By Felly Oyuga

In my opinion, there is no greater hindrance to the growth and development of the African woman like religion.  Before you get excited or call me a heathen, let me make it clear that I have nothing against God.  It is the custodians of ‘God’s perfect ways’ that I may not agree with.

So why do I say religion hinders the progress of the African woman?

Well for starters, I feel religion has contributed to the spread of diseases like HIV/ Aids. Women with philandering husbands have been asked by the church to pray for them. Pray without ceasing. God hates divorce. Those who have been deemed lucky have ‘received’ their miracles, while most have contracted HIV in their homes. Many lives have been cut short, because ‘God’ hates divorce or condoms are banned in marital unions.

Some churches today are kept afloat by the ‘sacrificial’ offering:  God must get his 10% of the congregation income, after all.  I pity the African woman as she takes her offering to the church, built on her sweat, in the hopes that her prayers will be answered.  But this ‘God’ is never satisfied and her prayers often fall on deaf ears as she suffers from poverty and disease. Her husband still prefers other women to her, puts his beer ahead of financially supporting the household and mistreats her verbally and/or physically despite her commitment to him. Her children go hungry and education is still a struggle. Yet every Sunday, she will be in church lifting her hands trying to reason with a God that is only looking at her pocket. What if she used her money on herself and her children? Spent time at home resting instead of in a house of worship?

When life has become too much to bear, nothing is going right, she is in despair, religion does not allow her to seek proper medical care for her anguish. The church will demand that she prays! The devil is attacking her. When all she needs is psychiatric care, a qualified counselor to help her work out life’s challenges. She will instead be convinced by a religious instructor that her ‘trials’ have been caused by a curse or devil or witchcraft. She will then spend valuable time trying to pray away a problem that may have been treated had she sought out medical care.

A religious woman is always expected to seek justice from God. You hear them say, do not even bother with so and so, just pray, God will deal with them. You then wonder what we have a legal system for. The one that takes the cake, is when a woman in being bullied into taking back a wayward spouse. ‘Forgive him and forget, after all, God has forgiven you of all your sins’. Like God’s forgiveness comes with conditions or expectations.

I do not like this God of these custodians. I do not like this religious God. What if the real God created the African woman to be whole. What if he wanted her to be vibrant and free? What if He did not get mad or jealous or angry when she saved a bit of money to buy a dress for herself? What if he gave her a will, so that that she could decide for herself if a marriage or relationship was right for her or not? What if she did not need permission to make decisions that concerned her body? After all he did give it to her and she knows what is good for her, yes?

As an African woman, I prefer the God that allows us our free will, not a God that holds us back. Does God love the African woman? My God does!