There is an adage that says change is inevitable. The way a lot of things such as dressing, language, food and dancing are conducted in the Malawian society keeps changing with time.
Among the things that keep on changing, norms and cultures are not exceptions. They have also fallen victim to change.
One of the traditions that have changed with time is the way pregnant women, their spouses and households were supposed to live and observe several traditional practices in the past and how they are living these days.
In the past, in the Chewa culture, as read in the book Maliro ndi Miyambo ya Achewa by Archibald Makumbi, and other notable cultures such as Lomwe, a pregnant woman was not allowed to add salt to any cooked meal in the household for fear of causing a disaster in the household as that was regarded taboo.
These days, with the coming in of education, people have realised that it was just a fallacy and there is no harm in a pregnant woman adding salt to any meal in the home.
Apart from pregnant women being stopped from doing so, girls who had reached puberty were also advised to avoid the same whenever they were in their menstrual periods for fear of bringing tsempho (the taboo disease in which body wasting is a sign, thought to be caused by improper implementation of ancestral and customary rules) to the household.
This culture is also long gone, though being practised in some rural areas, especially among the Lomwe where it is always a norm that a girl past puberty should always call for a minor to add salt when preparing meals.
According to Traditional Authority Mlauli of Neno, a pregnant woman was also not allowed to sleep with her husband after six months of her pregnancy and three months after she had given birth as this was deemed as a taboo that would cause a miscarriage.
But that tradition is also discouraged in most cultures these days as it was noted that it was pushing the men to go and seek conjugal pleasure outside their homes, thereby bringing diseases in the household.
Triphonia Kadzuwa, a traditional birth attendant at Kalinde Village T/A Mlauli in Neno, said even the TBAs have taken up the fight against such a practice as these are different times and it is difficult because a lot of infections have affected the families.
“The traditional practice of deterring a pregnant woman from sleeping with her husband for six months should be stopped as it is very difficult for a man to go for six months without sleeping with his wife and this tradition forces him to seek sex from outside the home, something which is very dangerous to the health well-being of the woman and the baby,” said Kadzuwa.
Nowadays, a pregnant woman is even encouraged to continue sleeping with her husband up to the day she goes into labour and just several weeks after she has given birth as all the misconceptions on the tradition practice have been cleared.
On another note, as also written in Maliro ndi Miyambo ya Achewa, a Chewa pregnant woman was not allowed to go and watch gulewamkulu as the old people had a mentality that the woman will deliver a baby with gulewamkulu features.
This is also one of the traditional misconceptions that has changed with time as women, pregnant or not pregnant can go and watch any traditional dance they choose.
Makumbi also wrote that a man was also not allowed to see a pregnant wife giving birth but was allowed to come after the whole process had been finalised-the woman and the baby cleaned and dressed properly. This too has changed, a man is given a chance to be present right in the labour room when the wife is giving birth so that he appreciates what it takes to give the gift of life.
With things fast changing every day, we can be assured that these changes will also be subjected to change itself and we will have new traditional and norms to follow.