Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Who Fights for the African Woman? Few days ago, the world celebrated the International Women Day, commemorating women contributions to the world over the years.
As an African woman, I join the world to say Kudos to my fellow women compatriots both at home front and abroad. At the same the mourn for the deplorable and harsh conditions African woman go through. It is true we are slowing hitting up for good for the African woman, but still lots need to be done to improve their lots.
A recent survey on the worst treated women in the world released by the international humanitarian organization CARE, Africa was ranked seven as the most horrible treated women in the world. Should this be a celebration or condemnation? What does an African woman has to celebrate?
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand the effects of female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual abuse, and violence, lack of access to health care, decision-making, gender discrimination and illiteracy on women development in Africa. What is most tragic is the fact that women are victimized at three levels: location in society; culturally programmed to suffer from the ills of patriarchy; materially deprived at one level and institutionally marginalized to enjoy some of the fruits of the struggle for gender equality in the modern world.
As women are celebrated around the world, there is a need in Africa for struggle to correct the errors of yesterday and address the challenges of today. Identifying the problems and woes of the women folks, one begins with the idea of womanhood and the nature of suffering on the African continent. The first grievance is the imposed silence in the relationship between the women and their male partners. Condemned to be pleasure units whose purpose in life is to satisfy the sexual needs and demand of men, and to do everything within their power to outsmart each other in the fulfillment of this role, it is imperative for some if not many of us to solve these problems. What does this mean to a woman? It means that the personality and dignity of woman needs to be seriously evaluated and the forces and factors responsible for the deterioration of women in social intercourse be fussed on and addressed immediately.
The manner in which the women defines themselves as a part of the animal kingdom must go beyond that which makes men to create endless synonyms for the defining sexual characteristics of women.. As the case maybe, women should speak up and take charge, take their gender seriously and organize themselves in a way that men look at them not as pleasure units but as partners in progress and development.
Through these longstanding methods of manipulations, women have suffered and are still continue to suffer at the hands of men. Searching for fun and sexual gratification, women have languished under the thick boots of play boys and abusing philanders.
In the African situations, many young women have suffered sexual abuse and rape within and outside their families. Rape most often is a taboo to bring to the open especially when the man committing this offence is a family member, a powerful politician, an Eze or Oba, a village Chief, bacon of society, a businessman, or even young boys. The list goes on. As if violating the woman is not enough, they also infect them with the AIDS virus.
These tragedies are compounded due to the negative impact of patriarchy which is the traditional license for men to treat women as second class citizens, marrying as many wives as possible and having as many mistresses as possible. This ancient tradition which goes to King Sulayman and his numerous wives on the one hand, and to the African kings in the pre-colonial era on the other, is now the source of grave danger to women and society. Traditionally African men hates the use of condoms, many draw on their pleasure units without precautions. As a result, the emergence of HIV AIDS becomes the brutal enemy of African health and social security. Moving from one bed to the other, this disease that has wreak havoc throughout the continent, particularly in central and east Africa has accompany the men who take pride in their sexual conquests. African men most of whom refuse to be tested even when they suspect they could have the HIV epidemic, they still go about sleeping around with women unprotected.
It is tough to get going in Africa, tougher to get going as an African woman.
To able to get a job, loan, education, you must belong to the middle class, which means the majority of the population is left out, the majority of the population are women, the majority of the population are poor. 85% of the population lives below poverty line.
Men are able to do all these because most African women are insecure; African women are yet to make a significant inroad towards economic gains, and decision-making, while at the home front, their biological human rights are constantly violated and under treat.
The man is always in charge especially, in matters of sex. The woman feels incapable and helpless to be able to make decision on how she wants her body treated. Most often, men beat women for refusing to have sex with them or refuse to have sex without protection.
As a result, they woman is infected, she got pregnant, she gave birth, the child is infected, the mother gets really sick, no money for medicine or education for the child. The woman dies; the circle starts all over with this child in the vicious circle of poverty, abuse and neglect.
Through my observations over the years and experience talking to some of these women, I identified as primary causes material poverty and social entrapments. What I am saying is that the lack of economic and material resources has made it difficult for many women to take charge of their lives.. In the absence of such opportunities, many trade their bodies for pleasure gains for men and in doing so, they become subservient to men. It is also noteworthy to say that since majority of these women are poor and uneducated, they do not know their basic human rights or how to fight for it.
This can only be achieved through the rule of law. The absence of traditional or modern institutions to protect the weak, the vulnerable and the determination of freedom from the male folk complicates matters. For example, if a woman is forced to have sex with her husband, can she pick up the phone to call somebody, an agency, is there any institution or structure where she can go for protection? Nowhere! Even families are up on the gain. The role of the traditional family plays some negative role. Most families will send the woman back to the abusive husband. In their eyes, they woman is always at fault. Women are generally taught never to refuse sex to their husbands. If a woman goes against this rule, she will never be accepted by her family. She will be sent back to her abusive husband, with the warning, “Learn how to behave like a woman to your husband” She will be forced to apologize to the man. The fate of an African woman is not a good one. They are so enslaved that they are afraid to fight for themselves.
The African women are equally in denial because they feel there must be a man in order to be recognized. They have to get up and fight for themselves; no one will do it for them.
No one is going to give you emancipation; unless you fight for it.
The good news is this struggle for gender equality is here; we are moving on to the end.
I will conclude this with Dr. Sulayman Nyang’s reflections on what he called “The Human Conditions” On Women he wrote; “Women are the mothers of men
They are the protection of children
The are the custodians of nature’s treasures
They are the eyes of the race
They are the supplementary angles in the geometric problem of existence”
In other words nothing that is would be without women. Women are the past, the present and the future, let’s treat them with respect and honor. They are our mothers.
Eucharia Mbachu is the founder and President of Voices of Women and Children in Africa and Diaspora
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