***Unlike the other stories in the men’s series, this story is real. I’d personally like to thank our very own Moutarou for sharing his personal story.***
In Senegal there is a lot of social pressure. Practically everyone throughout the country faces this phenomenon, women as well as men.
As for the effect on me, I am the eldest male in the family, which gives me the status of breadwinner. In Senegal, most of the time families are large, which means that children are often called upon to provide support to help meet the needs of their families. I am in this situation since I am the first boy, even though I have two older sisters. Woman in the family are meant to get married and leave the compound, they are not expected to be breadwinners. Nevertheless, it is changing given that women are now supporting their own families. So, I need to support my family because my father is older now and II am the only one with a decent job. Thus, there is an obligation to give the daily expenditure and to assure the other family needs are met, such as the education of my siblings and the needs of both my parents.
I started feeling this pressure when I was 23 and I was in College. It was a strong pressure and I had to ensure that the family lacked for nothing. This burden over my head was so heavy that it had consequences in all areas of my life. I had to succeed in my studies to prepare for a good job that would satisfy me and enable me to support my family.
Since there were a lot of strikes at the university, I could not afford to miss the deadline, so I left school to look for work to help my father. Consequently, I could not really choose what I wanted in my life, I just had to find a job regardless of the salary. In some ways, my life choices did not really count because my duty was to help the family, whatever the sacrifice to my own life. The whole family expected my success to be effective in bringing food to the table, in allowing everyone to have an education, and in ensuring the good health of everyone. So far so good, the family does not lack for anything, but there is a part of me that does not live the life he would have liked to live. But it’s life, it’s Senegal, it’s like that.
What’s odd about all this is that my dad pushed me all the time to get married very early, at the same time wanting me to support him in his own family. For me, the two could not go together because – if I had married as he wanted – I would not have been able to help him suitably since I would have had a wife to feed and maybe children to support. But my father could not see that and said that only God knows what’s in front of us. That is true but, at the same time, the human being proposes, God disposes.
Another pressure I endured for a long time, and continue to suffer from, is to get married. My dad wanted me to marry at the age of 24. He wanted me to marry a girl I did not know and had never seen in my life. He still keeps putting pressure on me since I came out of a marriage with an American woman that he did not accept at all because – for him – to marry a woman who is not Fulani is as if I am still not married. Even when I had my American wife, he always kept telling me to get married. I laughed and I said yes, soon. He did not stop pressuring me and he always reminded me of my duties as a Muslim and, especially, as a man and elder of the family. He wanted me to show a positive example to my brothers who came after me. At first, he told me that I had to marry a Fulani woman like me from my family, meaning a cousin of mine. Then, since I did not follow, he changed tactics, telling me to look only for a Muslim girl Finally, he told me that it would not bother him if the girl was not Fulani but a Muslim from a good family.
He reminded me every time I saw him. Since I lived in Dakar and only visited Thies my hometown once a month, he did not hesitate to put pressure on me to marry. Since today, I live with this burden and social pressure. I think, we need to change the way we make babies and think about their future too.