By Nimi Princewill
African culture isn’t bosom friends with women’s rights. Neither is religion a known admirer of ambitious women who demand equality with men. It only requires a bit of emotional blackmail to muscle a female into realizing that the male gender is king, the sole head and chief executive officer of the home in a traditional African society.
However, the last few years hasn’t been an entirely comfortable one for conservative African men, who are continually threatened by the feminist movement which is fast gaining the interest of more women around the continent. A new wave of enlightenment which aims to disinfect the minds of women against extreme submission to men, as it strongly crusades for gender equality. In fact, to a great number of African men, feminism is the new mental illness in Sub-Saharan Africa!
African feminism comes with alien demands like: Women sharing equal partnership with men in all facets of family life, abolishing male preference in politics, ensuring reproductive rights for women and girls, and recognizing the rights of women to hold religious titles without restraint to preside over men. The feminist movement also criticizes all forms of domestic violence (no matter how severe the provocation), and frowns at oppressive cultural practices like: child marriage, female genital mutilation, and most recently, its strong demand to discontinue the payment of bride price during marital rites, since of course, the bride isn’t for sale.
The proposed emancipation of women in Africa is likely to be a long term idealistic struggle, as patriarchy eats deep within the social and cultural systems of the African continent. Nonetheless, the women have neither cowered in fright nor lowered their expectations. The indoctrination of more women into feminism is on the increase!
Aside from the successes recorded in ensuring government’s protection of women against sexual/domestic violence and female genital mutilation through favorable laws in several regions in Africa, women have made significant strides in politics as well. In 2017, Rwandan women reportedly controlled 62% of the country’s legislative seats, the highest in the world. In other Sub-Saharan countries like South Africa, Senegal and Namibia, close to 40% of parliamentary seats are held by women.
Expectedly threatened by the sudden emergence of women in politics, Nigerian lawmaker, Gudaji Kazaure, recently had some advise for parliament. In his words, “It is good to give women opportunities in politics, entrepreneurship because of the good role they play in our lives. My fear is, the women control the men at home. If you give them too much opportunity outside the house, they will capture everything. If you give them too much chance, one day, they will overthrow us. One day you will come here and find women everywhere in this chamber and they will mess up.”
In a strongly religious and culturally conservative African society, it isn’t sane to make demands for gender equality. It isn’t alright to question the historic gendering of God as male, which gives influence to the superiority of men over women. It is psychotic to request equal partnership for husband and wife in the African marriage systems.
African women must keep up with the fight against gender discrimination, until the ‘deranged’ concept of feminism becomes the new standard of the African society.