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City of Banjul
Friday, August 7, 2020

What defines a good woman?

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I was once a really good woman.
Oh, I can see your eyebrows rising when you read the word ”was” as if I should be a bad woman now instead.
No, I still think of myself as a good woman and I hope others see me as that but things have changed.
I am a mother of three wonderful children, now young adults, but in a mother’s heart they are always your kids no matter their age.

I did everything I was supposed to do for my family, everything that most mothers do all over the world but I also did something else that us women have in common. Actually it is not so much about what we do but what we don’t do. We don’t take care of ourselves.

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We cook, we clean, we wash, we blow the kids noses, we search for the husband’s lost socks or whatever he needs. We make tea for him if he feels tired or cold, we care about our elders, we grieve with those who have lost a loved one and we cook a meal for them so they don’t have to worry about food for a while.
We take care of our own kids, we take care of others’ kids too and treat them as our own but we forget to take care of ourselves. Why is that? Why are we taught to always focuse on others and forget ourselves? How can this make us ”good”?

If we have a slumber when we are exhausted and ask someone to take care of everything for a while – is that making us ”bad”?
I grew up on a farm and my grandparents lived next door. Sometimes when I entered my grandmother’s kitchen I found her leaning her head on her arms as she was sitting at the kitchen table.

When she heard me coming she quickly sat up and looked a bit ashamed that someone had caught her resting. This made such an impact on me so I still jump up and pretend as I haven’t been resting if someone enters the room. Why? Why is it allowed for men to be sitting down in the shade, drinking attaya, chatting with friends and then walk home to see if the wifey has the dinner ready? After dinner he goes to his wardrobe to have a clean shirt that his wifey has washed for him.

He might even ask his wifey for some cash to buy whatever he needs. This is how I was brought up and this is what I still see around the world. How come the rules are different for men and women?
How come that when a man gets a cold he feels worse than a woman who is giving birth to a baby? We have even invented a new word for it here in Sweden – ”man flu”. All three times I was pregnant I was very ill. Thank God I lived here in Sweden where we have good health care, otherwise I could have died and the baby too.
I could have been a number in the statistics about maternal mortality.

In maternal mortality, MMR, includes deaths during pregnancy, childbirth or in 2 months within termination of pregnancy. The rate of MMR is very high in the Gambia compared with Sweden.
One search, according to my source CIA Factbook updated in 2016, tells that there were 706 deaths with every 100.000 live births in the Gambia compared with Sweden where we had 4 deaths with every 100.000 live births.
I could have been one of these women, here in Sweden, because I was a ”good” woman who never cared for my own health.

I got ill because of my pregnancies and I got help from my doctor but I didn’t understand how serious it was and no one told me.
I got the same illness all three times but I just went on as the good woman I was and cooked and cleaned and washed and looked for disappeared socks and made tea and so on but I never took care of myself.
I was exhausted many times but I still felt ashamed if someone caught me taking a nap on the sofa. Why?
This is a question all of us women have in common: why are we taught to not take care of ourselves? Why are we considered as less good if we wish to do the same as men can do – sit down in the shade for a while, drink attaya and chat with the girls?

Why can’t we go home to see if the dinner is ready, have a clean dress from the wardrobe and know that someone else has washed it for us just to be kind?
I got a heart attack in September 2016 because I had never cared about myself. That was a wake-up call for me and since then I have tried to change my life for the better. It’s not easy, because old habits are stuck, but I try so with proper medication and some exercise every week I feel better. I believe in God, as so many of us, but it doesn’t help only to pray and hope that God will help us because we are not his puppets. God doesn’t have any strings attached to each and everyone of us so he can rule every step we take and if he doesn’t want us to be healthy we will become ill. Not everything that happens to us is by the will of God. God created us with brains and a free will, a will to do good or bad. Doing good also means to be good to ourselves.

Being bad to ourselves doesn’t make us good. God created us with a free will so we all can be good to each other. It’s bad to see someone who is exhausted and not do anything to help that person. Good women deserve good men, men that also are focused on the family.
Getting married, creating a family is nice in the beginning but when times are getting hard that is when we see the true strength within each other.

A family is a responsability for both men and women, husband and wife must share both sorrows and joy.
The Bible says: ”Carry each other’s burdens” and these words are often recited at a Christian wedding.
All of us will face good times as well as bad times, lets share them and life will be easier and better for all of us.
As a small girl, living in Finland, my life was really hard.

We were poor, lived in the worst flats you can imagine and moved maybe once a year because my father could never keep a job. My mother worked so hard for us, to support my sister and me, but she never got any credit for it. My father demanded her to pay for his expenses too when he had spent all his money on alcohol and tobacco. She tried to refuse but that made him hit her.
Does anyone of you who read this recognize how it is to live like that? To live in a wellknown secret no one speaks about because it is private? Living like this was the kind of normality I was used to as well as people around me.

”Real men” were supposed to be tough, to do as they wanted and refused to be questioned about their doings.
In a patriachal society there are very different rules for men versus women and I have so many times wondered why.

It’s sad that the way I was brought up doesn’t belong to the past, it still exists and no one can really explain the reason for it. What is holding progress back?
Why are there still different rules for men and women and why do we seem to accept them?
How come that when a woman is protesting and tries to find a new and better way of living she is held back not only by men but also by other women?
There is a saying that goes like this:

”There is a special place in Hell for women who doesn’t help other women.”
Where is the solidarity?
Where is the generosity?
Why aren’t we helping each other if someone of us wishes to do something different?
Is it because we envy that person?

Is it because we fear that the world we know, even if it’s not good, is changing and we fear the unknown?
There is a basic function in the human brain called ”the fight or flight response”.
This clicks in when we feel threatened in any situation and was an extremly important function several million years ago when humans still lived in caves and they had to make an instant decision to stay and fight or to flee as they approached someone or something unknown.

Physically we look different from our ancestors but the brain has only got bigger with more functions and the old functions still remain.
If we should stop for a while and spend some time on reflection instead of letting that old brain function click in we might find that making changes is not such a bad idea as we thought from the beginning.
A man can actually take care of the kids when the woman goes to work.

He might be unemployed, she might have a job and this doesn’t make any one of them less a man or a woman.
The best chefs in the world are mostly men so ask your Mum how to cook Domoda and help her to make it.
Instead of taking a nap whenever you wish or spend time chatting with ”the boys” ask your parents if you can do some maintaining around the compound so it will look nice.

Women that aren’t tired all the time are so much happier and by that men also get happy.
It can’t be nice to listen to the nagging all day round, it’s like having some mosquitoes in your bedroom at night.
You can hear them, they are irritating but you can’t do so much about it.
You know they will bite you so you try to avoid them.

Well, you can’t get malaria from us women, thank God, but we can sure make your life miserable!
Why isn’t the highest goal for us all to make our lives nice and happy or at least tolerable?
It’s 2017 and none of us lives in a cave anymore.
We have seen how life can be, we have hopes and dreams all of us so our highest goal should be to help each other to fulfill our dreams.

For some of us the dream can be to get a college degree, for others to dig a well so you don’t have to walk a long distance to get some water.
Look around, see the possibilities.

See if you can do something to help someone and also help yourself.
Be the one who is creating your own luck instead of waiting for someone else to give it to you.
Be strong, be courageous, be innovative and be kind. Ask yourself how you want to be treated and treat others the same way. By showing others respect you will find your own respect.
Find the inner you, search for it , ask yourself who you are and what you want to become. Be be your best and be proud of it.

The Gambia needs strong people who are willing to use all their strength, both intellectual and physical, to build a great country that you can really be proud of.
The Gambia is called the Smiling Coast of Africa – let there be smiles that show how proud you are of yourself and what you have accomplished.

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