I was drawn to a story recently by a lady I met on Facebook. This prompted me ask a couple of women what they struggle with the most as African women. Today’s article has many voices. The question was simple and straightforward: What in your view is the plight of the African woman?
Growing up, I was taught that marriage is everything. I live to get married one day and bring glory to my parents – for bringing me up well. My happiness is not my number 1 priority. The happiness of my parents (bringing them pride because I become a wife and a mother), the happiness of my husband (I care and cook for him) and the well-being of my children is what I am alive for.
Doreen, 25 years
I have too much responsibility. I feel too much pressure. I have to look beautiful all the time. I have to portray that I am a responsible woman who can cook, clean and take care of the home. I have to be a lady every single time – so I can’t frown, I can’t shout, I can’t be angry because ladies should always be sweet and calm! It’s so tiring!
Ama, 29 years
I can’t want more. I can’t be ambitious. I have to be simple and content with where I am now. I can’t pursue more. If more comes, then it’s by ‘grace’ or I am ‘lucky’ because according to YOU, I didn’t work for it – I was just in the right place at the right time. Or maybe my bosses wanted to prove a point.
Yaa, 27 years
I have to keep quiet and endure pain. I can’t scream my head off! I should suffer in silence and if (touch wood) I am maltreated, I must shut up. When I speak up, my fellow women say I am washing my dirty linen in public, and that’s wrong. A woman endures pain all her life – physical and emotional. But with both, I must shut up, because apparently, I was born for this!
Edna, 33 years
Patriarchy. Everything belittles us. Religion, society... everything. When you want to do more than what is prescribed you’re tagged as a feminist (here, that’s not a good word!), or a witch... because how dare you?!?
Stingg, 23 years
Freedom. The African woman to me does not know what total freedom is. From culture to patriarchy to beauty standards to westernization, the African woman is constantly being told what to do and how to live to please others. The plight of an African woman to me is a clean slate – total freedom!
Awurama, 21 years
Throughout my 30 years on this earth, one thing that gets to me is the fact that a man can do almost anything and get away with it... Why? Why do we have to accept it when a man cheats? Why can a man have a crazy beard to work and it’s okay? Why do I have to minimize myself so a man can flourish? Why am I lesser? Why can a man ‘test the waters’ with 500 women because he’s looking for a good wife? And I can’t test 500 men because I’m a woman? Why is it okay for a man to be ‘born one’ and not okay for me to be? A man with many female friends is a lady’s man, but a woman with many male friends is a prostitute!
Women are abused every day and they are asked to stay... because there’s apparently no good man on earth. But I don’t have that choice. I have to stick with this one. Men are entitled to all the good things and we have to do extra... even that, the extra doesn’t win. Men can do anything and get away with it. We have suppressed ourselves to make them shine. No one asks them questions.
Kuku, 30 years
I wonder how society did it but they have succeeded in making women believe they were created and nurtured to endure suffering. When a baby is conceived out of wedlock the man has a choice to say I don't want it as if it's a ball of kenkey. But how heartless are you if the woman dares to utter such words. When a child is sacked from school for not paying fees, the woman is expected to sell off her piece of cloth to send the child back to school. When the house is dirty it is the woman's responsibility. When children are naughty the woman is blamed. Women are thought to endure sacrifice...women are reminded of religion! Morality etc. But men no no no no they were born like that. This my own
Mansa, 30 years
I believe feminism is for everybody and we should all be feminists because it’s just common sense to want equity and the betterment of people marginalized on the basis of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, class among others. There is so much work to be done and I believe working towards actively including these marginalized people in our feminist work will be useful for furthering and achieving our goals as African feminists. One of the things that we need to pay attention to as African feminists is the importance of acknowledging the privileged positions from which we speak. By acknowledging our various privileges, we begin to see the world differently and this might cause us to realize that we participate in oppressive systems that keep people marginalized. I hope that through this realization, we will make room to practice feminism from even our households by for example, re-examining how we exploit the labor of working class people as househelps, gatemen etc. in our own homes. Our generation of feminists can drive conversations on African feminism if we practice feminism in our everyday lives at home, at work and in public spaces.
Pagkpema, 28 years
As an African woman, there is so much you endure, whether it is at the workplace or at home. I can't speak for every African woman and their plight but for me it has had to do with work. Breaking the glass ceiling and being seen as an equal at the workplace has been quite the challenge. Time and time again, I had to prove that I was good enough or that I deserved the promotion, it wasn't just handed to me.
Now as an entrepreneur, I'm certain most of the challenges I've faced and continue to face is because of my sex. Women have to fight and demand their rightful place but African women have to fight even harder because of our upbringing and way of life. We have been conditioned to believe that we belong in the kitchen or at home raising the kids. Doing things that only 'a woman' is supposed to do.
Akosua, 36 years
I am married without a child yet. To me this is something my husband and I have to deal with. Just the two of us. But this has now eaten into all aspects of my life! Even my professional life! I can’t concentrate on anything else now because I don’t have a baby. My husband and I would naturally be okay with this and adopt. But we’re not allowed to enjoy our marriage in peace. Apparently because I don’t have children, I don’t know how to lead a team of younger national service personnel. Really?!
In the next edition to this series, I will be sharing Aminata’s story. Her experience is touching and scary at the same time. The extent some women go for their men. This leaves so many questions – for love? Security? To what end? Stay tuned!