Essay: Role of Women in Pre-colonial African countries

Sample Essay

Women played a pivotal role in the agricultural life of many pre-colonial African countries, and continue to do so till today.  Colonialism, however, denied them the respect and the power that this role had brought to them in many of these societies.  For example, in the Kikuyu population of modern day Kenya, women were not restricted to their traditional role of gatherers but enjoyed the rights of a co-owner.

In fact, the women that participated in the process of cultivation of seasonal crops and their harvesting thereafter were accorded a say in the matter of land distribution and cultivation.  This often translated into rights against the land being cultivated or the yields hence produced from it.  This not only allowed women to have a prominent position in their domestic dispensation but also empowered them economically to promote their social and quasi-political interests. (Martin, 1987)

However, far from being a utopian society, what this meant was that the elderly females, enjoying respect and clout because of their wealth or position in the family, were able to command this authority against the land being cultivated through the labors of female slaves or younger females of their family, such as daughters and daughters-in-law, etcetera.  While one or more of the younger females of the family could often rise to the same elevated level through marriage and on the basis of their position in the family, the similar Avenue was sometimes open to the female slaves working on a farm by way of marriage.

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