What about the women?

Author:Figueiredo, Antonio de
Position:Lest We Forget

In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, most women still remain "colonised" by customs and prejudices or by religious myths and distortions. Personally, I don't remember any male liberation leader ever referring to women's issues.

The news and us denials (NA, Dec) that Sao Tome, the oil-rich island in the Gulf of Guinea, was to host a us naval base obscured the recent election of Dr Maria das Neves Baptista de Sousa, leader of the Sao Tome Liberation Movement, as the country's first woman prime minister. She heads a government that includes three other women cabinet ministers.

An achievement in a world where male domination is still so prevalent, the significance of her election is better understood by recalling the long historical background of male hegemony. The French writer, Andre Gide, commented after a visit to the Belgian congo in the 1930s that, "the more stupid a white man is, the more stupid he thinks black men are". By analogy, I have always observed that "the more machista a man is, the more stupid he thinks women are". And this, I am afraid, applies equally to whites and blacks, as to men anywhere.

Only in the last few decades have men been slowly awakening to the fact that the subordination of women, started at home, and on the whole, was an insidious form of "gender colonialism". Sadly, even in Africa and Arab and Asian countries, long after independence, most women still remain "colonised" by customs and prejudices or by religious myths or distortions.

Rightly or wrongly, the recent events in religiously-divided Nigeria, with the news of Sharia law and the threat of a public stoning of a "sinful" mother, and the subsequent riots in Kaduna, with 220 dead over the "Miss World" beauty pageant, there was a clash between the extremes of old Islamic fanaticism and modern Western frivolity Both, however, in different ways, were using young women, either for political agitation or for profit. But again, the tragic event seemed to reinforce the negative image that post-colonial Africa is now dangerous even for tourists.

If in the past, Africanists (or Westerners interested in Africa) used to say that the "darkest thing about Africa is our ignorance of it", now the profit-seeking Western media reinforces the notion that all black Africa, and its 812 million people, despite their vast cultural diversity and varying stages of development, can easily be lumped together. The fact that most Western travellers even today only overfly Africa...

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