Married Women as Sole Breadwinners of Their Families

[By Olimata Kah]

The majority of Gambian mothers are just AMAZING! They not only wake up very early five times a week to get their kids ready for school, take care of the homes but also, WORK!

Even though not all of them work in corner offices, they still have jobs. Most work as a way to maintain their financial autonomy and to also ease the burden on their husbands. However, there is a trend that I have personally observed over the past couple of years.

One day I got off work very late. When I got to Tipper Garage at Bakoteh, I saw some female street vendors sitting by their stalls at that late hour. And suddenly, I noticed that they were mostly nursing mothers with their babies on their backs or breastfeeding. At such an hour, they should be at home relaxing not out on the streets.

I later learned from some friends that most of those women are the sole breadwinners in their families. I empathized, thinking that they were widows.

Not the case!

They are married to able-bodied men! So then, my question was: why are these women the sole breadwinners of their families? Were the husbands stay-at-home dads even though that concept is not yet common in Gambian society?

The simplicity of the answer is in itself, upsetting. It’s “funny”, really. The one time patriarchy should work in favor of women (that is, men having jobs and taking up their responsibilities), it fails us.

Go figure!

It is a hard pill to swallow but there are some men that would rather have their wives go out, hustle, work long hours, get money and take care of the family.

Since we are talking about the Gambia—in Africa, some are of the belief that it may be a spiritual thing—as in a curse. Now, I will admit that it is most definitely possible, but when you take into account the number of families where women are taken charge of the daily bread, one begins to wonder if it isn’t just sheer laziness on the part of the men as opposed to any spiritual affliction.

Some men say that it is a lot easier for us women to have jobs. Be that as it may, it is most definitely no excuse for a man to reap the benefits of a woman’s toil.

Women who are married to men who rather stay and home than ‘man’ up to their responsibilities should think twice about their situations. Why waste your time with someone who can’t be macho when it matters most? Don’t tell me that ‘it’s complicated’. Gambian women really deserve better.