MASERU – Almost every single woman desires to be married.
Most women, if not all, dream of “their big day” – the day they walk down the aisle with their prince charming impatiently waiting for them next to the altar so they would say their “I do”.
This, coupled with social pressure imposed especially on young women to get married, leaves many women on tenterhooks as to when their day will finally come.
Society tends to structure every aspect of people’s lives around marriage without exception. It lays down ground rules for people thereby automatically dictating how they should live their lives, including when they should get married.
This society does by often turning what may be a personal preference into a norm with no expectation to abide by.
Just like with every other thing, society puts a timeframe as to by what age a woman should have been married disregarding the pressure that comes with that expectation.
Refiloe Mokhali, 23, says she thinks it is time society let go of this annoying norm. According to her, there is no formula as to how life should go.
She believes a woman should get married when she is ready, not because of social pressure or fear of later being called a spinster.
At the end of the day, she says, the pressure may result in a woman throwing herself at every ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ who brings up the talk of marriage regardless of whether she likes him or not.
She further states that this is seen resulting in increased divorces and very often emotional stress.
Thato Matelile, 24, shares similar views.
Matelile indicates society is a busy body and urges women to be resolute on what they think is best for themselves and avoid any unnecessary social influences adding that they may otherwise get married for wrong reasons, to wrong partners, and at a time inconvenient for them.
“Social influence on marriage is an indication that you are too old which, of course, lowers self-esteem. It may also change the perspective of our parents and relatives towards us and sooner or later some parents may indeed question our marital status,” Matelile says.
Moleboheng Thamae, 26, says the sooner people understand that marriage is not an achievement, the better. She adds that society often makes the mistake of equating marriage to success.
“Imagine getting married because so and so implied that you are getting old! Where will those people be when my so-called husband decides to be a complete monster? Nowhere! So, I think people should just divert their attention to things that concern them,” Thamae further says.
Thamae says it is even worse when family members cause the pressure because it also comes with expectations.
She emphasises that not only do family members put pressure on one another to get married but they also at times demand that such marriage should be to a perfect man.
“It’s as if there is such a thing as a perfect man. People, family members included, should bear in mind that my ideal age to get married is not the next woman’s. It is not right to expect that since my sister got married at the age of 22 then I should do the same,” Thamae says.
Central to this is the fact that times have changed and women’s views regarding marriage differ, according to location and time.
Columnist and rights activist Rethabile Mahopolo says society frowns upon unmarried people because there is always a question of how the person deals with their sexual urge which is part of human nature that people cannot run away from.
She, however, indicates that women in urban Lesotho have become very independent now and do not subscribe to that anymore. Mahopolo says in urban Lesotho marriage has sadly lost meaning.
She says women now seem to prefer cohabitation, which allows them more freedom and makes it easier to opt out when the going gets tough.
“It seems by the time a lady is done climbing up the educational ladder and securing herself in the corporate world, men within her age are either intimidated by her or have already married.
“It is a hard choice to make really: giving up your dream for the sake of marriage or pursue your dream and risk being left behind,” Mahopolo says.
She further says that in rural Lesotho it is a different case largely because most families are still practicing the culture of marrying off their daughters as a way of getting income and as a way of preventing pregnancies out of wedlock. She shows that in villages marriage is still quite overrated so young girls feel the pressure to be married.
Mahopolo also states that lack of exposure also comes into place as most girls still believe that getting married is the ultimate achievement for a woman.
She therefore says much still needs to be done for girls in the outskirts to understand that as beautiful as it may seem, there is more to them than just being a wife and mother.
“The pressure to be a wife has led a lot of girls into premature and in most cases highly abusive marriages. They get into it without proper understanding of what exactly it means to be a wife or mother. I strongly feel that there are so many potential doctors and engineers in our rural remote areas who continue to find themselves trapped behind pots in smokey kitchens, having been prematurely swallowed up by marriage,” Mahopolo says.
What used to be common back in the day is no longer common today.
People should therefore take into account that marriage is not to today’s generation what it was to the previous one. ’Mathabo Molema, 48, attests to this emphasising that it is people who were married way back that always like to put pressure on today’s youth regarding marriage, overlooking the fact that time changes preferences.
“Back in our days a 20-year-old woman was considered fully matured and ready to be a wife but it is a different story altogether now because a 20-year-old woman is still studying very hard to earn a qualification for a job and marriage is just not a priority for them.
“Maybe if people who brought pressure were their age it would be understandable because then they would be contemporaries. Unlike me as old as I am, pressurising a woman of this generation to get married would make no sense at all because we do not occupy the same space in time. What I am basically saying is we had our own ways of identifying women ready for marriage and they have theirs as well,” Molema says.