How some single mothers use children as financial leverage


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Men complain in whispers that reverberate through the back alleyways, accusing women of starting arguments on purpose in order to become single mothers.

Dar es Salaam. In the bustling streets of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a subtle but significant societal shift is underway—one that revolves around the dynamics of single motherhood.

With murmurs echoing through the backstreets, some men voice grievances, accusing women of deliberately initiating conflicts to become single mothers.

They allege that women employ manipulative tactics, exploiting their children for financial gain and pretending their needs are those of their children.

Baraka Humphrey, 32, a resident of Tabata, reveals that he has witnessed the tactics some women employ to become single mothers—it's troubling.

“They fabricate stories and incite conflicts, all to wield control over their children and extract money from the fathers. It's disheartening to see families torn apart by such manipulation. Children suffer, and fathers are left feeling powerless and unfairly treated.

He continues: “It's a cycle that needs to be broken for the sake of everyone involved. Society must address these issues to ensure fair and just outcomes for all parties."

Similarly, Miriam Alex, 41, a resident of Mabibo, says that in her community, it is becoming routine for women to employ their children as tools to ensnare men or extort money from them.

“This practice unjustly disadvantages fathers who earnestly seek involvement in their children's lives. It's disheartening to witness such exploitation of family bonds for personal gain,” she notes.

She went on to say fathers are deprived of the chance to nurture meaningful relationships with their children, while the children themselves are unwittingly caught in the crossfire of adult disputes.

She adds: “We need to address this trend and ensure fair treatment for both fathers and children in our community."

Ms Tatu Said, 71, a resident of Tabata, notes that there is a concerning trend among today's girls—an eagerness to embrace motherhood without fully understanding the profound responsibilities it entails.

“It saddens me to see motherhood treated as a mere accessory, devoid of the deep love, sacrifice, and dedication it demands. Bringing a child into this world is not a decision to be taken lightly; it's a lifelong commitment that requires unwavering devotion and selflessness,” she says.

She says she fears that many young women underestimate the hardships of motherhood, focusing solely on the superficial aspects without considering the immense challenges that lie ahead.

“It's essential that we, as elders, guide and educate the younger generation about the true essence of motherhood, instilling in them a sense of worship and respect for the sacred journey of nurturing and raising a child."

On his part, Levis Gerrald, 29, a resident of Jangwani, shares that he has seen the struggles my friends face when their ex-partners manipulate them using their children.

“It's truly heartbreaking to witness,” he states, and continues: “These tactics not only harm the relationship between the parents but also have a profound impact on the well-being of the children involved.”

Furthermore, he says that it's about time we addressed this issue and put measures in place to protect both parents' rights and ensure the children's welfare.

“No one should have to endure such emotional manipulation, especially when it affects the innocent lives of children caught in the middle," he says.

Mr Ludovick Ngw’anyi, 32, the father who has experienced the pain of the challenges of dealing with his ex-partner using their child as a bargaining chip.

“It's not only emotionally draining for me but also deeply concerning for the well-being of our child. This manipulation creates unnecessary tension and instability in our child's life, which can have long-lasting effects,’ he explains.

He continues: “It's crucial that we find solutions to prevent such harmful behaviour and prioritise the best interests of our children, ensuring they grow up in a supportive and nurturing environment, free from emotional manipulation."

On top of that, another father, Zephania Daniel, 28, reveals, "It's as if they view their children as a means of profit, which is deeply concerning. This behaviour not only undermines the integrity of parenthood but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

He went on to explain that children deserve to be nurtured in an environment free from financial exploitation.

“We must address these issues and ensure that parenthood is based on love, responsibility, and mutual respect, rather than financial gain," he says.

On the other hand, Halima Fadhili, 36, a single mother, reveals that it's hurtful to hear these accusations against single mothers.

“We're not trying to trap anyone or use our children for personal gain. We're just trying to provide a stable and loving environment for our kids, despite the challenges we face."

Ms Semeni Mwaka, 40, another single mother, says that she finds it offensive to be accused of using my children as a means of financial gain.

“Most of us are simply trying to navigate the challenges of parenthood as best as we can," she says.

On her part, Amina Ramadhani, 29, a single mother, comments, "It's unfair to generalise and accuse all single mothers of exploiting the system. Many of us are doing our best to provide for our children in difficult circumstances. We shouldn't be judged based on the actions of a few."

On top of that, Prisca Komba, 32, a single mother, says, "Being a single mother is not a choice anyone makes lightly. It's insulting to suggest that we would put our children through turmoil just to gain financially. I think we deserve more respect and support, not baseless accusations caused by a few single mothers."

However, Ms Linah Kabula, a sociologist and lecturer from Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT), claims that the notion that single mothers intentionally manipulate situations to become single and then exploit their children for financial gain is an oversimplification of a complex social issue.

"It's important to recognise that while some women may engage in manipulative behaviour to become single mothers and exploit their children for financial gain, it's not representative of all single mothers,’ she notes.

She says each case is unique, and generalising the matter only perpetuates harmful stereotypes. Instead, we should approach each situation with nuance and empathy, understanding the complex dynamics at play.

“By recognising the diversity of experiences among single mothers and treating each case according to its individual circumstances, we can provide more effective support and solutions that address the underlying issues contributing to family instability," she suggests.

On his part, a psychologist from Saint Augustine of Tanzania (SAUT), Fr Leons Maziku, explains that while it's true that interpersonal conflicts and financial strains can arise in any family dynamic, attributing malicious intent to single mothers as a whole is unjust.

“It's crucial to recognise the complexity of human relationships and the diverse motivations behind individuals' actions. Rather than vilifying single mothers, we should foster understanding and support, addressing the underlying emotional needs and systemic factors that contribute to family challenges,’ he shares.

He adds: “By promoting empathy and collaboration, we can create a more compassionate society where all families receive the assistance and respect they deserve."