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Why some parents are watching the family tree
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Why some parents are watching the family tree

African children who grow up in other countries and cultures can face a dilemma writes Metolo Foyet, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Cameroon now living in Niger, who argues that some of these children may be losing their attachment to home,  and falling in love with partners from other nations – much to the distress of their African parents. She tries to understand the perspective of concerned parents, while arguing that cross-national families create global citizens.

“My greatest regret is that my international career has contributed to your cousins’ cultural uprooting and limited attachment to home,” my uncle once confessed to me, and I confessed to him that my siblings and I had been accused of the same lack of attachment to home too. The argument we use to defend ourselves, I told him,  is that we are global citizens.

“There is no such thing. Global citizenship is an empty concept that is banned around,” I had been told. But is this really true? and why are some parents worried about their daughters getting married to foreigners?

The national identity crisis my siblings and I face, happened as a result of the kind of schools we were sent to, the kind of environment we grew up in, the kind of lifestyle my family worked so hard to offer us, so how can they expect us to marry Cameroonians when all our lives the people we have mingled and consequently fallen in love with aren’t Cameroonians?

I believe the advantages of cross-national marriages and  exposure to other cultures surpass the disadvantages. We have a better sense of how interrelated the world is and a greater awareness of the opportunities it offers. Our exposure to cultural differences and different social structures makes us better rounded individuals who can easily adapt in this constantly moving world.

My Uncle however, felt that I didn’t have have enough life experience to understand the dilemma  that parents face when their children opt for cross-national relationships and become “global citizens.”

He shared an example of a Scottish female friend who lived in Japan with her Argentinian husband.When it was time to retire,  they were torn by the question of where they would settle as each one wanted to settle back in their respective home country. Their busy kids were all married to foreigners and scattered around the globe. The parents did not divorce but had to organize meetings to get their family together at least once per year.

I  understand the concerns my Uncle and other parents like him have when their children marry non-Africans.The more Africans choose to marry other African nationals the better we will get to know our story, unite gradually and build our continent. Nonetheless, nowadays, we are so gadget-centered that we don’t value physical interaction in the same way. Marrying and moving away to other nations  may not be detrimental to families at all. For all we know, the children and grand-children of the Scottish and Argentinian couple my Uncle mentioned may have kept in touch through video calls and virtual interaction and not feel bad about it at all.

I realize though that all our parents want is for us to strengthen our family ties, contribute to national development and most importantly  always come back to our roots. That is why they give us local names for identification purposes. Our name is our spirit, our shield and we must always honor our ancestors, the ones who love us and watch over us.

I suspect they also don’t want to be abandoned in their houses, by children who would use busy schedules and distance as excuses not to visit them, and they certainly do not want globalization to change who we are and make us forget where we’ve  come from.

For those facing the challenges of the modern multinational and multicultural family, an important step is to have meaningful conversations on the topic – like my Uncle and I did.

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photo credit: Rhythm-in-life via pixabay (license)

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About me: I am a social entrepreneur with a focus on education, agriculture and cybersecurity.

I have a track record of adding value to organisations by delivering innovative projects that engage stakeholders. I have expertise in public affairs, strategic communications, translation, research and development, product design, grassroots development and project management across the not-for-profit and private sectors.

I paint, write, and am an environmental, travel and sports enthusiast. I envision a career in the public service, especially the UN.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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