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The African Woman: Hail The Cornerstones of Africa! Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Antony Felix O. Simbowo, Kenya Dec 5, 2005
Culture , Human Rights   Short Stories
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African women, traditionally an epitome of forced aloofness in decision-making and community development, are today gregariously riding the emancipation hatch of openness, freedom of speech and recognition. Nowhere is this point more illustrated than by their increased parliamentary representation in countries such as Rwanda; rising civil society rights clamor alongside intellectual innovation. Having been relegated to the backward and cobwebbed path of development for many years; women’s rise in areas of social, economic and political significance, and influence worldwide is timely.

This emancipation from the old, rigid and parochial dichotomies of only being housewives and homemakers has not only been a breath of fresh air in the miasmic mediocrity of andocentric traditions, but also a lift to the pedestals of family and societal problem solving. Many are now recognizing that African women can still maintain their traditionally excellent role of being good homemakers and housewives while at the same time effectively participating in societal development issues in a perfect juggle of responsibilities. The recent bagging-in of the Nobel Peace Prize by Kenya’s own Professor Wangari Maathai is a step in that direction. It was a shot in the arm to the relentless struggle by the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) afflicted, the battered, the abused, the widowed, the poverty stricken and the HIV affected/infected African woman in their fight for justice, along with an equitable share of government and civil society recognition and appreciation.

In her efforts to shed off some outdated psychosocial and economic cuticles and crass discrimination, Professor Maathai has come a long way from facing myopic oppositions, corruption-engineered frustrations, political persecutions and other debilitating acts of destabilization. However, her fighting spirit has never given up. Having burnt the midnight oil to conserve existing indigenous forests in Kenya as well as having planted millions of trees, no earthly recognition could be more fitting to Professor Wangari. She is dubbed ‘Mama Kenya’ for her neutrality in ethnic and political debates, usually preferring to focus on development issues in her constituency and in other parts of Kenya; and now, Africa and the rest of the globe.

Other notable symbols of the African woman’s awakening include Dr Graca Matchell, Dr Julia Ojiambo, Angelique Kidjo, Professor Norah Olembo, Ms Lucy Muthoni Wanyeki, Professor Esther Kahangi, and Dr Anna Tibaijuka, among many others whose contributions to humanity will remain etched in the daily lives of many and historical memoirs. Professor Kahangi has significantly contributed to the improvement of food security by pioneering tissue culture banana production in East and Central Africa, while Dr Tibaijuka’s efforts as the head of the UN-HABITAT to improve living conditions in urban and rural dwellings around the world are laudable.

I was especially impressed by the assertion of Ms Muthoni-Wanyeki that a woman’s proximity to an important person does not in effect make her equally important through induction of the same. This goes a long way to show just how much harder the African, and Third World women at that, have worked to gauge their rightfully deserved place in today’s society.

The achievements by these hard working African women and their ilk are however, mirrored against a background of many still in dire need of care and attention; with derogatory practices such as FGM, widow oppression, wife battery and the disinheritance of female family members still carried out unabated in some parts of the African continent.

The real struggle fought by these genuine women has unfortunately been dogged by the influx of less genuine ‘red-blooded’ ‘feminists’, whose apparent aim has been to pit genders against each other, with the females going for the ‘emotional throats’ of the males in an unwarranted, circuitous and directionless gender war. This glaring ignominy, compounded by the fact that the larger percentage of these saboteurs is made up of a few pretentious and mostly urban women, does not ring well for the true essence of the years of arduous struggling to uplift womenfolk from the penitentiary of cultural discrimination and segregation.

Considering that the rural African woman more often than not has to contend with ignorance, abject poverty and a general lack of enough resources for development, their situation should be given serious redress by development and gender experts, as well as policy makers. Due to media inaccessibility, their plights often pass with little mention and this increases the gravity of their woes. It was therefore not shocking to witness a group of rural-based women at a Nairobi Conference criticizing a few pretentious urban based colleagues for neglecting them. While this may be partially true, it arouses a need for cross boundary networking between women for greater capacity building ability; this can only be initiated in liaison with the rest of the society, who will be giving them the relevant props.

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Antony Felix O. Simbowo

TakingITGlobal has never been more apt than it is now in providing a forum for expression. This is because the dynamic world has undeveloped challenges that pose a great problem to the growth and daily life of any youth in the global society. What with the incessant wars, poverty, HIV/AIDS, pornography, racism and several other vices creeping into the society in a culture best objectified as vicious gradualism.
Here is where writing comes in handy and the TakingITGlobal literati, glitterati and pundits alike have provided a vital conduit through which these vices, positive and negative dynamism can be expressed.
I am saddened for example, when a promising youth is reduced to a hopeless parasite by drugs. More saddening is when I see the mercilessness, the hopelessness, the dereliction, the lack of love that many children, youth and people are subjected to due to wars, poverty, pornography and such as other negativities which silently and slowly kill the spirit and will within humans! Having gone through such experiences myself, I pray that God gives me the massive ability to be able to help these people to the best of my ability with His guidance, provision and protection. I have often wondered whether the expression "do unto others what you would have them do unto you" is being subjected to relativity. These are the problems which need highlighting and what better forum is there than TakingITGlobal.
I am privileged to be part of this ideologically vimmed and gustoed community.
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