Role of Women in African Societies

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Although women are always recognized to take a leading role in the family and have always been proud of being mothers and wives, feminist ideology has successfully inspired the majority of females to consider themselves as greater and way more important actors of society. For an ancient time, it was extra challenging to point out women’s function due to the fact they did not have so many possibilities to specify themselves as a human and a female in the society. I would like to explain the function of women in African societies, but without a doubt, Africa is outstanding according to its vicinity and lifestyle; therefore, women’s role over there differs even from one country to another. Thus, to deeply analyze the role of women in African societies, we need to evaluate it from various perspectives such as cultural factors, education, and human rights.

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Above all, expressing the role of women in Africa, or any other civilization, it is crucial to investigate it by looking at cultural factors. For instance, in African societies, women are supposed to behave appropriately in the sense that they need to take care of children, be a good wife and especially be respectful to elderly people. Unquestionably, there is male dominance in African societies as men have more autonomy and self-reliance. Women show affirmation towards male dominance and advocates of this affirmation claim that it is what society requires. Nevertheless, from my point of view and according to feminist ideology, women were unconsciously persuaded to be dependent on men for protection. Researches reveal that most of the scholars who wrote about this topic quote women’s role in Africa as “jural minors” who are about to be protected first by their fathers, then by their husbands. The question arises: To what extent we can reasonably agree with that idea? Personally speaking, I do not recognize it as a feasible idea, not anymore. It may be justifiable for some period in history when there was a certain need for physical protection but in the contemporary world, I am a strong believer of “nobody owes you anything” perception. The reason for this perception is the fact that advances in technology and societies overall fabricated many opportunities to stand on your own two feet and if you are good enough, nobody can stop you from doing it. NDONGKO (1976) asserts that “some informants really have the opinion that women spend their lives under male dominance, submitting first to the authority of their parents and later to that of their husbands. These informants will content that women never attain legal independence” (p.144). It implies the declining power of women in society. It is still controversial to strongly claim that it was either cultural values or societal expectations. However, one thing is obvious: most of the women in African societies still attest to this situation and agree with it as they believe it is a part of their culture. Thus, I assume this is the first phenomenon to be changed and advanced.

Further, I would like to touch upon another essential issue that creates a domino effect in African societies. Financial issues, lack of education, and social pressure are the factors that lead to early marriages. Early marriages generate mental and physical problems for women. As a result, those women cannot properly perform their actual role which is cultivating and educating families and society overall. An old saying goes: “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”. It is a very unfortunate case that in African societies it is way harder for women to have access to education and other productive resources. Hence, they get paid a lot less and it leads them to be dependent on males. It is a vicious circle. I personally advocate that governments must take strong actions to enhance opportunities for women and inspire them to take an active part in society. I strongly believe that it will have a long-term impact in every phase of society including the economy, education which will further lead to the improvement of a country.

To further analyze the role of government on this issue, it is essential to mention that some African countries such as Ghana have laws and regulations that preserve women’s rights. Nonetheless, the majority of women are incapable of understanding and interpreting those laws. It is quite clear that it is due to a low level of literacy, knowledge, and skills. Data compiled by the National Council for Women and Development reveals that participation of women in the power sources of the country is only about 20 percent. There used to be no female president in any country of Africa, few of them served as prime ministers. I believe the reasons are poverty, ignorance, culture, and other correlated factors.

The recent study concludes: “Women’s Indigenous knowledge, material, and cultural practices are pertinent to alternative forms of development in Africa” (Otto, 2014, p.124). Obviously, women are fundamental for improving the quality of education, economy, and life in its broadest sense. Therefore, I strongly believe that Non-governmental Organizations should definitely engage in some activities and campaigns to raise awareness about this issue and promote women’s active participation in the power structures of a country. Although I always support seeing things from many perspectives, I think in this situation, there is no other perspective to be considered. To be more specific, we can never support the idea of oppressing women’s rights due to any kind of reason. For instance, some may claim that women are not well capable of working in strategic level management and even support this argument with sufficient data. Nevertheless, I claim that historical data may never truly predict the future. Therefore, I highly encourage women to ignore all the stereotypes and do their best. I constantly realize that some women cannot successfully use those factors as an excuse as if they were prevented to be successful. It may be true for some societies like African; however, in modern societies, that is no more than a weak excuse. To conclude this point, I would like to state that if we train the mindset of women in African societies, it will have greater results than training them to grasp some skills.

Low participation of women in social life as education and employment is not exclusive for Africa. However, in contemporary regions of the developing world, improvements are faster and more significant in comparison to changes in Africa. In my opinion, it is dysfunctional to separate the world into regions and countries even on such a sensitive topic. It is time for integration and global citizenship. Being a world citizen, in its broadest sense, means realizing the fact that there may be other people, regions, and countries but there is no other world. We may have different perspectives, but we need to have one goal: a better world. For that better world, developed countries need to start thinking about solid solutions for regions that cannot manage to develop their own solutions. It is a must for one more reason: developed countries are one of the major causes of underdevelopment in Africa as they colonized and exploited Africa throughout history which led to severe consequences. In Africa, we want to see more women joining the powerful structure of the government and economy, more girls getting an education, and a better world as a consequence. As Michelle Obama once said, there is no limit to what women can accomplish.   

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