by – Blessing Winner Hannah
Two major international bodies have come in agreement to protect the rights of children in sub Saharan Africa. The 1989 United Nations conventions on the right of the child (CRC) and 1990 African charter on the right and welfare of the child (ACRWC) have all come to the conclusion that the minimum age for marriage is 18 years.
The question ’’what is the right age to get married’’ has been asked since the 1900’s but the answer to the question keeps getting modified as each generation passes by. Africans most especially still marry at a young age although it is not a trend any more. In fact laws have been put in place in state and local level to help reduce the age of marriage especially for females.
Now for today’s edition of ‘love plus marriage’, with me here is Mrs. Oghene Marian- an African writer who has won many awards because of her impactful writings and philanthropic activities; she is a successful entrepreneur and a mother of two. Please let’s welcome Mrs Oghene Marian; our guest for today’s edition of ‘love plus marriage’, we are honored to have you ma.
Mrs. Marian: Thank you for having me.
Presenter: You’re welcome ma. Mrs. Marian our question today, is what do you think is the right age of marriage for Africans?
Mrs. Marian: Hmmm…. Age for marriage is very relative, but I would say that the question shouldn’t be what is the right age for marriage rather it should be when is the right time for marriage?
Marriage is a decision that affects every aspect of life, so the question is when should one get married and the answer is when you are ready. Giving ourselves an age limit to when we should get married most times distract us from preparation thus pushing us to make hasty decisions because we have reached our time limit .But I’d say that the preferred time is between 25 to 28 for ladies and 30 to 35 for men……
Just when I stretched my hand for the remote to turn up the volume of the decoder, my tv screen went black. I couldn’t help but shake my head at such awful timing. Well I am a Nigerian and already used to interrupted power supply.
Holding the remote in my hand, I couldn’t help but stare at it as I weighed the option of lying down on my couch or going to cook for my family. Well I chose the latter, knowing that my kids don’t smile when hunger comes.
Standing from the couch, I dragged my feet to the kitchen. Taking out a Tray, I poured out 5 cups of beans from a bucket I stored my beans to avoid moth and the likes, after which I carefully perched on the kitchen stool to select stones from the beans.
Reminiscing on the show I watched few minutes ago, I couldn’t help but ask myself if I had married at the right age and what the right age to marry is actually. I couldn’t help but remember how Ernest proposed to me.
Ernest used to be my elder brother’s friend. He would come to my house and they would talk about business and politics. We only talk when I greeted him while opening the door for him and when he comments on my food when I’m done serving him.
Gradually, our friendship skyrocketed from normal pleasantries to more mutual and meaningful conversations and with time he made it known to me that he liked me. It wasn’t a big deal for him to show how he felt because he had everything he needed at the tip of his fingers as his family is well to do. We went to functions and had fun together. It surprised me that he didn’t mind that he was very much older than me because as at then, he was 28 and I was 19 years of age. Well how would he even mind when I was young, intelligent, beautiful, well cultured and fully endowed; front and back…
Looking back at our age difference and achievements, Ernest really knew what he wanted and everything he needed to achieve it was made available by his parents. As at the time we met, he was a youth corper, and I had just finished my senior secondary examination. I remember having conversations with him that revolved around what I had for breakfast, where I went to, books I read and how my jamb lessons were going, my dreams for the future, the last Philippine movie I watched etc. His were more of the usual ‘I love you’ talks, then places he travelled to and would want to travel to, businesses he is considering investing in, online courses he was offering and how he wants to invest in my dreams too.
I wouldn’t say I regret marrying Ernest but maybe I should have waited a bit longer, I told myself. I was young and in love, he wanted me and I wanted him too. Not until now, did I realize that a lady can be wanted and needed too , i.e wanted because she is loved and needed because of what she can offer in a relationship and I really wished I was the two. I wish I knew all that Earnest knows. I wish I could give relevant ideas that mattered aside where next we will eat out and what style of clothe he should sew next lol…
I remembered going to his office on the 5th of September. On that fateful day, the weather was cloudy and it drizzled a little. I walked from my office to his since where I do my fashion training was near to his office, on getting to his office he was dressed in his usual shorts and polo with a calculator in his right hand while the other hand hung lazily on his flat waist.
“Baby” He called out, throwing his calculator and his maturity into a nearby chair, he enveloped me in a heartwarming hug. When we drew apart to look at each other , all I could see in his eyes was a sincere show of affection; a man that admires me for who I am but aside that I could also see an unusual glitter of excitement in his eyes.
I sat in an arm chair which faced his table while he sat on his desk. We talked and laughed like we hadn’t seen each other in a year. Just when I was about making one of my silly jokes, he asked in a very serious tune “Shalom…will you marry me?’ I was shocked and excited at the same time but what could be more lovely than marrying the man I love and growing with him so I said ‘yes’.
A typical African dad like mine from the Eastern part of Nigeria believes that a lady from 20 years old is ripe for marriage. At this age, a lady should be matured physically, intellectually, maybe not financially but emotionally enough to take care of herself, the man and a home. For a man to marry, he should be 27 years and up wards; must have vision, a profession, a land and of course love for his daughter.
An African mom like mine also believed that a lady must not be financially stable before she marries as after marriage, she becomes her husband’s responsibility and then when she is fully settled in her home, she can become anything she wants to be through the support of her husband. So giving me away for marriage was not something very hard for them.
In few months’ time, I became busy with preparation for my wedding. First it was a court marriage then a traditional marriage to follow up with. On the D-day, my aunts and uncles based in the village were excited for me. They all showered me with plenty hugs, gifts and the elderly aunts and distant relatives showered me with different shades of our beautiful traditional dance called ‘ekwu ukwu’. The only exception to this happy group of people was my aunts who were based overseas.
To cut the long story short, after trying so hard to repress their disapproval, they just couldn’t help it but come to talk to me. So one after the other, they all said their mind which is that they wished I didn’t marry this early, and they wished I met somebody better or even got a degree at least. It was at this point of ‘no return’ that Aunty Shola told me she had plans of me coming to study abroad [see village people oo] but with the shock of my sudden marriage news, she just had to leave Spain to see for herself.
My day was almost ruined with the news, but I knew that a day like this only comes once so I decided to enjoy myself to the fullest. Right there I vowed that I must be everything I have always wanted to be and marriage will not be a hindrance to it.
Finally, pouring the beans into a bowl of water I dipped my hand inside the chilled water as I washed my beans and looked at my kitchen clock to know how much time I have spent picking 5 cups of beans. Trying to rush, I quickly poured water inside a pot, set it on the cooking gas to boil and believing like I was taught that pouring the beans inside boiling water will make it cook faster.
I carefully drained my beans and poured it inside the hot water. As I waited for the beans to parboil, I started cutting my fresh pepper. Feeling a little more relaxed, I slowly drifted into my thinking Zone….
“Sincerely, I won’t advise anybody to marry at 20 years like I did but I would advise every lady to consider marriage from the age of 25 to 27 at least; culturally it is perfect and scientifically it has been proven that a girl’s brain is fully developed at age 25.
From age 25 to 27, one should be done or almost done with her university education, be spiritually, emotionally and financially stable, independent, goal oriented, and able to care for a home. Aside the age brackets, I believe that every lady can marry when she is ready for marriage and that could be anytime even in her 30’s. Although African cultures do frown at marrying at such age, nevertheless it is beneficial for a lady to be financially independent before marriage and be able to support her spouse before and after marriage.
Speaking of men, I’d say that age 30 to 35 is perfect for marriage as they must have spent enough time dating so they know what exactly they want in a relationship and can easily make decisions about who they want to marry. At this age, one should have graduated with a well- paying job; have multiple investments; have explored, improved and develop their perspectives about life and adjust their personality and lastly; have a lasting profession’’, I thought to myself.
Just when I was about leaving the kitchen, I saw my chubby 1 year old waiting patiently at my back with a sleepy face and a hungry yawn. I couldn’t help but laugh at how adorable she looked. I quickly washed my hand as she came closer for a hug. Carrying her in my hands with her head resting on my chest, I couldn’t help but thank God for a beautiful family like mine and a loving husband like Ernest, who loved me when I had nothing and is still supporting me on my journey to be who I had wanted to be even before marriage. – YA