A lot of controversy has surrounded the role of women in Africa over the years. Many have seen the role of the African woman as one of subservience, to be seen and not to be heard. Contemporary happenings have even portrayed the African woman as an asset to be acquired and traded or transferred at will. In some contexts she cannot even own property and in many till date she is not recognized and until recently had limited voting rights. The phenomenon of the down trodden African women is one that spawns the length and breadth of the continent from Cape to Cairo. There has been a limitation if not outright relegation of the African woman and a range of convenient walls have been successfully built around her. These walls vary from religion to culture and in some cases it is just downright placed on human nature.
Many argue that because the woman is the ‘weaker sex’ she has to be relegated to the background and catered for by a man. But research has shown that in most African cultures, the woman is usually the hardest labourer when it comes to contributing to the family pot. This combined with her natural roles of child bearing and home keeping make a lie of the ‘weaker sex’ concept which is a generally acceptable reason for her relegation. Incidentally, the “weaker sex” concept is intricately tied to the “weaker brain” concept. Hence women are seen as not being as intelligent as men.This has invariably led to a reduction in the rate of her contribution to socio political development of her community.
But today the world and inherently Africa is waking up to the power of the girl child, maternal and child mortality has become a recurrent theme in many discusses. Concepts like ‘educating a woman is educating a nation” is starting to gain credence. It looks like somehow, the role of the African woman is starting to silently but powerfully fight its way to the fore as is with their very nature. Women are naturally resilient, focused and dedicated, and they eventually have their way. Perhaps the entire specie is displaying its strength in this resurgence that is suddenly, slowly but powerfully gaining ground.
The critical question of this submission however is that of where the African woman is coming from. Has she always been this quiet ‘to be seen and not heard’ character that contemporary times have played her as? Or has there been an involuntary evolutionary process that led to the position she occupies in the African context today. Is what we have today the real identity of the African woman? Or has she been beaten into assuming a position that was not originally or naturally hers but which she has tactically assumed with a view to resurfacing. We will try to explore the African woman’s antecedents from a historical and cultural perspective.
Let me start by saying this position is my personal opinion based on my personal reflections and glimpses into silent portions of African history. For example, the bond between Africa and womanhood seems intricately woven and this can be perceived from the general reference to the continent in the feminine prose ‘mother Africa’. In my mind this goes deeper than a mere umbilical connection between the people and the land to a more purposeful recognition of the power and role played by the gender so affectionately referred to. I will try to look a little beyond that juxtaposition to certain historical facts that reject the relegated position of today’s African woman with the view to concluding that her current position is not as it was in the beginning. I will also attempt despite the likelihood of stirring up controversy to look from the religious lenses to show that the role of the woman is not necessarily one of ‘weaker sex, weaker brains’ especially for the creation theorists (of whom I’ am one) among readers.
Please join me as we explore this highly misunderstood and relegated character called the African woman in the African historical context and the case of her identity theft. Let us try to tear down these walls that have been used to hide the true identity of the African woman. Many have argued that the role of the African matriarch is merely mythical and a pacifist ploy by the dominant patriarchal apologists to placate women and enshrine a romanticized ideologue of the once powerful woman. I beg to disagree. In my opinion history remains the greatest forms of revival know to man. It awakens hidden passions that drive people towards achievements and attainments that would not have dreamt of without it. And to those who claim that most of matriarchal African history is mythical, I say if this were so, the let it be, if it would awake the giant in the African woman and push her to taking her rightful place. Join me:
Historical Walls: The African continent is littered with great woman all through the ages of history. From medieval times to the contemporary, the blazing star of an African heroine has never been lacking. Women, who proved their mettle in what is largely perceived as a man’s world, led great empires into hitherto unseen heights. African women have played active roles through the ages, from military artistry, to the murky art of governance and even the hard heart of commerce. The pages of history are littered with likes of Queen Amina of zaria, who took the ancient city of zazau to new heights through her bravery and mastery of the art of warfare. Amina it was who honed her military skills and became famous for her bravery and military exploits. Interestingly Amina inherited her combative military nature from her mother Nikatau who is actually credited with building the city and naming it after her last daughter. Queen Amina grew so powerful that Sultan Bello commented on her saying “she made war upon these countries and overcame them entirely so that the people of Katsina and the men of Kano paid tribute to her”. Africa also boasts of great Queens like Queen Nzinga in what is modern day Angola. Also knows as Queen Jinga, she is known to have assigned women to important government offices in present day Angola. Two of her war leaders were reputedly her sisters, her council of advisors contained many women, among others her sisters, Princess Grace Kifunji and Mukumbu, the later Queen Barbara, and women were called to serve in her army. Nzinga organized a powerful guerrilla army, conquered some of her enemies and developed alliances to control the slave routes.
Looking forward to your comments….WATCH OUT FOR THE PART 2 OF THIS ARTICLE.