30 July 2008

Zambia: Help Women Stranded in Mali


THE ordeal of being abandoned and stranded in a foreign country is traumatising. In such circumstances, a person is completely detached from his or her family, let alone, the country of origin.

These are dehumanising situations many Zambian women have found themselves in after being abandoned by their West African husbands, who at one time ran lucrative ventures in Zambia.

There have been reports in the past of women and their children, who had been abandoned in West Africa, finally getting back home with the help of the Zambian mission in Nigeria.

We, therefore, agree with Foreign Affairs Minister, Kabinga Pande, who implored the Malian honorary consul-designate to Zambia, Mamadou Kouyate, to furnish the Government with statistics on the Zambian women stranded in that country.

As the minister put it yesterday, there were many Zambian women who are still stranded after their husbands deserted them upon reaching Mali. It should be noted that some of these women have been abandoned together with their children.

These are families, who at one time enjoyed reasonably high standards of living back home, who have now been turned into destitutes in a foreign country. They spend days on end on the streets begging for food and other requirements.

According to some earlier reports, Zambian women who accompanied their West African husbands, along with their children, discovered on arrival that they were in fact in polygamous marriages.

They discovered too that they were 'second' wives who had to toil in household and other chores for the 'first' wives.

There are horrifying stories that the women and their children are turned into 'slave labourers' who have no say.

These Zambians are downtrodden and reduced to second-class citizens. Ultimately, they leave such marriages and family bonds to stay and survive by begging in the streets.

The appeal from the minister for statistics is thus appropriate and should be a priority in the mutual cooperation between the two countries. And it is hoped that the Malian envoy would assist by availing statistics about these Zambians so that they could be brought back home.

They have been cut off from family ties and the sooner they are brought back the better.

They would be better off to join their families back home than remaining in foreign land where their future is unknown.

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