African Culture And Women

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Women In Africa

Posted by cultureafrico on February 27, 2011

From Egypt in the north to South Africa in the south calls for the recognition of the rights of women in each of the countries in Africa are urgent and insistent. Statistical data supports what the eye plainly sees, women throughout Africa do much more than their share of the work in many spheres of daily life. They maintain households, fetch firewood and water, work the fields, sell goods in the marketplace, and more. And yet the irony is that this work remains so invisible and undervalued that a chapter entitled “Women in Africa” still seems appropriate in a book such as this. (Imagine a chapter or a book entitled “Men in Africa”!)

The resource materials in this chapter shine a spotlight on the enormous contributions that women in Africa make on a daily basis. At the same time they underline the fact that “women’s work” continues to be circumscribed by traditional boundaries, eve n in situations where they have been actively involved in largescale political movements such as in South Africa. Viviene Taylor, National Social Welfare Policy Coordinator of the African National Congress, notes that “Women in South Africa are in the majority and have played a crucial role in the liberation struggle, yet they are under-represented in all spheres of life except at the lower end….The political and economic empowerment of women, both as representatives of the majority…and as representatives of the most exploited and oppressed class must be given concrete form and content” (Development 1994:2, p. 36).

The books and other resource materials in this chapter also call attention to the fact that women in Africa are defining and working out their “liberation” in their own terms. Mercy Amba Oduyoye describes the unique character and trajectory of women’s liberation in Africa in these terms: “While the [UN-sponsored] Nairobi meeting was in session [in 1985], African men were still snickering. But something new had touched the women of Africa, and they began to voice their presence. Women were standing up, abandoning the crouched positions from which their life-breath stimulated the wood fires that burned under the earthenware pots of vegetables they had grown and harvested. The pots, too, were their handiwork. Standing up straight, women of Africa stretched their hands to the global sisterhood of life-loving women. In no uncertain terms, African women announced their position on the liberation struggle and their solidarity with other women.” Oduyoye goes on to describe what their position and the ir solidarity means in the African context.

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