AFRICA: Africa World Press Guide

compiled and edited by WorldViews

WOMEN IN AFRICA
Weaving new patterns of life and work

From Egypt in the north to South Africa in the south calls for the recognition of the rights of women in each of the countries in Africa are urgent and insistent. Statistical data supports what the eye plainly sees, women throughout Africa do much more than their share of the work in many spheres of daily life. They maintain households, fetch firewood and water, work the fields, sell goods in the marketplace, and more. And yet the irony is that this work remains so invisible and unde rvalued that a chapter entitled "Women in Africa" still seems appropriate in a book such as this. (Imagine a chapter or a book entitled "Men in Africa"!)

The resource materials in this chapter shine a spotlight on the enormous contributions that women in Africa make on a daily basis. At the same time they underline the fact that "women's work" continues to be circumscribed by traditional boundaries, eve n in situations where they have been actively involved in largescale political movements such as in South Africa. Viviene Taylor, National Social Welfare Policy Coordinator of the African National Congress, notes that "Women in South Africa are in the maj ority and have played a crucial role in the liberation struggle, yet they are under-represented in all spheres of life except at the lower end....The political and economic empowerment of women, both as representatives of the majority...and as representat ives of the most exploited and oppressed class must be given concrete form and content" (Development 1994:2, p. 36).

The books and other resource materials in this chapter also call attention to the fact that women in Africa are defining and working out their "liberation" in their own terms. Mercy Amba Oduyoye describes the unique character and trajectory of women's liberation in Africa in these terms: "While the [UN-sponsored] Nairobi meeting was in session [in 1985], African men were still snickering. But something new had touched the women of Africa, and they began to voice their presence. Women were standing up, abandoning the crouched positions from which their life-breath stimulated the wood fires that burned under the earthenware pots of vegetables they had grown and harvested. The pots, too, were their handiwork. Standing up straight, women of Africa stretche d their hands to the global sisterhood of life-loving women. In no uncertain terms, African women announced their position on the liberation struggle and their solidarity with other women." Oduyoye goes on to describe what their position and the ir solidarity means in the African context. See Daughters of Anowa: African Women and Patriarchy (Oduyoye 1995), pp. 1-2 and following.

Women in the world

Several global resources on women are recommended for the comparative background they provide for the study of women's rights in Africa. See, especially,

Volumes in the Women and World Development series from Zed Books (London) are uniformly good introductions to aspects of the women's movement worldwide. Titles published include

Oxfam (UK and Ireland) publishes a Focus on Gender series of booklets, all edited by Caroline Sweetman. See

Two periodicals published by and about women in Third World regions are noteworthy: Women's World (Isis-WICCE, Kampala) and Women in Action (Isis International, Santiago and Quezon City). For names and contact information for additional o rganizations and periodicals, see Directory of Third World Women's Publications (Isis International 1990) and Womanwise: A Popular Guide and Directory to Women and Development in the "Third World" (Gray 1993).

Women in Africa

French historian Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch's African Women: A Modern History (1997) is the most up-to-date and accessible introduction to "the full history of women in sub-Saharan Africa" from the eve of the colonial period to the present. The b ook's 20-page bibliography is particularly useful: "Bibliography: African Women in Modern History."

Women's issues in northern Africa are explored in titles such as

Books that survey the status of women in northern and sub-Saharan Africa are relatively few and are somewhat dated. See, for example,

Studies of "women in Africa" have matured beyond the stage of generalities (true as they may once have been) to become more focused investigations of particular issues and regional/national situations such as those listed below.

Issues

See other chapters throughout this Africa World Press Guide for resource materials that link women and issues such as development, environment, and population.
Agriculture:
l>

Region/country studies

East/Central Africa:
Strategies of Slaves and Women: Life-Stories from East/Central Africa (Wright 1993).
Southern Africa:
Struggling over Scarce Resources: Women and Maintenance in Southern Africa (Armstrong 1992); The Legal Situation of Women in Southern Africa (Stewart and Armstrong 1990).
Cameroon:
Men Own the Fields, Women Own the Crops: Gender and Power in the Cameroon Grassfields (Goheen 1996).
Egypt:
The Nubians of West Aswan: Village Women in the Midst of Change (Jennings 1995); Women in Society: Egypt (Samaan 1993).
Ethiopia/Eritrea:
A Painful Season and A Stubborn Hope: The Odyssey of an Eritrean Mother (Tesfagiorgis 1992).
Ghana:
The Falling Dawadawa Tree: Female Circumcision in Developing Ghana (Knudsen 1994).
Nigeria:
The Role of Nigerian Women in Politics: Past and Present (Uchendu 1993); Women in Nigeria Today (Bappa et al. 1985).
South Africa:
Women and Resistance in South Africa (Walker 1991); African Women: Three Generations (Mathabane 1994); Women in Society: South Africa (Rissik 1993).
Tanzania:
The Shamba Is Like a Child: Women and Agriculture in Tanzania (Aarnink and Kingma 1991).

Reference resources

For additional sources of information ol>

Region/country studies

East/Central Africa:
Strategies of Slaves and Women: Life-Stories from East/Central Africa (Wright 1993).
Southern Africa:
Struggling over Scarce Resources: Women and Maintenance in Southern Africa (Armstrong 1992); The Legal Situation of Women in Southern Africa (Stewart and Armstrong 1990).
Cameroon:
Men Own the Fields, Women Own the Crops: Gender and Power in the Cameroon Grassfields (Goheen 1996).
Egypt:
The Nubians of West Aswan: Village Women in the Midst of Change (Jennings 1995); Women in Society: Egypt (Samaan 1993).
Ethiopia/Eritrea:
A Painful Season and A Stubborn Hope: The Odyssey of an Eritrean Mother (Tesfagiorgis 1992).
Ghana:
The Falling Dawadawa Tree: Female Circumcision in Developing Ghana (Knudsen 1994).
Nigeria:
The Role of Nigerian Women in Politics: Past and Present (Uchendu 1993); Women in Nigeria Today (Bappa et al. 1985).
South Africa:
Women and Resistance in South Africa (Walker 1991); African Women: Three Generations (Mathabane 1994); Women in Society: South Africa (Rissik 1993).
Tanzania:
The Shamba Is Like a Child: Women and Agriculture in Tanzania (Aarnink and Kingma 1991).

Reference resources

For additional sources of information on women in Africa see the following bibliographies:

Bibliographies for African Studies, 1987-1993 (Scheven 1994) contains country-specific bibliographies on women in Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia.

The bibliographies and discussion papers published by the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network (Harare) cover numerous issues (see list below).

Handy reference sources for information on the situation of women worldwide are

Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network

The Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) is a nongovernmental organization that was established in 1990 in order "to enhance the position of women in Zimbabwe" through the collection and dissemination of written material and information. S ince mid-1991 ZWRCN has been compiling and publishing bibliographies, discussion papers, and workshop reports on issues related to gender and development.

ZWRCN bibliographies:

ZWRCN discussion papers:

ZWRCN workshop reports:


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