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DAY TWO: International Conference on Woman, Marriage and Celibacy in Africa

By Amadi Eziokwubundu SJ

The on-going International Conference on Woman, Marriage, and Celibacy in Africa taking place at ITCJ entered its second day. Activities of the day continued the interesting and animated conversation already begun on the first day. Presentations and conversations on the second day extended from marriage instability in Africa to whether remaining single is a malediction, to a round-table conversation on the struggle of single mother/women in the continent.

The topic “Zoom sur l’avenir de la famille a travers le regard des jeunes africains”, one of the nine segments of the day’s presentations, was made by Drs Bomda Joseph and John Messingue. Both psychologists emphasized that the nature of a desired future family depends, among other things, on how better youths are educated or sensitized on the issues are concern women and marriage. Relying on the result of the study they conducted in view of the conference, Bomda and Messingue revealed that the level of knowledge between the youths of Ivory Coast and Cameroon regarding women emancipation and autonomy vary. While, they said, the youths of the former country show less concern on the issue, those of the latter show greater awareness of the issue.

On his own part, Bishop Lézoutier Jean-Salomon spoke about “Il n’est pas bon que l’homme soit seul: le célibat laïc est-il une malédiction dans la Bible?” (Is celibate life of the laity a malediction in the Bible?). Lézoutier began with a remark that the Old Testament seem to tolerate polygamy than celibate life for the laity or for non-consecrated people. God’s ordinance in the Book of Genesis, that man and woman should be fruitful and multiply, the Bishop said, leaves no place for celibate life for the laity. He further added that there is no category between being married and being unmarried. In a case where a woman remains unmarried and has no child, she is exposed to many vices and attract social criticisms. It is in the sense, Lézoutier concluded, that “célibat laïc devient douloureux et peut effectivement ressemblait une malédiction”.

The last activity of the second day of the international conference was an interesting round table discussion on “Les combats de la femme célibataire en Afrique aujourd’hui” (the struggle of single women/mother in today’s Africa). The panelists brought to the conversation rich experiences and analyses of what constitutes the challenge of a celibate life for a laity. They expressed that single women are often the laughing stock of the society and that people are quick to judge and condemn women who, for one reason or the other, have no husband or children or both.