A popular 1988 American-Vietnamese movie, “No retreat no surrender 2” inspired many movie goers that however small and under resourced, one can overcome adversities. In fact, there was more to the name of the movie, which resonated with our patriarchal societal morals, than the movie content itself. In typical African tradition, men did not retreat in front of adversity, neither did they renege on parental duties.
The numerous reports of men who are abandoning their spouses upon learning that the women have delivered triplets are surprising. The Ugandan dailies have recorded numerous instances, and yet, no concrete actions have been taken to protect these women and their triplets from neglect. The glaring lack of public policy, resources, and/or emergency response plan for such abandoned families complicates the situation. What kind of men have we become?
Ugandans must come to terms with rapid trends in the world to embrace family planning. World over, women fertility trends have also changed due to fertility drugs, changes in the environment, and biochemical exposures. Not so long ago, men prided in having many children. Large families were a trademark of success and power. In fact, men rose to instant prominence due to a large family. Others took it as an investment. They took a large family to be a source of labour and when the children succeeded, they in turn, supported their parents, contributing to family development. These families were well established in rural communities where land was in plenty, even when children strayed in cities.
Today, societal structures are changing very rapidly. Rural to urban migration has increased at a terrible rate estimated at 49.5 per cent. On its own, the rural population growth rate has increased from 6.7 per cent in 1980 to approximately 14.8 per cent by 2010. Moreover, the agglomeration index suggests that Uganda’s level of urbanisation increased from 22.4 per cent in 2002 to 29.3 per cent in 2010. The urban population was growing at 5.1 per cent higher than the national average of 3.2 per cent.
The importance of the trends cited above is that many more people are detached from their rural roots where they could fall back during financial hardships in towns. Most of the people who migrate to urban areas are youths who have no skills to secure well-paying jobs, so they resort to petty and dangerous employment such as hawking, robbery and boda boda business. Moreover, some of these youths have had to sell off their land to buy bicycles or boda bodas; or lie about their struggles to their parents. So, when they should be returning their families to the village during hardships, they jump ship.
Naturally, increased population density mounts pressure on social services; housing, healthcare, schools, employment, etc. It is these harsh realities that have emasculated these men, forcing them to retreat in the face of adversity. With little money and no fall back in the villages, the males capitulate when basic responsibilities presses its demands.
When men retreat and leave women to fend for themselves and their innocent newborns, the government must intervene. It is the lack of such interventions for abandoned triplet mothers that tied Hawa Namaganda of Masajja Zone B, Sharifa Nakirija of Seeta, Mukono, Grace Nadango of Bulenga Village, Budumba Sub-County, Monica Nangiya of Mwezi village, Mayuge, Jane Kabugho of Kikonzo Cell of railway ward, Kasese, and Marriam Nassanga of Kavule-Nakyesa, in Kayunga, with the same sad knot.
The government has provided mandatory antenatal services for families. It is the same men who have absconded these services. It is important to compel men to accompany their pregnant wives to antenatal clinics so that they start to plan early for eventualities of multiple pregnancies.
The demise of a society becomes apparent when men renege from their duties or retreat into oblivion at the sight of adversity. In Uganda, social roles are changing. As men are retreating from their roles, more women are picking up and filling the vacuum effectively.
Mr Komakech is a Ugandan social critic and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada. Can contact via firstname.lastname@example.org