Changes: A Love Story
By Ama Ata Aidoo
Published by Spark Publishing (2003)
THE month of March is dedicated to celebrating women; however, in some African societies obstacles that hinder women to be celebrated still persist.
It is sad to note that African women face major challenges and obstacles that slow their development.
Many African women are still facing problems of being denied education and employment, while others enjoy limited opportunities in economic endeavors and politics among other spheres.
For some women it is impediments in traditions and beliefs within some cultures that pull them away from enjoying their rights and from initiatives that promote self-development.
To talk about certain obstacles women face is a Ghanaian professor Ama Ata Aidoo in her book under review this week.
Titled Changes: A Love Story, the book portrays conflicts that exist between professional women whose lives have changed drastically and men whose lives and cultural assumptions remain unchanged.
The book clearly shows that despite making changes for herself, the African woman has to endure fulfilling expected roles that are designed to define her.
The writer uses character Esi to reveal some of the problems that are faced mostly by an African woman in a modern African society.
Through a dialogue between Esi and her friend Okopuya ,one is able to capture how Esi as a professional woman is struggling to cope with married life that expects her to be submissive to a man who is abusing her through marital rape.
It is important to note that the traditional African imaginary expects women not only to be submissive to their husbands but to the rest of the family including the husband’s aunts, uncles and even sisters.
The African woman therefore is expected to carry out certain roles that please her husband and the rest of his family.
In this case, her happiness should be in fulfilling the expected roles.
In the book, Aidoo clearly shows how Esi does not have her husband’s relatives’ support because she has only one child.
To the family and many Africans, the duty of a woman is to have many children for her husband.
Having more children, especially sons, is considered as the only way that can carry on the family lineage.
The writer therefore reveals the clash between Esi’s views who is a professional woman and fellow women who have allowed men and society to dictate what should be best for them.
In a conversation with her friend, Esi reveals that her marriage has failed to bring the happiness she anticipated before.
She has this to say:
“I could not bear it …. Another husband to sit on my back all twenty- four hours of the day? The same arguments about where a woman’s place is? Another husband to whine all day about how I love my work more than him? Ugh, Okopuya, I couldn’t.”
The writer also reveals that women are pushed by society as well as by their obligations to marry or else believe they will suffer a life filled with shame and loneliness.
Most women are made to believe their happiness lies in getting married and having children but the irony of it is after marriage some of them realise that they have been deprived of their right to be happy.
Esi represents a group of women putting themselves first before societal expectations.
A proper woman in the African tradition is imagined within the context of the family; she is expected to accept marriage and have children because marriage is assumed to be the end goal for most African women.
“… Esi, what are you going to do now? After all, you are human. You must get lonely sometimes?
Really, why throw away a perfectly good husband for the loneliness of a single woman’s life?,” writes Aidoo as she reveals how society associates loneliness with the life of a single woman.
The writer does well by showing that a proper woman in the African context is expected to put the family interest first before her own personal interest.
“…it is easy to see that or societies have no patience with the unmarried woman. People thought her single state was an insult to the glorious manhood of our men.”
In the book, the writer does well in showing that some women fight to see changes in societies and traditions because the man is socialised to enjoy his manhood and masculinity.
Single and unmarried women are therefore a threat to that masculinity and their independence and self-dependence lives no room for the African man to flaunt control and dominance over them.
Aidoo is not instigating women to be rebellious, but shows how a woman in an African setting has different obstacles to her self-development from fellow women across the globe.