almost all the women interviewed shared the opinion that it is quite uncommon to come across single men with good character these days. Many African men also prefer women who have legal status that they can benefit from; hence, they tend to get married to westerners rather than Black African immigrants. The words of a respondent say it all: ‘The truth of the matter is, we do not have a very wide selection of African men to choose from as we (the single women) outnumber them (the single men) in this country. Disappointingly, the few that are available tend to date and marry people of other races usually to get legal status.’ Again due to lack of trust for western-based African women who are generally perceived to be arrogant, argumentative, disrespectful, non-submissive and dishonest or unfaithful, other men go to look for women partners in their various home countries.
Tribalism/Ethnocentrism: Some African families have “blacklisted” certain tribes and/or countries, and would just not tolerate the idea of their children getting married to someone from these “blacklisted” societies. It has in fact become an abomination in many African countries for people from certain “rival” tribes to get married. Sadly, beautiful young women are missing the opportunity to get married to men they love, all in the name of tradition or tribal hatred. As one Ghanaian respondent mentioned: ‘There is this guy who loves me so much …. I love him too, but I know my parents will be gutted and disappointed in me if I tell them that he is from … (country withheld)… I’m just scared.’
Spending Prime years pursuing educational and Career goals: It might sound quite harsh, but one revelation made is that the best moment for most women to get suitable partners or husbands is when they are in their Prime. Hence, the need for them to capitalize on their young age, looks, and fertility to get the kind of man that they want. For religious, academic or educational, as well as career or occupational reasons some young women dedicate less time to socializing and searching for that “decent man.” By the time they realize the need to have families, age had already caught up with them; and as looks or beauty and fertility commonly decrease with age, they end up in a position where attracting men becomes a bit more difficult.
Unnecessary church rules/codes: Many churches or religious denominations do not allow their members, especially the women to marry outside the church. Attempts by female members of these faiths to marry men of other denominations are usually frustrated by their church leaders. ‘I became a member of my church when I was only 20 years, now I’m in my late 20s, and none of the men in the church has ever asked me out or shown any interest in me. Yet, my pastor wouldn’t welcome any of the many guys that have expressed genuine interest, just because they are not members of our church’, a quite attractive respondent lamented. Other religious denominations also do not allow their members, chiefly women to date a man before marriage for fear that they may be tempted to engage in pre-marital sex – which is viewed as a mortal sin by almost all Christian faiths and many other religions.
Misconception about educated African women: The difficulty in finding husbands is clearly being experienced by highly educated women as well. Three of the ‘unattached’ interviewees had obtained their MA degrees yet they, to quote one of them, ‘are still struggling to get Mr. Right.’ This revelation in a way suggests that women with credentials or academic accolades do not necessarily attract men or enjoy some advantage in terms of getting husbands. This is certainly not to discourage female education or scare women who aspire to reach the apogee of the academic ladder. What has been pointed out is that ladies who achieve higher academic successes are often erroneously viewed by many men as domineering, women who have less respect for their husbands and are thus hard to get along with. Many highly educated African women have also been accused of ignoring interested men whose educational qualifications are below theirs; hence their singleness.
The Desire to marry wealthy men or men with legal status: It has been established that many African women only look for men who are rich and/or have legal status. Consequently, they ignore those who are genuinely in love with them but are not very financially sound or do not have strong legal status. In the end, they are taken for a ride by the so-called wealthy dudes and men with legal documents, and thus return to what Nigerians call “square one” (where they were before – singleness). It has been observed that most African women, no matter how financially sound they are, seem to prefer men with good jobs and good salary to those doing menial jobs or struggling to get jobs, even though the latter might demonstrate more traces of genuine love than the former.
Unwillingness on the part of some men to be burdened with financial responsibilities: Due to the economic downturn in many western countries, many men are scared of the usually huge financial cost of marriage and/or financial responsibilities associated with marriage. The panic is made even worse by the traditional African notion that it is the responsibility of the man to handle all marriage and household expenses, even when it is clear that the woman’s job or income is much better than the man’s.
Poor choices (Ignoring or paying less attention to the right men): Some African women seem to focus on those men who would not give them the chance or the treatment they want and deserve. They spend their Prime years knowingly hanging out with thuggish types of guys or men with no substance (aimless), probably because of the guys’ good looks or the size of their wallets, only to be thrown away like dross after their precious time had been wasted. A respondent honestly narrated how she mistreated and sacrificed an apparently more serious and purposeful man for a handsome but less committed guy only to be thrown overboard less than a year into their relationship. When she realized her mistakes and decided to go back for the one she dejected and whose numerous marriage proposals she had initially turned down, he was no longer available (he was someone else’s darling). Some of the African women who make their way to the West deliberately fail to get in touch with their boyfriends at home thinking that they would get someone with legal documents to marry. By the time they become aware of their mistakes, it is usually too late.
Other past mistakes: Other mistakes made in the past by some women such as, waywardness, going out with married men, being impregnated by some reckless man who does not even accept responsibility, and single-motherhood, contribute to their difficulty in getting husbands. It may sound rude but the truth is that most men prefer women with no child to those with one or more.
Desire to remain single: It must however be emphasized that not all single African women abroad are interested in marriage or serious relationships; some prefer and seem to be very happy to be single. The words of one Nigerian respondent are noteworthy: ‘I wouldn’t lie to you, I hate marriage. If marriage is so great, why do most marriages end in divorce within a couple of years if not months?’ Many single people think they do have a meaningful love relationship in their life, and that for them, is enough.
Why Many African Women are Now Desperately Looking for Partners
It has been established that the single women who are now seriously hunting for partners or husbands are mainly those who fall within the second and third groups (Vital Years and Borderline respectively), as well as those with children (irrespective of age). A number of reasons have been given for the alarming rate at which unattached African women abroad are desperately looking for partners. The following are believed to be some of the most dominant ones:
Old age catching up with them: For numerous reasons some of which are mentioned above e.g. spending years pursuing educational and career goals, hanging out with the wrong guys, etc.), many women are not able to marry or get serious partners in their Prime years. By the time they recognize their errors and the need to settle down to start a family, age is either catching up with them or has already caught up with them. To avoid carrying their singleness into the Danger Zone, or avoid being less fertile and having difficulty in bringing forth children, they try all possible but not always advisable means to get husbands or serious partners.
Pressure from family: In almost all if not all African societies, the institution of marriage is viewed as something that brings respect and honor not only to the couple but also their families (both nuclear and extended). For this reason, when after a certain age, e.g. 26+, a woman is still unmarried, her family particularly parents, start pilling pressure on her to get a husband and to give them (the parents) grandchildren. Note, that due to the religious nature of many Africans, pregnancy and/or giving birth out of wedlock, is not only seen as a disgrace to a woman’s entire family, but also a sin against God or the gods.
Security, loneliness and/or the sense of non-fulfillment: The need for some form of security and stable support, financially, materially, mentally or emotionally also motivates the determination of many women to rush to get husbands. However, there are some women, who have almost everything they need in life in abundance, but do not feel that sense of fulfillment without marriage. For them, a woman’s life without a husband or serious partner is nothing but an unfulfilled life.
Fulfilling a New Year Resolution: Before the commencement of a New Year, people make what is generally referred to as New Year Resolution. One of the key resolutions of most single women is to get married by the end of the year. Hunting for men is thus one way of making sure that their New Year resolution comes to pass.
Peers getting married: Some unattached African women abroad are so worried and disturbed about their inability to lay hands on someone they can call husband that, they wish they had never come to the western world. The statement of a Zambian respondent speaks loads: ‘I learn most of my old-time friends and former class mates in my country are happily married with kids, but look at me still struggling to get a good relationship let alone marriage’.
Conclusion: It is believed that single African women who fall within the Borderline and Danger Zone groups, and those with children are much more likely to be taken advantage of and sexually abused or exploited by selfish and lustful men as they are easily wooed and convinced because of their situation. In other words, they easily give in to false marriage promises or propositions of deceptive selfish and promiscuous men.
It is quite obvious that very soon more and more unattached African women in the West particularly those in England will be making their way to their various home countries to look for partners and husbands. However, the question is not whether or not the men in Africa are ready for the western-based ladies; it is rather whether or not the single ladies back home in Africa will watch the western-based ladies “scramble” for “their men” without a fight.
GOD BLESS AFRICA
This article was first published on www.GhanaWeb.com by Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (aka Black Power). He is a lecturer and an investigative journalist in London, UK. He is the author of ‘Fourth Phase of Enslavement: unveiling the plight of African immigrants in the West’