Feminism Versus African Traditions: Where Should The Line Be Drawn?
By Priscah Bichage
While the world seems to boast of how progressive it is with opinions, movements and inventions, somewhat, the people within the African continent are yet to open up to certain ideologies and in some cases closed any opportunities that may change or destabilize the status quo as they know it.
But, with feminism taking root in a continent where men and women are still deeply rooted in traditions, where is that thin line between upholding feminism and compromising the African traditions that have so far held the people within a certain way?
Maybe the question should be how relevant these African traditions in a woman’s life are today. Also, what are these traditions that we are talking about? A woman’s position in the society was not a fit across all communities. It varied. In our case, what exactly are we talking about when we ask on relevance of African traditions?
While the majority of people, who condemn, dislike and hate on feminism are men and a few women, with reasons being this movement has created a subtle war between men and women, there are also those who speak against feminism with little or no knowledge about what it is and what it is out to do.
Feminism is a wave of women empowerment. It is a drive geared towards emphasis on women being bold enough to claim for social, economic and academic positions rightfully.
But how do African traditions affect or effect the feminist movement within Kenya?
From a personal experience, my father has allocated me a share of land as inheritance, traditionally; women were not allowed to inherit property. So, is my dad a feminist? My dad believes that all the four of us are his children and who deserve equal share of his property.
A set of ideologies that places women and men at an equal opportunities disposal is surely a good thing. I would say that feminism is impactful, sustainable and profitable at all fronts. We should all be feminists.
While African women are still deeply rooted in African traditions even some that in some way enslave women, the role feminism can or should play in liberating African women is still a push and pull as most structures in our society are still patriarchal in nature.
We still have extreme scrutiny when, for example, a woman wants to vie for political elective position. We still have career and jobs that are deemed a preserve of men and most who push through have to work twice as hard, talk and in some cases dress and behave like a man does.
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Whenever a woman takes up the roles, tasks or these jobs, we will have the case singled out and headlined. The idea of feminism is seen as a fight with men, yet the nobility of it is raising women’s voice at the same table with men and being able to be listened to and their opinion acknowledged.
Feminism advocated the rightful bargain of the share, be it in resources or opportunities.
When it comes to marriage, this is really a choice. Traditionally, we still had men and women who chose to be and not to be in marriage and as regards, what a woman should do in a marriage, should be whatever they feel sits well with them.
Looking at the society today, everyone has a social DNA that they subscribe to. I doubt there is a set of roles that is a preserve of women or men, especially in marriage.
It is an agreement between two individuals. I have met so many men who would happily cook for their family and I have met women who hire a chef to prepare them food for the entire week and their men never had any problem with that.
Yet, I have met families where the man cannot set foot in the kitchen yet their marriage still works. I have seen women who break their backs to cook Ugali and Athola for their husbands as breakfast, yet the same husbands found reasons to leave them and or get second wives.
We all know of so many families where women are breadwinners and still the marriages they are in seem to be holding up and doing just fine.
This is a huge debate, depending on how we look and view marriage at an individual level.
Can feminism and African traditions coexist or does one have to overshadow the other? I believe African traditions are vast and unique, but while at it, it is important that we assimilate what works best for any woman to drive a positive voice post tradition.
Coexistence is best if at all we will not have any down-looking on a woman in the society. Culture transition is not a smooth walk.
And as for the people yapping against feminism with no idea of what it entails, all they need to know is that feminism is a voice of reason for any woman who seeks to achieve her maximum potential in life. It is a call to have equity in the society. Feminism is not a fight against the men. It has never been and it will never be.
Prisca Bichage is a guest writer, a researcher an entrepreneur, a mentor and she is a feminist.
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