When I was in the process of writing the novel, I kept writing short poems as I often do and keeping them in my drafts. I do not remember what exactly had happened or with whom I had spoken to but one day i was angry. It is often a recurring theme, especially in the Banyamulenge culture, to police young girls and women on what they can or cannot do. Often times, the same “police” makes statements such as “Banyamulenge women don’t do this …or that…” to insinuate that whatever behavior you’re showcasing is a sign that you are less than a “munyamulenge” or even not at all and that you must have gotten it from other cultures or are being influenced by another person/culture. The idea behind being that banyamulenge women are holier than the rest of the women on the planet and so they can’t possibly drink alcohol, fornicate, dress revealing clothes, or anything that isn’t what the “christian girl” or the “Bible” allows.
The truth is Banyamulenge people weren’t always christians, they worshipped an idol before. Also, the idea of teen pregnancy wasn’t introduced by colonization, they simply would marry those young girls off. Women used to burn their bodies for reasons i do not recall but this is close enough to what we know as tattoos now. There are so many examples (although they do not represent the majority of women) of things women in our culture used to do that weren’t influenced by anything else other than that they are human with feelings, wants, curiosity, and needs.
While writing this novel, I wanted the reader to understand, consider or accept the fact that the concept of “wild women” in our culture isn’t foreign but rather human. And so, this sentence came to me:
“They will deny the existence of wild women in our villages to question our identity as if we birthed ourselves“
This is because, no matter how many times our culture might want to isolate women choosing different paths than what is expected, it doesn’t make them any less than the rest or even better. No one is in charge of handing out the title of “munyamulenge”. One just becomes munyamulenge or congolose or burundian, or rwandan, etc. by birth and not by character.
Furthermore, women aren’t supposed to be copies of each other but rather unique in their woman-ness. My hope is that as we continue to grow as a culture, we become more patient, loving, accepting of one another but more importantly to the idea that we have many things in common and many others that are specific from one individual to another. For so long, women weren’t allowed to go to school, have careers, make choices for themselves but I’m glad that things are changing for the better.
Despite biology showing that there is a difference between men an women, one thing remains true for humans in general, we all want to be loved, accepted as we are, respected for who we are and we want our dreams (whatever they may be) to come true.
And if you are a man reading this article, next time you demand that women in your life do certain things, please ask yourself for a second whether you would demand that of yourself right now as you are.
For example: Would I want to not be given a chance at an education? Would I want to be told what to wear? Would I want for people to judge me because I don’t go to church every sunday? Would I want to be told when and who I should marry? Would I want everybody to have a say about my future except me?