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Africa Essay

2350 words - 10 pages

Firstly, women were affected by the alienation of land experienced by most Africans. However, women appear to have been more personally affected by this land alienation. This is because, ‘As women lost access and control of land they became more economically dependent on men. This led to an intensification of domestic patriarchy, reinforced by colonial social institutions.’ Among the Kikuyu of Kenya women were the major food producers and thus not only had ready access to land but also authority over how land was to be cultivated. Speaking about African women in general, Seenarine, in quoting Sacks explains that, ‘the value of women’s productive labor, in producing and processing food ...view middle of the document...

Women were directly affected because they were required, by law in some cases, to provide wage labour for the European plantation economies. The Northey Circular in Kenya (1919) commanded district officers and African chiefs to procure women and juvenile labourers for private and public works. Women were deeply affected by such directives because it drew them away form their usual economic activities. In come cases European labor demands were most intense during the peak labour requirements for their own agricultural activities. As Mbilinyi explains, ‘ Women and children were the major source of casual labour during labour peaks in the Rungwe tea industry and Mbosi coffee industry.’ This produced a conflict in women as they were forced to leave their duties to work for Europeans. Keep in mind that this forced labour was accompanied by acts of physical and sexual abuse which were often committed by African men against their own women. Therefore, working on the plantations further compromised women’s well being and ability to be as productive as they previously had been in past.

Thirdly, the introduction of wage labour affected women through its denial of African women to African male labour. The colonial economy forced men to seek employment in European economic ventures and took them away from the labour responsibilities they used to have in the traditional African economy. As Mbilinyi explains, ‘The withdrawal of male labour from peasant production intensified female labour, and led to a drop in cultivated acreage.’ Women found that not only did they have to fulfil their traditional duties as women, the loss of male labour forced them to take on the duties previously carried out by men.
Fourthly, this loss of male labor was often in the form of male migrant labor where men left rural areas to seek employment in urban areas. This led to both social and economic impacts on women. The focus in this section will be on the economic repercussions of male migrant labour.

Due to male migrant movement, women found that they had to hire labour to substitute for absent male household members. In Tanganyika, hired labor cost, ‘ (T)wo Tanganykinan shillings (Tshs 22) per month with food ration.’ This cost added to the economic strain already being felt by the African woman.

Problems posed by male migrant labor were exacerbated by changes in bride-wealth arrangements. In many areas bridewealth had evolved from being a payment made in livestock to a cash exchange. As a result bridewealth was inflated and became a way of putting monetary value on the bride’s wealth. Thus, instead of the bridewealth process being one that affirmed the woman’s worth, it became one that judged the woman’s worth. This inflation in bridewealth meant that most young men were unable to pay it and thus had to go to urban areas in order to earn enough to make the payment. Now women lost their husband’s economic (and other) support at the onset of marriage thereby putting...

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