The most difficult thing in every girl’s life is trying to be strong for someone else. If we were able to purchase or borrow strength we would, but imagine what will happen when we run out of that borrowed and bought strength? That’s why I say we are better off without the absent fathers…

Imagine a girl that grows up in a warm home with an amazing, supportive and loving family. But there’s something missing: a man! All your life you’ve lived with women, they brought you up and made sure you never go wrong and never go alone.

I grew up in a family that was filled by women; my grandma, my mom, my aunts and my sister and not forgetting my cousins. Nothing was extraordinary – it was a home just like any other. The word ‘dad’ or ‘tata’ was used occasionally when we had visitors – when you just happen to come across a man you’d suspect was old enough to be called tata. Not that this really mattered to my gran or mom.

I grew up to understand that uTata is just someone who helps out around the house with heavy things, someone who fixes electricity, someone who raises his voice whenever you don’t pay attention to Mom, someone who’d protect us, someone who’d stand up for us whenever we are defeated, someone who’ll tell you “ndizakuwabetha la makhwenkwe mntanam sulila” (I’ll beat these boys, my girl, don’t cry!) someone who’d teach me to ride a bicycle, someone who’d teach you how to fight.

For a girl who grew up without a father I had to learn some things the hard way. I had to understand that men are not sculptures and they are not idols. They will be absent and they won’t come back. I had to fight with boys at primary school and had to learn how to fight while I’m in tears, but the absence of a father taught me to be a girl and a father to myself. Obviously not physically but rather the masculinity – the voice that says I’m not going to stop fighting until I know how to fight and conquer! That has made me who I am now.

Watching other kids with their fathers was not painful but it did make me curious. “Mmmh I wonder how it feels like to have a father who protects you,” was my question. It was just a question really. But when you think about it, it brings you back to your primary school life where you’ve watched boys laugh at a girl and call her stupid, where boys played ‘dangerous’ sport, such as soccer, rugby and cricket, while I had to play softball and netball… Why are boys extraordinary?

Perhaps their arms are strong, but not necessarily their heart. However, the different sports for boys never bothered me when I was young. But now that I’ve grown older it doesn’t make sense to me. I want to play rugby not because it looks cool but I want to prove that there is little difference between a man and a woman. A guy can run away from home and away from his kids and still be described as strong, and as the head of the home.

While I – who takes care of my kids, provides for them, loves and nurtures them, grooms them and teaches them not only to fight but to hold themselves in a respectable manner and be humble; who takes the kids to school for their first day, and loves them for all they are – am described not as the head of the home, but the help.