During our first week in Zambia it became apparent to us that family life and marriage differs greatly from that of Ireland. The major difference is polygamy, which is not uncommon in Zambia. The three farmers who we encountered had more than one wife and had numerous children. Although Zambia is a predominantly Christian nation, polygamy is a cultural norm. As a result of choosing to have multiple wives, families are typically larger. We met a group of brothers who were unable to tell us how many siblings they had, as there were simply too many to count!
On Luyando farm, we were witness to the family unit acting as a labour force. The young daughters of the local farmer worked alongside us in the fields, however there was a huge contrast between the children and ourselves in that we had trainers and work gloves, whereas most of them were working barefoot. Despite their young age (between five and fourteen), the daughters displayed both physical strength and maturity beyond their years. It was clear to us that many of the children we encountered on the rural farm area didn’t have access to education. This was obvious to us through their lack of English (English is the official language of Zambia) and also in the way that they were necessary to the running of farm. We felt that they were seen as being functional and as a requirement to the effectiveness of the running of the farm. We discovered that girls typically marry very young for this same reason.
Wives appear to contribute to a huge amount of work to the maintenance and upkeep of the farm. They work very long hours, engaging in very physically demanding work. We were particularly impressed by a farmer’s wife who whilst carrying a large bag of pig feed, lifted herself over a wall holding onto a bar attached to the ceiling with one arm.
We experienced a degree of gender inequality towards us being females on the SERVE team. Rather than communicating directly with ourselves, the male farmers would give instruction to the male members of the SERVE team, who would then have to relay it onto us. Having said this, we found our time on the farm to be very enlightening and we gained a deeper understanding of family life and marriage in rural Zambia.