To be a thirty year-old girl, but still single

By Joseline Mushimiyimana

To be a thirty years old girl, but still single!

Many folks in my neighborhood wonder why I am still single in this age. It is unusual for a girl to stay single at the age of thirty in our culture as Rwandians. In my culture, the minimum age for a girl to get married is 18, while the maximum for a girl to get married is at least 26. I have gone through all of that, but I’m still not married, and I’m not even engaged. Many people, including my young sister who is now married, were shocked by this. In my culture, boys should come to choose the girl to marry.

Many people believe that I might be ill or that I might not be normal because I refuse to say yes to boys who propose to me. Since I am confident in who I am and trust in my dreams rather than what other people think of me, this does not frighten me. I show my confidence to others by standing on my words. Other people may take it as being stubborn but I can say that I am a determined person. When I say that I do not need something, I mean it. One of the dreams that I always want to achieve is becoming a lawyer one day. That is why I am very focused on school since no one can become a lawyer without studying law.

I have spent my entire life concentrating on my personal growth. I have been improving my personal growth by studying. I think that my personal growth is so important for my future. If I concentrate on building myself, I believe that the future that I am dreaming for will be great. The people who surround me in the community know that I am a determined girl. One of the chiefs in my neighborhood complimented me saying that I am a serious girl. I have always been considering my career and my education. Currently, I am boosting my resume by interning as a secretary at Women Lawyers Association, Malawi. Relationships, in my opinion, are fatal to my achievement.

I grew up in a village where women were dependent on men to exist. They say that in our culture a woman should always be under the wings of a man to survive. They have this perspective because they believe that a girl is born to become a housewife when she grows up. I went through this experience when I saw my father feeling more powerful than my mother just because he was the one bringing food to our home. I used to find this annoying and I committed to acting in a different way. I have always aspired to be a self-sufficient woman who can handle my bills and take care of myself without depending on men. Because I think that if a girl gets involved in a relationship, it would ultimately prevent her from obtaining what she wants. A man can be an obstacle to me in such a way that he can want most of my time to spend it with him. Telling the man that I need most of my time alone shows a sign of no love or as if I do not care about them being around me. Additionally, I can end up getting an unwanted pregnancy which can make me stop focusing on my development first. Due to these obstacles, I made the decision to concentrate on my studies and stay away from men. Therefore, if a man would propose to me, I would decline it.

My family wanted to arrange for me to get married when I graduated from high school, but I refused. During dinner, while everyone was in silence enjoying the food cooked by my mother. We were eating rice and chicken. My father started talking about things around and in a point, “I have found you a man who is willing to be your husband and I see that you are now grown and ready to have your own house”. I was surprised to hear that since I was not expecting it from him after all, I was just done with highschool. I told him straight that “Father, I am not yet prepared for marriage and I will pick my future spouse once I am ready”. I would never allow somebody to choose out a lifelong spouse for me. Since the man who wanted to marry me offered a sizable sum of money as dowry, my parents were disappointed about me. In my culture, dowry is not high but my father was interested because the man who wanted to marry me offered him a high amount. I felt so bad about it because it seemed like my father was doing business by trying to sell me.

I reached 30 last year, but before getting married, I want to get my master’s degree. As I get older, my interest in getting married decreased. I do not feel like I want to have a partner in my life. I feel like being alone is so peaceful and fun at the same time. I don’t believe I will be prepared for marriage until I accomplish that. Even if my family will say a lot that I did not make a good decision, I believe that everything I am doing will go as planned since I am working very hard to achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer. I am now in the University studying for my Bachelors Degree and I will graduate in September, 2022. If all goes as planned, I want to start my masters in January, 2024.

The only person who supports my decision is my uncle who stays in Zambia. We usually communicate online through WhatsApp messenger almost everyday. He always tells me to concentrate on my academic life and nothing should interfere when we are on the phone. Having someone behind my back is something which is precious to me. At least I feel good to have a family member who is ready to support me in my decisions. I promised myself to never let him down and I believe he will be proud to see me achieving my dream of becoming a lawyer. Not only my uncle, I believe that my whole family will be proud after I have convinced them by achieving my dream. Everyone will understand that my intention of focusing on becoming a lawyer was right since I will also be earning income to help my family.

Culture is beneficial since it helps to define who we are. But culture should not stand in the way of our aspirations. To get what you want in life, it might occasionally be beneficial to muster the guts to go against your own society and adopt unconventional practices. Most women in my Rwandan culture rely on their husbands to pay their bills, but I am confronting my tradition today by insisting that I must act differently. I will not let myself become dependent on men, as my culture wants me to. I feel confident in my ability to care for myself alone.

11 February, 2023