In Kenya, Pentecostal Christian Mothers Tell Their Husbands That Daughters Are Just as Good as Sons

Girls play at school in western Kenya on Aug. 3, 2018. Male offspring are desired more than female children in Kenya. RNS photo by Tonny Onyulo

As she prepared lunch for her children outside her house in Mukhuma village in western Kenya, Joyce Nafula thought of her former husband and began to cry.

The two were married for 20 years and had six daughters.

Then — angered because Nafula had not given him a son — he found someone new and abandoned her and their daughters.

“My husband divorced me and told me to go away,” said the 49-year-old Nafula. “When I refused to leave, he started beating me and saying I was a cursed woman because I couldn’t bear him sons.”

Nafula, a Pentecostal Christian, is one among thousands of women in western Kenya and across Africa who face stigma for bearing daughters rather than sons. In this part of East Africa, baby girls are valued less than baby boys.

Traditional culture here dictates that a woman must give birth to a male child to be his father’s heir, said Geofrey Baraza, a local elder.

When a woman gives birth to a baby boy she is celebrated and becomes a “real woman” recognized by the community, he added.

“We are not despising baby girls,” said Baraza, 70. “But these girls will one time leave their homes and get married elsewhere. They will never stay at their parents’ homes to take care of the remaining family members. That’s the reason we demand that a woman gives birth to a son to take care of the home.”

Women who have no sons face ostracism.

“If a woman gives birth to only daughters, we consider that home being barren and cursed,” Baraza said. “A man is advised to get a son with another woman so that the son can continue with his father’s generation when he dies.”

To live up to the pressure, some women are now visiting witch doctors, hoping for supernatural powers to cleanse their wombs and produce baby boys.

“I’m searching for a baby boy,” said Cyntia Wanyonyi, 38, a Pentecostal Christian and mother of five girls who visited a witch doctor recently without success. “I will continue to give birth until I get a son. That’s the dream I have as a mother because I don’t want to lose my husband.”

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Tonny Onyulo