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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The opposite of love is indifference

The opposite of love is indifference

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Human rights concern us in so many areas, and one of the most basic and important is the rights of the child. Something that really worries me is that it doesn’t seem to worry our politicians, in leading roles, in The Gambia that so many women die at childbirth. How come? Is it so common that women die at childbirth, so it is to be expected? Dying at childbirth should be an exception, not a rule as it almost seems to be the case in The Gambia. I am a member of a Facebook group, Gambian Women’s Lives Matter, and almost every day there is a new case, sometimes even several cases. What happens to the children who are forced to grow up without their mothers? Who will tend for them as a mother does? Who will breastfeed the child and slowly hum it to sleep when it is crying?

Who will one day answer all the questions the motherless child has, when it wants to know about its mother? Will the caretaker hush the child and begin to speak about something else? So many children grow up with their minds full of unspoken words. They feel that they have no one to speak to about their inner and deepest emotions. Perhaps the father is still getting upset because of the demise of his wife, so he is unable to speak about it. Children are very sensitive to other’s emotions, and they pick up the smallest signals of distress. If they notice that the father, or other caretakers get upset, they avoid asking questions. This is why we believe that children forget easily, that they simply move on like nothing had happened.

Children have just as complicated emotional lives as us adults, but they don’t have the words to express how they feel. If we don’t help them to express their emotions, the children hide their true emotions and instead express them in ways we often find unacceptable. The children have temper tantrums, destroy things, use a foul language or get depressed. Adults see the actions, but we don’t look at what is the cause of these actions. We notice what the child is showing us, but we don’t see what is hiding behind the actions. We hear the foul language or the shouting child, but we don’t listen to what it is actually saying. Does this sound complicated to you? At the beginning it might feel complicated, but it is actually a matter of mindset.

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The opposite of love is indifference. If you look at a child with the eyes of love, you are willing to care for its every need. Fulfilling a child’s needs is not only about feeding it three times a day or making sure it has clothes on its body and a bed to sleep on. For a child to grow up into a confident adult it needs parents who are able to show love and affection towards the child. If a child is neglected, it will develop stress symptoms as depression, high blood pressure which can lead to heart problems and diabetes. The self-esteem will be low and it will struggle with having an education, a job and fulfilling its dreams of a good life.

Is this the future we wish for our children in The Gambia? Don’t we wish them better, especially when we have the means to change these sad future prospects? How come that as soon as someone reaches a higher position in The Gambia, this person says bye, bye to common sense and empathy? ”What’s in it for me?” is the motto too many of our decision-makers live by, and is that fair? They want your votes and your money, but they don’t give a rat’s ass about your life and your struggle.

As dying at childbirth is so common in The Gambia, every family have experienced this sometimes, either close or on a distance. Most of the cases could have been avoided with proper prenatal care, maternity wards around the country – even in rural areas and a maintained road system that can carry cars and ambulances in a haste. Most of our decision-makers are men, so they themselves are not bothered with the troubles of childbirth. Most of these men are married, though, so my question is: don’t they speak with their wives about their worries? Has none of the decision-makers been troubled by the quality of the maternity wards, or the conditions of the roads? Has none of the wives suffered or even died at childbirth?

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Empathy is the ability we have to understand how others are feeling. We empathise with the one who has become sick, been injured in an accident or lost a loved one. When a family has lost a member, crowds gather at the funeral. Good words are said, prayers are shared and tears are shed. We go there to express our sympathies as good friends, family members and neighbours. It is natural and expected of us. If someone, whom we expected to show up is not there, we ask about the person. If the person doesn’t have a reasonable cause for its absence, we question him or her and show our discontent.

This is a great tradition, but now it is time for a new tradition. Every time a young mother has died in childbirth, we should gather and hold a demonstration outside the president’s residence and demand him to respect the lives of our Gambian women. He has two wives, and is blessed with children. Are his kids worth more than yours? Are the health of his wives worth more? You, as the people of The Gambia are paying his salary. You pay his food, his healthcare, his protection, his vehicles and everything that concerns himself and his family. It is time you begin to demand something back.

We are so bothered with each other’s business all the time, but when it comes to those who actually have the abilities to make our lives better – we let them slip away. Why don’t we show the same discontent with them, as we show with someone else we feel has shown misconduct somehow? Why this enormous respect for someone in a suit and an office? They are only humans too, even if we can doubt that from time to time.

“It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb that means that an entire community of people must provide for and interact positively with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.

The interaction begins with the first and closest one; the interaction between a mother and her child. So many women suffer from fear, during the pregnancy. The fear of dying while she is giving birth, or from complications afterwards. The fear for something going wrong during the pregnancy is also there. Women living in the rural areas have only their mothers or other elderly women to ask. Advices sprung from old traditions can be good, but sometimes pregnant women are in need of modern expertise too. As long as there is no equal healthcare for pregnant women, they will continue suffering. This suffering will then be shared with their families, and their motherless children. This can and must be changed, so what are we waiting for?

The First Lady is sometimes seen as a benefactor at some kind of occasion. She does not impress me, she could do so much more for the Gambian women if she had the interest. The opposite of love is indifference! The suffering of the Gambian women doesn’t make any difference for her, because the love she has is for what she can gain from being the first lady. Imagine all the nice items she can buy at your expense! Look at what the former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama, did instead. She was a role model who always stood up for those in need. Being the first lady comes with a responsibility. She should be the first to stand up for the women of The Gambia and speak to her husband about their issues. The Barrows haven’t always been rich, so don’t forget your poor people!

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