I say this with a hint of sarcasm yet with caution because I am aware that waking up each morning is a blessing not to be taken for granted. With every waking day however, it becomes more apparent to me that we are raising our children in an increasingly perilous world. Being a mother to a girl myself, I find that gender and racial issues tug at my heart the most; incidentally both have dominated news and media coverage lately. Living in a largely patriarchal society as well as a country with deep racial inequality as a direct result of the apartheid era, I often find myself fearing for my daughter, and questioning my own influence on her and whether I am doing what I can to best equip her for the future.
In recent months, in South Africa, there has been an upsurge in media attention on violence against women. Recently the hashtag #menaretrash trended on twitter and sparked widespread debate on the domestic violence and the role that men play in this context. A young lady Karabo Mokoena was brutally murdered allegedly by her boyfriend who had a history of physically abusing her. This story in particular was widely documented and gave the public a glimpse into the many events that led to the demise of this woman with an otherwise bright future. Her friends and family spoke about how they knew she was in danger and some even claimed they warned her. Apparently she had laid charges against the suspect. She had even taken steps to leave this man yet somehow none of these facts prevented her death at the hands of her lover. This is not a unique story in this country, according to www.africacheck.org, South Africa’s femicide rate is 5 times more than the global rate. So I ask this question, what are we doing as parents, as guardians, as custodians of our future leaders, as fathers to tomorrow’s fathers, as opinion leaders and influencers to the youth? What are WE doing to shape the lives of our boys and girls?
I am currently working on a list of ways to make sure that I equip my daughter in the best way that I can. The list grows daily, but below are a few of the points that I reinforce in my 2 year old.
1. This is my body and it belongs to me only
2. I love my body
3. I will not let anyone touch my body
4. I will tell mommy and daddy when someone touches my body
5. I will not hurt anyone
6. I will not allow anyone to hurt me
7. I will show love and kindness
8. I am special. I am unique
She is very young and at this stage, the mantra list is basic, however as she grows I am planning to expand on each point and make them age relevant. I have never done this before, I am a first-time mother. My parents successfully raised me with the knowledge of the above and more and I hope to do the same. I just fear that as a parent today, we may need to do a lot more to counter the societal ills that our kids are exposed to.