AU Watch

Women

African Women: Early History to the 21st Century
By Kathleen Sheldon

Synopsis
African women’s history is a topic as vast as the continent itself, embracing an array of societies in over fifty countries with different geographies, social customs, religions, and historical situations. In African Women: Early History to the 21st Century, Kathleen Sheldon masterfully delivers a comprehensive study of this expansive story from before the time of records to the present day. She provides rich background on descent systems and the roles of women in matrilineal and patrilineal systems. Sheldon’s work profiles elite women, as well as those in leadership roles, traders and market women, religious women, slave women, women in resistance movements, and women in politics and development. The rich case studies and biographies in this thorough survey establish a grand narrative about women’s roles in the history of Africa.

Women and the Remaking of Politics in Southern Africa: Negotiating Autonomy, Incorporation and Representation
By Gisela Geisler

Synopsis

This book traces the history of women’s political involvement in Southern Africa, in anti-colonial struggles and against apartheid, analyzes the post-colonial outcomes and examines the strategies that have been employed by women’s movements to gain a foothold in politics. It looks in detail at the experiences of women both in and with the women’s wings of political parties through the early years of independence up to today, discusses the successes and failures of national machinery for the advancement of women and analyses the activities of women’s movements over time. Extensive material from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa is compared and juxtaposed, as women politicians and women’s movements learned from each others’ experiences over time. The study also critically addresses the uneasy relationship between the women’s movements and the state, and between women activists and women politicians as they have negotiated cooptation, integration and exclusion. Based on an extensive literature review and innumerable interviews with women politicians and activists as well as fieldwork, and spanning half a century and half a continent, the historical depth and geographical spread of the study put it in a class of its own.

Re-Thinking Sexualities in Africa
By Signe Arnfred

Synopsis

The volume brings together papers by African and Nordic /Scandinavian gender scholars and anthropologists in an attempt to investigate and critically discuss existing lines of thinking about sexuality in Africa, while at the same time creating space for alternative approaches. Issues of colonial and contemporary discourses on ‘African sexuality’ and on ‘female genital mutilation’ are being discussed, as well as issues of female agency and of feminists’ engagement with HIV/AIDS. The volume contributes to contemporary efforts of re-thinking sexualities in the light of feminist, queer and postcolonial theory.

Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya
By Lynn M. Thomas

Synopsis
“In Thomas’s skilled hands, and in her unabashed love of story-telling, intimate events in Kenya help us think more clearly and more critically about Africa in the twentieth century. The politics of the womb are at the core of the colonial experience and of colonial politics. . . . Africans struggled amongst themselves over the regulation of reproduction, and these layers of intimate strife, and the policies and protests emanating from London and mission hospitals and African homesteads, give us something we haven’t had before– a gendered and transnational colonial history.”–Luise White, author of “Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa”


Women, the State, and Political Liberalization: Middle Eastern and North African Experiences
By Laurie A. Brand

Synopsis
History has shown that periods of political transition can be perilous, even when change is directed towards more open systems. While new or reformed regimes often promise greater respect for human and civil rights, an examination of women’s experiences in such contexts reveals a deterioration in political/civil status, reductions in the number of female legislators, increasing restrictions on reproductive rights and other legislative manifestations of an increasing emphasis on women’s role as wife and mother. Using the experiences of Eastern Europe and Latin America as a reference point, this book examines similar processes of change in the Middle East and North Africa.

Violence against Women in Africa
By Okereke, Godpower O.

Article excerpt

The United Nations’ report on the State of the World Population 2000 (United Nations, 2000b) and studies conducted by the World Health Organization (2000a) and Amnesty International (2004) all indicate that violence against women is rampant in Africa and is increasing in some areas. The following study is an effort to highlight some of the reasons why violence against women is particularly problematic in African. The study reveals that violence against women in Africa is mainly due to the existence of discriminatory laws, prejudicial and harmful customs, traditions, beliefs and practices, and partly due to non-enforcement of gender-sensitive laws and constitutional provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Based on these findings the author argues that a review of such discriminatory laws, enforcement of existing legislations and constitutional provisions coupled with public awareness campaigns on the part of African governments to inform the public about the ills of certain customs, traditions, beliefs and practices will help stem the tide of violence against

The Emperor Is Still Naked: Why the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa Leaves Women Exposed to More Discrimination
By Davis, Kristin

ABSTRACT

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa entered into force in 2005. Met with much celebration for the protection it would provide African women, the Protocol was heralded as one of the most forward-looking human rights instruments. Now, fifteen years after it was conceived, the Protocol deserves a full assessment of the issues that it has faced in accession and will face in implementation. This Note analyzes the way in which the Protocol was developed and the effect the Protocol’s language will have on its ability to achieve its object and purpose. This Note contends that certain language is too narrow, creating an over-specificity that will deter necessary countries from joining. However, this Note also asserts that certain aspirational provisions of the Protocol are overly broad, creating legal obligations that States Parties will be unable to meet. Ultimately, African countries with questionable women’s rights records will refuse to sign–States Parties will either be unable or unwilling to protect women to the extent required, leaving women in the same position as before. Worse yet, some States Parties may implement extreme measures that could increasingly disadvantage women over time. By relying on Western ideas of women’s rights and without explicitly determining how or if customary law will be considered in implementation, the Protocol faces serious obstacles on the domestic level. This Note concludes by asserting that unless States Parties consider a more grassroots, community-oriented approach to implementing the Protocol, the instrument’s requirements will remain unrealized, and women in Africa will remain marginalized.

Poverty among Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Selected Issues
By McFerson, Hazel M.

Abstract

Gender discrimination resulting in greater poverty among women is widespread throughout the developing world. However, the incidence of women poverty, as well as its depth and their vulnerability, is particularly marked in Sub-Saharan African countries of the tropical belt, albeit with significant rural-urban differences. The article reviews the interaction of traditional restrictions on women property rights, weak governance and violent civil conflict in perpetuating gender discrimination and women poverty in those countries. Statistics show some progress in women development indicators in Sub-Saharan Africa during the last decade, partly associated with improvements in governance and the end of civil war in some countries. Consolidating and advancing this progress requires targeted initiatives that take into account the circumstances of different groups of women while also encouraging the formation of bridging networks among groups and the provision of greater openings for women’s “voice”.

Present but Absent: Women in Business Leadership in South Africa
By Ndinda, Catherine; Ukeke-Uzodike, Ufo

Abstract

Women constitute forty six (46) percent of the economically active population in South Africa. Although both South African, African men and women are well represented in the economically active population, questions arise when it comes to their presence and effective representation at higher decision-making levels. Indeed, while African men and White women are present, White men dominate in top management. Through a gender analysis of current data on the labour force, this paper examines women’s representation in top decision-making for all employers (government and business) in South Africa. In discussing the trends, the paper highlights gender disparities in the advancement of women into top decision-making positions. The analysis further explores and identifies areas that need redress in bridging the gender divide in top management not only because of employment equity requirements, but also for the good business sense it makes to include women in leadership. The contribution of this paper lies in its identification of the barriers to women’s advancement in business leadership and the recommendations for policy and practice both at the micro- (firm) and macro(national-) levels.

Power and Womanhood in Africa: An Introductory Evaluation
By Afisi, Oseni Taiwo

Article excerpt

The leadership roles women have played in the development of various African societies cannot be underestimated. The contributions of women towards the social, economic, political and educational developments of African societies cannot also be gainsaid. In fact, traditional African society attached no importance to gender issues because every individual had a role to play both in the family as well as in the larger society. Each gender had its traditional role in the development of the society. In other words, the position of women was complimentary to that of men. There was the non-existent of gender inequality. Each role, regardless of who performed it was considered equally important because it contributed to the fundamental goal of community survival. What this simply implies is that indigenous people in Africa performed varying roles to maintain the efficient functioning of their society, prior to colonialism. The claim, therefore, is that gender inequality came with the advent of colonialism (St. Clair, 1994: 27).

In spite of the complimentary role women played to men, the dynamism that prevailed, ipso facto, was that there existed the patriarchy system where men were still seen as the head of the family and leader of the society. This therefore shows that traditional Africa was not based on gender inequality but a complement of gender, because each gender had a role to play in contributions to societal development.

Maintaining Power in the Face of Political, Economic and Social Discrimination: The Tale of Nigerian Women
By Agbese, Aje-Ori

Article excerpt

Abtract: This paper uses a historical analysis to discuss the strategies Nigerian women have used to maintain their identity, assert power, and participate in development at all levels in Nigeria. The paper examines these strategies in three eras–pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial–and argues that Nigerian women, despite the challenges they face, have always played a role in Nigerian society, and have .faced the need to redefine their roles in response to the structural constraints that define gender and gender equality during each era.