The month of August is upon us and aside from being the final month in which our toes are freezing, the month of August is also officially woman’s month with the 9th August being Women’s Day. On that day in 1956 about 20 000 women of different races marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the inclusion of women in the pass laws that served to control the movements of Blacks. The march was led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams–De Bruyn. Their actions could be viewed as feminist in nature except for the fact that in Africa, feminism is still a dirty word.
Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes and African feminism specifically addresses the conditions and needs of continental African women. In a country where women are sexually assaulted every thirteen minutes, the need for women’s rights is clear as day.
As fun as it may sound, your feminist plight is not the same as Beyoncé’s. Africans today continue to view feminism as a western concept and they believe that the notion of feminism denounces the entire male population. However, we do live in a patriarchal society and African women continue to suffer incredulous forms of abuse ranging from child brides to forced genital mutilation done on about 200 million women. Furthermore, unlike male circumcision, this procedure has no medical benefits.
Africa is deeply entrenched in gender roles, using culture as a way to excuse obvious gender inequality such as domestic abuse. The discrimination of women also occurs in the professional sector. According to SARS, women earn on average 28% less than men. Also, a number of young girls miss school due to their inability to afford sanitary pads.
Feminism is about equality thus African feminism needs to be conscious of the fact that young men also face the same societal issues such as poverty and diseases. Moreover, they face societal pressures as a result of patriarchy. Firstly, they are often than not forced to immerse themselves into the patriarchal role either because they don’t know any better or in order to prove their ‘manliness’. Additionally, men being raped does not only happen in jail cells. The raping of men, like the raping of women, is often than not used as a war technique. The male victims are then essentially shunned from speaking about it due to the image in which they are expected to portray.
Africa needs feminism because both women and men need to unite to face what lies ahead and it wouldn’t hurt if they were both equally prepared.