Women, shortage of eligible men to marry

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The Herald

Sekai Nzenza on Wednesday
“Hi Bro, nditsvagireiwo murume kuZim,” wrote Shupi, who is based in Canada. She was sending a message to my cousin Reuben, asking him to find a husband for her in Zimbabwe.

We were parked in Magaba, the busy industrial market in Harare where they sell anything and everything from all kinds of hardware and building materials to old gearboxes.

If you lose the door handle to your car for whatever reason, you will be able to find it in Magaba.

We were looking for a Mercedes Benz star sign that had either fallen off from Reuben’s car or someone had stolen it.

I wanted to buy a bar-b-cue rake for the fire in the village.

The WhatsApp message from Shupi arrived as we sat in the car while several volunteers or hustlers went around looking for the Mercedes Benz star sign and the bar-b-cue rack. My other cousin Piri sat at the back, complaining about the heat, the dust and the crowds at Magaba.

“Bro, I am serious. I am already 35 years old. Here in Canada, I cannot find a man to marry, “ wrote Shupi.

“What kind of man are you looking for Sis?” Reuben replied.

“I can no longer choose. As long the guy is loving and he can be house trained.”

“House trained?” asked Piri.

“What does she mean by that?”

Reuben then explained that in the Diaspora, men also do women’s work around the house like cleaning the dishes, sweeping and mopping the floors, the laundry and cooking.

A man basically does the house work that is traditionally meant for women only. But here the men are lucky because we have housemaids to do the work.

“She wants you to find a husband who will look after her as well as do the housework? She might as well ask for a husband who can give birth for her as well,” said Piri.

We all laughed and said Piri was being unfair.

“Aiwa Sis, a woman who is 35-years-old, who has never been married cannot say that she wants a house-trained husband. That is too much to ask,” said Piri.

A guy with red eyes and a sharp haircut stood at my window, waving the Mercedes Benz star sign that matched Reuben’s car. Piri said the sign looked very much like the one that used to be on Reuben’s car. It was likely that Reuben was buying back the sign from the thief.

“So what?” Reuben said, “These guys must also survive.”

“Ok. Forget that they could be thieves. Let me ask him and his friend if they want to marry a girl in Canada,” Piri said.

I tried to stop her, but she had already opened her car window and was summoning two guys to get closer to the car.

“Hey, boys, we have a niece in Canada looking for a husband. She will pay for you to get a passport and to go to Canada. Do you want to marry her?”

“How old?” asked one guy who looked like he was about 25 years of age or maybe less.

He had two small bottles sticking out of his front jacket pockets, possibly bottles of Zed, Kirango or Musombodhiya, the illegal highly intoxicating alcohol that comes from Mozambique.

“Ah, maiguru, mati pana sistas vari Canada and vari kuda gentleman rinoda kuvapinza muhouse?” asked the young man, wanting to understand whether Piri was really looking for a guy on behalf of a sister in Canada who wanted a man to marry.

“That is very true,” Reuben said, laughing as he got out of the car. He pulled one small bottle from the guy’s pocket. It was already empty.

“Young man, if you drink this stuff, you will never find a woman to marry,”  Reuben said.

The young man protested, saying he drinks because he is unemployed and alcohol helps to keep his stress levels down.

“Mudhara, it hard to find a girl to marry when you have nothing,” he said.

More young men were beginning to crowd around the car again. I said to Reuben we really should go. As we drove off, Piri said, “Count how many men are walking around this area. Zimbabwe has men. Ask Shupi to come back and select her husband from Magaba, then she can take him to Canada for house training.”

Piri was laughing so hard with that familiar sarcastic tone in her voice.

But Reuben did not think this was funny. He said there was a serious shortage of eligible men to marry professional Zimbabwean women who live here and also in the Diaspora.

“The biological clock is ticking. When a woman gets to 35 without finding the right man to marry, she panics because she may end up living alone and childless”, said Reuben.

Zimbabwe and the Diaspora is full of so many young professional women who are reaching the age of 35 and still unmarried and childless. But it is not just Zimbabwean women who are having problems finding men to marry.

The shortage of a male partner worth marrying is a global problem.

One time when I lived in America, my African-American friend Vanette said most of the guys she grew up with were either dead or locked up in jail.

There was a crisis in the African-American community because men had little education. Many were incarcerated and the level of violence against black men had reached crisis levels. While black men were losing the fight to overcome so many social and mental problems, the black women were studying and working hard. Quite often, the women raised the children on their own.

“Finding a man was very easy when we lived in the village,” I said, recalling the days, long before Independence, when I was in primary school.

There were more boys in my Grade five class because girls in the village were not encouraged to go to school.

My grandmother, Mbuya VaMandirowesa opposed the education of girls.

Little did Mbuya know that one day, after she was long dead, Independence would bring free education for all.

Zimbabwe would have the highest literacy rate in Africa. Many skilled Zimbabweans would work in offices around the world.

We never thought that one day there would be so many beautiful young women over the age of 35 actively looking for a man so they could get married and have children.

“The only way these women can beat the biological clock is to freeze their eggs and then wait until the right man comes along. It costs money, but it’s worth it,” said Reuben.

Piri asked how it is possible to take a woman’s egg and deposit it in a deep freezer then wait until the right man comes.

Did this mean that the woman would then go back to the fridge to unfreeze the egg so it can be fertilised? Reuben said yes.

All this is made possible by the latest technology in reproduction. A woman can deposit her eggs at an average cost of US$15 000 and collect the eggs when she turns 45 or even 50 or more years. The egg will still be young and productive.

“Ah, vanhuwe, totanga tamboisa zai mufridge nekuti tashaya murume? Ngazvigare.” said Piri, meaning, how can we put the egg in the fridge and wait until the right man comes along.

If that is how we are going to reproduce ourselves, we should put a stop to this practice.

I was not sure. If women have choices and they can afford to freeze the eggs, let them do so. But at the same time, I longed for the time when a man would chase after a girl in the village. Love and mateship was natural.

“Educated women have a problem. Either they want to find a man to house train or they want to freeze the egg until the man comes along,” said Piri.

“But you cannot blame the women for being educated,” said Reuben.

“When the economic problems started here many young men and women left the country. Once the women got overseas, they discovered that Zimbabwean men to marry were scarce. Some of them marry men from a different race and culture. But for some women like Shupi in Canada, there are not many Zimbabwean men who are single and ready to marry.

“Shupi should come back here and look for a man. If she fails to find a single one, then she must just find someone to make her pregnant or settle for a married man.

“Sharing a man and having a child is better than freezing an egg and waiting for a man who may never come.”

“There is nothing wrong in remaining single and childless, as long as one is happy,” I said.

Piri said that sounded so Western.

“A woman can remain single, but she will be happier if she has a child.” Perhaps.

Dr Sekai Nzenza is a writer and cultural critic.

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