Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The African Woman and Feminism.

"Tufiakwa! Ndi feminist"
"Europeans have really brainwashed our women with this feminism nonsense "
" Feminism can never work in Africa. It is against our culture, gbam"
       On my journey as a burgeoning, young, African and female feminist, I have often found myself at a mental crossroads bearing two drastic choices.  The choice of either desecrating so-called ancient African traditions or shutting down my intellectual third eye. These choices all supported by a system that staunchly believes that feminism is unafrican, foreign, eurocentric, alien, an abomination (Aru! of the highest order). In the face of this, it has become imperative that we as Africans do a little torchlighting on the values that we hold dear.
        Feminism to my mind is the consciousness that the "fe" is as important as the "male" in female. It is a social and political movement that advocates for the  destruction of patriarchal systems in order to effect equality of sexes in all strata of human existence. The idea is not only restricted to equality but also addresses issues such as emancipation of women from archaic gender roles, independence etc. Feminism as a term is no doubt an import from European vocabulary but the feminist concept or rather the raison d'etre of feminism is as African as you and I. Generally African culture embodies  a humanistic characteristic which is the core of feminism - being humane, be it the culture of Ubuntu which preaches oneness (I am because we are) ie equality or the egalitarian culture of the igbos. This in no way suggests that cultures across Africa are the same. Africa is not a monolith continent so the traditions will definitely differ, but they are however essentially similar as regards equality.
        To suggest that feminism is unafrican is to dwell in a cocoon of ignorance, shutting out the plight and struggles of African women throughout  the existence  continent, and  to somehow denounce the ability of African women to conceptualize something as important as personal freedom, independence and equality. It is an attempt to place the African woman in a permanent position of always being an intellectual dependant on her European counterpart. It is somewhat of an irony because feminism in Africa took off at an earlier time even before the modern day European feminism was officially kickstarted. Perhaps we should be told of Makena, Queen of Sheba who singlehandedly ruled over her vast empire that included Ethiopia, or may Bakwa Kurunku who founded the Zazzau Kingdom. The present day Benin empire in Nigeria is considered male dominated but this was not the case in the past. Sources reveal that as far back as 1473 AD women were capable of ascending the throne if the first child (the heir)  was for any reason indisposed. This changed due to very superstitious beliefs. The northern Nigerian Kingdom of Kambudwa has been ruled exclusively by women ever since it was founded with  a matrilineal system in place. In 1887 during the Alaake crisis in Egba land, Madam Tinubu was a prominent political figure who aided campaigning, decision-making and organizing the elections.
              It continues to be ironical because it was just in 1948 that the US recognized females as being members of the military meanwhile in Africa female military generals were common place. An example is Queen Amina of Zaria in Nigeria and also Nzingi Mbandi, Queen of Matambara and Ndongo of Angola who was renowned across the continent for her shrewd skills at negotiation, diplomacy and guerrilla attacks. She was never caught during the 30 years war that ravaged her empire. African women were never confined to the kitchen in the past as see in ancient igbo civilization where women controlled  the economy because they dominated the trade sector.
       It can be concluded thus, that the myth of feminism being unafrican has only been accepted because it has been repeated a thousand times and the scale on the balance of power has in modern times slightly shifted to the males and of course the ruler decides the philosophy. Bearing in mind that in recent time the culture toward feminism has changed it is advocated that we redefine our cultural values as it is human beings that define not culture and not culture defining us. A recharacterization of the African narrative is indeed necessary to remind us of our roots. The past was female and the future will definitely be female again. Godspeed.

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