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African Woman and Development:

Recycled Oppression

Jose? Torres

V.P. Epps-Sophomore Core

Due: March 30, 2000

The women of Africa have endured the systematic oppression of their development for countless

of years due to elements in cultural, political and, historical events. Long before British-colonial

occupation and the slave trade, the male dominated African tribal culture adhered to many

oppressive yet accepted and structured forms of role categorization of women in African society.

It is in examining the roots of such origins, that one can begin to understand the lineage of African

women?s? developmental hinderment.

The position of women in pre-colonial Africa was impeded mainly because of cultural

aspects of their way of societal existence. African females would be type-cast from birth and

instructed in manners of learning subservience, as is the case of human behavior in most societies,

as strict and hindering gender roles determined the path of their life (Dennis 69). As young girls,

African females developed very closely with their mothers and would aquier the constricting

elements that continue the ongoing chain of events. The young females would take part in the

daily duties of their mother and learn the oppressive traits as did their female ancestors before

them. They would perform back breaking chores for the tribal family in preparation and guidance

to their preset life stature. The developing youths would perform the very chores for their male

parent that would prime them for subservience to other men in time to come. They would walk

for great lengths to procure heavy buckets of water that was balanced on the head in most tribes,

as well as perform other domestic duties such as: cooking, cleaning, sewing and mending

garments, and other such tasks required of developing bride prospects. The same held true for the

young males of the tribe who performed male specific duties with their fathers at times. They

would be also negatively conditioned to become dominant over females of the tribe as they

worked ceaselessly with the seasons crops and other provisional duties. Through stories and

various teachings, young African girls and boys learned were conditioned to become

knowledgeable in the roles that are preset for them. Young men were taught to provide for their

family and to exhibit dominance over their female counterparts. Young females were taught to

respect men and were primed to the future of one day marrying and appeasing their own husband

and following the same guidelines of their female lineage, thus once again creating another

reoccurrence in the seemingly endless cycle of complacency. As this was all that was known to

them since birth, this disturbing level of complacency lead to the unquestioned acceptance and

redristibution of such oppression to future generations of young men and women (Achebe).

The religions of African tribal cultures conceived that the position of women within their

society was complementary to that of men. The societies of early African tribes believed men to

be spiritually superior to women, fashioning powerful gods in the form of man, in opposition to

peaceful female deities in further attempts to have total control.

?The religions of many Nigerian societies recognized the social importance

of female gods of fertility and social peace, but women were also associated

with witchcraft which appeared to symbolize the potential social danger of

woman exercising power uncontrolled by men (Terborg 22).?

African women, conditioned to be subservient and upholding of the social integrity of the tribe,

were still only considered to be fulfilling their obligations to the men and oftentimes the arduous

efforts and work performed by the women of the tribe would not even be considered as arguable

or an issue at all. Duties that in American society today are viewed as heavy labor or ?mans

work,? would almost always be performed by the female in service of the leader of the family

(Dennis 56). The negative mental programming and control of African women, is further

reinforced by the males of the tribe believing their actions to be true. The justification of such

practices is that it has been their way of life as their gods have proclaimed it to be. The

complacency of the women, who are conditioned from birth, in the practices of such oppression,

is the product of pre-existing and ongoing religious and cultural oppression. Male dominance is

justified as to use culture and religion as an important means in controlling women by explaining

that women acting outside of their expected and appropriate social role, unconfined by men,

would lead to dangerous results (Dennis 23).

The colonization of African by European powers, introduced new religion, economy,and

government that had varying effects on African women?s? development. Christian missionaries

introduced religion that slowly yet systematically deconstructed native African religious ideals of

superior male gods. The concept of equality amongst the Christian god, appealed to most women

who secretly strived for such equality even though wary of leaving their way of life. The prospect

of equality and respect appealed to many female African women as they were fearful of the

menacing native male gods. They were also attracted to promised absolution from domestic

violence as it was a very prevalent issue in pre-colonized Africa. The arrival of the missionaries

introduced an alternative religion that was more appealing to African women in regards of certain

human rights issues (Terborg 34).

This soon was followed by the arrival of colonial administrators introduced European

oppressive issues amongst the female population. Their ideas of the appropriate social role for

women differed from the traditional role of women in indigenous areas of Africa. The ideas of the

colonizers embraced the assumptions that women belonged in the home, tending to meals,

domestic activities: including child rearing and cleaning, and child rearing. The European ideal of

female responsibility isolated the African woman in the home with many duties being left undone.

It was the mandate of in some areas government interventions were used to ensure that the

European newly introduced oppressive factors would be upheld. The foreign and unwelcome

mandate made it impossible for women to aid the family by creating various crafts and duties to

help supply her family income. The colonization of Africa witnessed European governments

imposing different oppressive ideals on African women by means of exploitation. The Europeans

took advantage of raw materials of the land as well as what was also perceived as ?raw,

uncivilized? people whom they could exploit as well as the land (Afsha 69).

The imported ideals and restrictions that colonial governments placed on women in

indigenous societies of Africa, lead to the deconstruction of native ideals and factors. The

Europeans exchanged a complacent form of hindrance to women?s? development and replaced it

with a nearly destructive regime of damaging proportions. Colonialism disrupted the traditional

system of former oppression and production, reinforcing those existing systems of social

inequalities and introducing new forms of oppression not congruent with the African person?s way

of life.

African women?s development has been impeded through social inequality and oppression

throughout history. The tribal culture of learned oppression has been prevalent from the first

spoken stories. The assigning of oppressive and domineering gender roles masked the social

inequalities made complacent through generational instruction. These social issues were further

justified through the use of religion as well as cultural factors. The introduction of a exploitive and

similarly oppressive foreign aspect served to further reinforce the current impediment of women?s

development and further served to dismantle native societal culture.The impediment of African

women?s development has always been an issue in the oppression of women. The continuing

aspect of gender roles as well as political and social stereotyping will continue to serve as the

catalyst for the structuralization of who anyone is and sometimes who they are to become.

Terborg Rosalyn Women in Africa and The African Dispora Howard University pub.

Achebe Chinua Things Fall Apart Bantam Doubleday Dell pub. inc.

Afsha Haleh Women, State and Ideology Lynne Rienner pub..

Dennis Carolyne Women and State in Nigeria Wadsworth pub. co.

Terborg Rosalyn Women in Africa and The African Dispora Howard University pub.

Achebe Chinua Things Fall Apart Bantam Doubleday Dell pub. inc.

Afsha Haleh Women, State and Ideology Lynne Rienner pub..

Dennis Carolyne Women and State in Nigeria Wadsworth pub. co.

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