Ugandans delay marriage for education despite stigma

By Apophia Agiresaasi  |  Feb. 20, 2013 at 5:40 PM
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KAMPALA, Uganda (GPI)-- Nankunda, 42, is a single woman in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. She declined to publish her first name because of the stigma associated with being unmarried at her age. “I haven’t met the right man,” she says. “That is why I am not married.” Nankunda says she also prioritized pursuing her education and her career. She earned her doctorate in literature in 2011 from the University of Leeds in England. She now works as a columnist for one of Uganda’s national dailies. “Perhaps if I were married with a husband and children who needed my attention, I may never have got it,” she says of her degree. “I can walk with my head high. There are a number of people who respect me – the liberal ones.” She says that men admire her accomplishments. “As a columnist, I have many admirers, some of whom are potential marriage partners,” she says. But her relatives regard her as a failure because she has not yet married. “The most unfortunate bit about this is that my aunties feel that I have wasted my life,” she says. Nankunda says she wants to get married one day, “Of course I would want to get married,” she says. “As a woman, I would feel complete if I was married.” She notes various benefits of marriage. “If you come back from [the] office stressed, you have someone to share your challenges with,” says. “When you are married, you have close people who care about you. Besides, everything starts in families. The families that we are raised in determine what sort of people we become. They define communities, churches and nations.” For Nankunda, the main benefit of marriage is having children. “My main worry is that I need to have children,” she says. “I know there are many unmarried people who have children, but I don’t believe in having children outside marriage.” But she doesn’t believe in marriage for the sake of marriage. “Being unmarried is not the worst thing that can happen to someone,” she says. Until she meets the right man, Nankunda says that she is enjoying the benefits of being single. “Single people shouldn’t sit around and feel sorry for themselves,” she says. “They have a lot to celebrate. A single person can work in any part of the world without any hindrances from the immediate family. As a single person, I prepare food that I want to eat and can come back home when I want. Married people have to compromise their tastes and preferences to impress their spouses.” Traditionally, Ugandans have regarded being single as a bad omen, and communities have worked together to marry single youths. But this mindset is changing among younger and more educated men and women, who are delaying marriage to accomplish personal goals and to find the right match. Single women and men still battle social stigma for not wedding by a certain age but refuse to succumb to pressure from family, friends and society.

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