african life issues violence

The two sides of a coin… Using ‘woman’ as an abusive term and ‘man’ as a compliment . 

Calling a male, whether an adult or a child, a woman , is an abominable crime in the African culture. I do not know about the West,but in the Eastern side like the Arab countries,calling a man a woman,can earn one a bone-shattering beating or a death sentence.

Here in East Africa, calling a man a woman is like poking a bee hive with a finger:when the bees sting the pain will be nerve wracking.

Just the other day, my friends and I were in a mall when one of the guys shared how his classmate, with whom they were once close buddies, was acting like a lady. They call it.. ‘Umama‘ in sheng.

Sheng is a corrupted form of Swahili which the youths find it easier to speak.

He went on to say that he gets angry over silly jokes and envys anyone with anything better than his shoes, grades, clothes or girlfriend. In addition to that, he even suggested he may have an influx of oestrogen in his body due to his unpredictable mood swings.

I felt quite offended but I held back the harsh words itching to come out of my mouth . ‘Umama‘to a man is equal to being weak or a sissy.

Another case of ‘umama’ is when a man cooks and keeps his house clean. The rotten belief that a man needs a woman to cook and put his house in order still exists in 2017. I once heard a senior engineer student state that he can’t survive a semester without a girlfriend to take care of him and his cubicle he calls a crib. To him to be a man is have a servant called a girlfriend.

I tried it on my close friend, Sam. I jokingly told him his laugh resembled that of a girl I used to know in my high school days. He never picked my calls for five days. After a fortnight,forgiveness prevailed but with one condition: I apologize profusely.

To women, being referred to as a man,is an achievement. The society is encouraging women to take part in male dominated positions to slowly kick out gender imbalance in certain careers such as business, engineering and sciences.

Taking a position reserved for a man is taking power into your hands. A manly job signifies strength,thats is why a man will be impressed by a lady who works in a construction site,heads a company or owns a membership in a boxing club.

The woman’s world has tried to incorporate manly dressing into fashion; shorts,shirts,t-shirts trousers, hats, caps and shoes. Fashion industries try to feminise men’s clothing,giving women a taste of what it would feel like to dress as a man but still be a lady.

Tomboys reflect this superiority of manliness .They view femininity as weakness needing eradication ,unfortunately,they were created as females. Others become tomboys due to the influence of growing up around boys, exposing them to little femininity. Not all tomboys despise themselves for being female. Some just prefer rough living to existing like Barbie dolls scared of everything under the sun waiting for a knight in shining armour to swoop them into eternal bliss.

I have never heard in East Africa adults telling their young boys to work hard and become a stay at home dad or be a hairdresser (..not a barber).

However, the 21st generation has proven to beat the odds. Men are fighting for paternity leave, some are stay-at-home dads, others are single parent dads and most of all the best fashion designers and hairdressers are men!

I salute every man who can put down their ego and break the gender line dividing what men should and shouldn’t do. Cooking for your woman and taking care of your children won’t make you less of a man. Washing dishes and doing the laundry or shopping won’t magically turn you into a woman.

To be a man, you have to earn it. Respect is earned, not given.

The term woman is not a symbol of weakness and the word man does not equal to being strong and powerful. We are all equally powerful but in different areas . Women are emotionally strong than men, men are physically strong than women. That should not be a reason to disrespect the opposite gender.


  1. Great post! I learnt something new – I didn’t realise this was considered such a huge insult in African culture. It’s a shame because it’s just one other way to uphold male dominance and keep women subjugated. Hopefully we will be the generation that can break the cycle and bring change.

    Liked by 1 person

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