The pains of an African woman

African women have suffered. May God make a day for their freedom and development. Amen. But O African women, unite and rise to make a change in your destiny!

The story of the sufferings inflicted on women in Africa and how they are dealt with by their male counterparts cannot be told and completed in a day. In a summary note, African women are overworked, underdeveloped and mismanaged. What I mean is that a larger percentage of the women are so. There is no doubt that a few percent can be proud of not falling into the category of women being discussed here.

It has been ordained by the Almighty that women are to bear the pains of pregnancy and putting the child to birth. They are also to cater for the babies by breast feeding them and giving them all the motherly cares and love. But it should not be the duty of the African woman to completely take all the responsibilities of the children even if they are capable. Divine doctrines do not recommend or support it.

In many parts of the black continent, women are left by their husbands to take the responsibility of feeding their children and providing other primary needs of life. Though patriarchy is the recognized system in many African countries, matriarchy is practically the leading system in many families. This has left the women to carry heavy burdens on their shoulders, thus weakening their relevance in the leadership struggle. The enormous family demands ranging from procreation to keeping the family together has remained a major setback for the African women. Although laudable as it has been painstakingly sustained by the women, it poses a challenge to the men who are expected to fasten steps to develop the women who are their wives, daughters or sisters to withstand the ever growing tasks for women in the contemporary world.

Few instances would suffice to illustrate the level of difficulties and misfortunes the African woman encounter. A visit to the customary courts will avail the reader to grasp the worries of this writer. Their condition is pathetic and calls for serious attention. The woman is left to her fate in most cases. There is a story of how women are chastised every year against adultery and those who are discovered to have committed it are forced to sacrifice animals to appease the gods of the land. The process is said to be a tedious one which includes stripping part of their bodies naked in the presence of men, taking oaths and undergoing certain conditions before the gods of the land. But men are left to do what they like and go free.

There is an instance of a man who has two wives with seven children from each, but has no handiwork. The wives compete to have more children. They will quarrel when the man did not sleep with any of them. They will fight that the man sleeps more with one than the other. They will compete in taking care of the man for the only reason that they are married to a man. They will even monitor each other and report to the husband of the dishonest movements of the other.

Another instance is about a man who has more than two wives but with very little fortune. He can definitely not cater for the many children he has but one wonders why another woman will agree to join the already uncared for and suffering wives. The incoming woman will even be ready to cause trouble with the other women already in trouble as wives. The funniest part of it is that the man will not attempt to stop any quarrel by the women over him. All he is after is the one who will show infidelity of sign of disrespect to him.

There was a woman who at the hit of her quarrel with her counterpart said, “What does this man have that we die for him. After all, I feed him more than you do”. This statement yielded her a quick notice to pack out of the house and go back to her parents. Such situations where women are used and dumped abound. The traditional courts hardly stand firm in their defense. The village elders who preside over the local courts have subordinated the women and limited their rights to works in farmlands and procreation, amidst pains and pangs, and entertainments for the men through cultural displays.

In many villages, women – wives – are beaten like children. Some men turn their wives into punch-bags and threaten them with the termination of their marriages if they dared raised a voice against their inimical acts. There are cases where pregnant women are beaten to comma because of trivial argument or demand which naturally should be the responsibility of the husband.

There are also cases where wives are used for sacrifices for money-making by their presumed husbands. Any visitor to African farms will find majority of them being the women. And painfully, some of them deliver babies in the farms or on their ways to or from the farms – a time when they need the care of their husbands and the people around them. And just few days after delivery, the woman is on her feet struggling with the child tied to the back to keep the soul and body together.

In the educational circle, women are not trained in schools. Although the trend of denying the female child the right of education is vehemently being fought by human rights activists and organizations, there is still very wide gap between the thrust for male-child education and that of female-child. This denial, in turn, has continued to hinder development of the girl-child, leading to lack of exposure and the adherent vulnerability to life risks especially those related to the female folk.

The greatest disadvantage of this denial is child abuse. It is strange and awful the story that some parents and guardians deliberately deflower their female children and wards with their hands for the singular purpose of sending them into prostitution. In one of the North African countries, it is alleged that a guardian would force a female child to flirt for money. The harsh order to the teenager is “Go and get money”.

Women do not get any material heritage. In many countries, heritage is only a man's affair. A woman who struggles with the husband to build the family and secure the future of the children by investing, would be fought to a standstill by the family members of the husband when he is dead. They would collect everything from her. In short, in some places, it is traditionally accepted that the woman becomes the property of the brother to the deceased husband. This implies that the woman has no right to choice of hers. It is condemnable and barbaric.

In politics, the difference is clear that African women have not been given their rights. The 30 percent of elective positions that is recommended by the Beijing 1995 resolution to be reserved for women is occupied by men. A lot has to be done to liberate the African woman. Even as it is not yet uhuru for the African men, there is always the belief that the woman should be the complement of the man. There can be no meaningful life without the woman. It is like the two palms that must rub each other and coexist for peace, progress and life continuity. So I strongly believe that the development of the African woman is pertinent to the development of the black continent.

Ajah, a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance writes from the FCT, Abuja ([email protected])

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah