The Modern Woman in the African Lens; Perfect Fit or Illusion?
Ever wondered what the world would possibly look like without women in it? Well, I usually do, and honestly I never enjoy what my imagination brings to life. But well, that’s like most of us, right?
10 years ago from now, women emancipation in Africa was only but a dream, whose chances of achievement were not very obvious. Today, many efforts have been channeled towards raising the status of a woman in the African environment. In the general perspective, gender discrimination was given a front seat among the challenges that were facing Africa’s development (or let’s say under its development). Apart from limiting opportunities accessed by women, it also falsely branded a woman as vulnerable in the African perspective. As a matter of fact, during the pre-colonial era, the rate of gender discrimination across the African continent was simply overwhelming. Practices that dehumanized women including restrictions on travel, on what women wear, female genital mutilation, lack of legal rights (in some areas) were on a high. Even with a few modifications in the culture, customs, education and lifestyle of Africans on a regular, women were still considered as the weaker beings, the ones that couldn’t afford to do so much, the ones that needed a lot of support if they were to ever achieve anything on their part, and the ones whose contribution to society had to be screened and approved before it was accepted.
A few years ago, it was almost unheard of for a woman to take lead on a task in the community, let alone occupy a position in leadership. It was slowly taking over the personalities of women and perception of others about women. Even in Rwanda, it was almost unheard of for a woman to head even the country’s smallest administrative unit, Umudugudu (which translates into ‘village’), own a business, or even hold a senior position in a corporate working environment. You are probably wondering why I am taking you back to what used to happen years ago. Well, stay with me as we delve into the life of today’s African woman.Because charity starts at home, I will start by talking about the status of a woman in Rwanda today. Whether Rwandan or not, we are probably all aware the number of positions occupied by women in the Rwandan government as opposed to the status of things in many other African countries. Women today don’t find it as a problem to take up developmental roles at workplaces, and once they do, boy, they deliver. Yet, this doesn’t make them less of women but instead leaves them better.
Along with the entire continent, Rwanda too has moved on from an era where everything was expected to be accomplished by men, as women waited and watched things happen. Today in Rwanda we live in an era where women are governors, city mayors, district mayors, and even occupy important positions in government, and are involved in making important decisions to the country. Yet, while doing their best at their respective workplaces, these women have also adapted a balance between work and their day to day lives. They have mastered the best ways of delivering well at their work places and their homes, ensuring that none gets in the way of the other. Today I want to laud these same women for their own effort and contribution to get to this level. If they didn’t show up with a positive attitude and a will to change, the story would probably be different, especially since majority didn’t expect so much from women. I would actually most likely be doing something else, not writing this piece. But well, the ability to do something is one thing and the willingness to actually get it done is another. The modern African woman is a real testimony that this, and even more is possible once the world trusts in the capability of a woman to do anything.
Every day, a woman with a career and a family somewhere has to make a choice. A choice between how much time she devotes to her family and how much goes to her job/business. And every day, she has to choose in a way that none overshadows the other. Women get to choose for themselves how exactly they want to be engaged, either as entrepreneurs or employees. In 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected into office as the first female African President of Liberia. This to the continent, was a highlight of the progress that was being made by woman’s decision in regard to standing up to what they are capable of doing. Our forefathers didn’t see this coming, in their times, they always made it loud and clear. In their world, a real African woman had a permanent place in the kitchen. If they were to rise and see how things changed today, they would probably spank especially their fellow men who allow these things to happen. Women in Africa had been made to believe that apart from their role in the kitchen at home, there is not so much they can put their hands to. Sadly, not even their ideas counted.
The scene is different today. A woman in any part of the world is capable of delivering at something. Leadership tasks and development roles in the workplace, taking part in the business creation world, being a perfect wife and mother, or even a combination of these all. Some of these women have actually exhibited unique abilities and in the meantime, unleashing extra ordinary results. African women today also enjoy their right to making choices. She can decide whether to join the entrepreneurship world, creating businesses or keep in the employment field. The beauty of the story is that even with the amazing results, these very women are still making good wives, resilient mothers and awesome friends. Celebrating their choice to be present beyond the kitchen every single new day is something every one of us ought to do on a daily.
This brings me to this one conclusion. It’s only normal for the African modern woman to be who she is. It’s not a sign of dominance, rather of progress. The world can still be so much better with women in the front lane. And they don’t have to stick to one way of doing it. Besides African-ness (if that even exists) only gets better with creative minds that are ready to venture into the unknown possibilities.