“No Woman, No Cry” is a 1974 reggae song by Bob Marley and The
Wailers. The original title is “No Woman, Nuh Cry” in Jamaica tongue.
The “nuh”, is a shorter vowel sound for “no”, and corresponds to the
short form “don’t”. The song tends to persuade women not to cry and
reassure them that everything will be alright.
A lot has been said, proposed, advocated, and intended regarding
mainstreaming of gender human rights in Africa but nothing much has
been achieved. In African culture and even religion, men are dominant,
natural leaders, and divinely positioned to rule. There is nothing
anybody can do about this. However, equity is not a function of
religion, culture or social norms, but conscience and tenderness of
Recently, hundreds of people protested in Blantyre in Malawi over
attacks on women wearing trousers and mini-skirt by vendors. Some
women were in January 2012 beaten and stripped naked on the streets of
Lilongwe and Blantyre for not wearing traditional dress. The protests
were attended by former vice president Joyce Banda (Current
president). According to the BBC, until 1994, women in the deeply
conservative south African country were banned from wearing trousers
or mini-skirts under the autocratic rule of Hastings Banda.
In my reflections, I imagined the issue of dressing and why it
incurred the wrath of vendors to the extent of stripping women naked
for not following cultural norms. I have discovered that many of the
things we do are rooted either in our religion or culture. The kinds
of food we eat, dresses we wear, language we speak, and such and such.
No culture is completely good or bad but every culture must be
respected. However, you cannot respect what you do not understand. Due
to globalization or westernization, the very beautiful culture of
Africa is fading, unfortunate! Young people nowadays do not understand
and appreciate their cultural heritage that are based on respect for
elders, decency in dressing, fidelity, brotherly love, etc. All of
these have been traded for life-wrecking characters such as indecent
dressing, disrespect of elders, political thuggery and such like.
Indecent dressing has cost women a great deal of trouble, particularly
rape. You can imagine the consequence of rape such as unwanted
pregnancy, HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections, emotional trauma, and
other terrible corollaries. The rejection of indecent dressing is
therefore very beneficial to women.
You may then ask me who is to blame. The family, of course. You cannot
have your cake and eat it. An irresponsible father will likely produce
an irresponsible son, “Like Father, Like Son” or “Like Mother, Like
Daughter” as they say. In Africa, dressing is an important part of our
life. It makes us unique and it is our pride. I personally experienced
this when I went for a conference in an African country. On the day I
wore local attire, the delegates from the west were amazed at how
beautiful African dresses are. Also, a black woman wearing a Kaftan
(like gown) was admired by other women from the West. Unfortunately,
at the same event I met some girls from Africa that dressed in very
obscene dresses (micro mini-skirts), bringing shame to Africa. Funnily
enough, the ladies from the west were more decent than these African
ladies. The fact is that mini-skirts and even trousers are never a
part of our cultural heritage. Some girls do not know the difference
between bedroom tops and outdoor dresses. Many parents have failed to
show their wards the right path to thread, acceptable behaviours, life
skills; and so what else can we expect other than what we are seeing?
Many young people do not understand their family values because they
do not actually have one.
On the contrary, stripping women naked on the street is not the
solution to the problem because it even compounds the problem for the
society. That is very unfair because it reduces the worth of the
victims and the disrespects the dignity of womanhood. I do not know if
there are legal instruments that protect women against such attacks
anyway, but such can be formulated and advocated for by civil
societies in Malawi to prevent a re-occurrence. Women and girls should
be treated fairly at all times because they are a blessed, wonderful
and fragile sexual category whose existence has influenced the
stability of our societies over the years. Women are blessed with
unique qualities such as goodwill, character, responsibility which we
must all recognize and appreciate. They do not deserve such inhumane
We have to go back to our roots. Let children and youth be aware of
and respect our cultural heritage. Every family should have values
which must be inculcated into every member of the family. Many of the
youths in Africa do not even understand the tenets of our existence.
They are misled very much through media, internet, travels etc.
I’m always a proponent of gender equity and will always advocate for
fair treatment of girls and women in my country and throughout the
world. Nooooooo Woman, Don’t Cryyyyyyy!