What is ailing Diaspora marriages?
By SYLVIA WAKHISI | June 15th 2013
By Sylvia Wakhisi
A man slaughters his daughter and wife; a woman kills her husband and son then commits suicide. These gruesome tales from abroad are red flags that something is amiss in the Kenyan Diaspora house.
Recently, a Kenyan man — Edward Mundia Mwaura — living in Indiana USA, killed his six-year-old daughter, Shirley Mundia in a domestic brawl.
According to stories on social media the embattled man killed little Shirely, who had just graduated from kindergarten, as a way of getting back at his wife for ‘stressing’ him.
The story goes on to say that the man had moved from another state to Indiana to be away from his ‘toxic wife’ who went ahead and followed him to Indiana.
And in October, 2010, angry over a suspected affair, 43-year-old Kenyan born Justus Ogendi Kebabe struck his wife in the head with a golf club and strangled her with an electrical cord until she died. He then drugged two of his children and killed them while one struggled and begged him to stop.
These incidents have raised questions as to what could be ailing the Kenyan home in the Diaspora.
Even though one can argue that such appalling acts happen everywhere and not necessarily confined to the Diaspora, it’s clear that the frequency of these chilling murders in the Diaspora family is a red sign that our sons and daughters overseas are not at peace.
So what could be ailing Kenyan marriages in the Diaspora?
Experts point to stress among Kenyan men brought about by several factors, among them the continued erosion of Kenyan men’s earning power and influence on family matters.
Changing family roles in the US are now such that the Kenyan woman finds herself shouldering the roles of sole provider traditionally reserved for men.
Nowadays, jobs are hard to come by as the effects of the recent recession bite and the country implements stricter immigration rules.
Research has also shown that women find it easier to adjust to life abroad compared to men.
According to Pastor Terry Gobanga of Stones to Rubies Ministries, the standard of living in the West is one reason why many marriages fail.
“Back at home, a couple can afford a helper who can carry out house chores such that when they come from work, most if not all the house work has been done. In the West, employing a house help is costly and many middle class Africans cannot afford it.
“But then some men carry the African mentality that the kitchen is the woman’s domain and when both spouses have come from work and are equally tired, the woman is the one forced to do the housework all alone. She does this for some time and then gives in. This is a major source of squabble,” says Terry.
Pastor Terry adds that the culture shock that many Africans experience once they relocate to the West is another factor that contributes to failure of marriages.
“The restrictive cultural boundaries back in the West are loose or undefined. Some of the things that are considered taboo back home are acceptable in the West. The gay movement, for example, is strong and vibrant in most Westernized countries and spouse swapping is a common fad. If one spouse is entangled in any of this, then it is a sure leeway for conflict and possible separation or even divorce in extreme cases,” says Terry.
The individualistic self-centered society has also contributed to the escalating divorce rates among Africans in the Diaspora.
“Unlike in the Diaspora, here we have our nuclear family that can mediate and mitigate in case of a crisis or stalemate in a marriage.
However, in the West, it is a different story. You see for us here, before you go to the family court to seek for a divorce, there are certain things or decisions that you will ponder before taking that big step.
But in the West, you do not have to consult anybody or fear that someone will question your move. You can hop from one marriage to another and your next-door neighbor may or may not notice and he or she won’t do anything about it. It is a cold world out there,” adds Terry.
In an attempt to address issues affecting marriages in the Diaspora, sometime back a group of concerned Kenyans from various states organized a conference that saw several experts give their take on what needs to be done.
Mwakilishi.com an online mouthpiece for Kenyans in the Diaspora, quotes Dr Lilian Odera a clinical psychologist in Florida speaking at the conference.
Dr Odera says one of the major factors contributing to a fail in Kenyan marriages in the Diaspora is that African men and women in the Diaspora have different thinking patterns and that at some stage, their marriages cannot hold anymore due to these differences.
As the Kenyan woman advances herself career-wise, she outpaces her man financially and socially.
Sooner or later, both find themselves on different economic levels, dealing with different environments and hanging around different people. The perspective of things that they once shared starts to disintegrate.
While the woman moves up the ladder, the African man is usually left struggling trying to find his footing.
According to Isaac Kariuki of diasporamessager.com, who was a key organizer of the conference, Kenyan marriages in America are breaking up easily because they have ceased to be institutions ordained by God.
Isaac says in the current state of affairs, it seems that marriages are considered social contracts with individuals asking questions like “what will I gain if I marry her/him?”.
The expectations of both parties to the marriage are different when entering into marriage and soon or later, their differences overpower them and their will to stay together.
Since marriage is recognized throughout the world as a turning point in the lives of a couple, it requires more adjustment than possibly any other life stage as partners sort out the roles they will play and learn each other’s needs and wants for a vibrant home.
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