Africa is changing. The advocacy of socio-political and economic equality of sexes in the continent has raised the bar for women to be treated the same way as men with regards to same rights, power and opportunities.
For a hundred years, women especially in the Europe and America have continued to struggle for voting rights for women and equal guardianship. The Vancouver Sun published a letter from the Women’s Suffrage Association to Electors in August 1, 1916, “we do not claim that equal suffrage will be a panacea for all ills, but simply that it will bring about a fairer and more evenly balanced administration of affairs. It is just because men and women are different that women should have equal opportunities with the men to bring their own point of view to bear on the many political questions which affect them so vitally.”
However, women in pre-colonial Africa, such as Nigeria played significant roles in socio-economic activities of the society. Though it was largely a patrichal environment, women were in charge of domestic responsibilities. According to the Britannica, division of labour was along gender lines and women controlled food processing, mat, weaving, pottery making and cooking. They were able to access land through their husbands or parents. Younger family members were left in the care of older women.
In Yoruba land women achieved great social status in trade and business. Many of them rose to prominent positions and were given chieftaincy titles of the Iyalode, one of great privilege and power. Women gained authority. They had some level of political influence, especially senior women.
In Edo, Yoruba, and Hausa culture, the queen mother had considerable power with influence over meetings. These groups had a long list of heroines among who were Moremi of Ile-Ife, Amina of Zaria and Queen Idia of Benin.
Falola reveals that post-colonial Nigeria has witnessed the rise of elite women in leading positions, as a result of women involvement in education that is challenging many aspect of the patrichal society.
This change has led to the rise of women presidents in the continent of Africa, with the like of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Catherine Samba Panza of Central African Republic, Rose Francine Rogombe of Gabon, Agnes Monique Ohsam Bellepeau of Mauritius, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburi of South Africa, Joyce Hilda Banda of Malawi and Sylvie Kinigi of Burundi.
Photo credit: timesmonitor
Young African women perspectives about Feminism have actually changed with time with the rise of globalization. I ran into a young Nigerian woman on my way back to Nigeria from London and this was what she had to say. She told me what it means to be a feminist.
What is your name?
“My name is Kego.”
What do think Feminism represents?
“I believe that the term Feminism is taken to the extreme now. A true feminist is someone with the freedom to do what you need to do without someone forcing you, but sometimes it is double standard. For example, if a woman wants to pose naked, she has the right, but the Uber feminist feel she should be ashamed of herself, as in slot shaming, but for me it is her choice. I think feminist should hold on to what they are as female. They shouldn’t try so hard to keep up with men or try to be mannish. What we should do is get the men to respect us. We don’t want to walk in front of a man or behind him either, but side by side as a partner. This is what feminism is about.
What are the extremes of feminism?
“A woman goes to work, want to wear a power suit, or dress like a man. Unfortunately, growing up around men may tempt girls to want to look like them, that is an extreme, trying to go equal with them. The situation you find yourself, you either become aggressive, taking upon yourself a male characteristic.”
What do you have to tell young girls that want to emulate Tarzan female character in cartoon films?
“You mean like Tarzan chauvinist male. These characters try to make women more independent, but not to the detriment of disrespecting women.”
Don’t you think naturally we are created for different roles?
“We are fair enough. However, time has changed a lot of things. Women are now pilots, women can be soldiers, but that shouldn’t sexualize the female character.”