The Impact of Colonialism & Capitalism on African Gender Relations   

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

Fatoumatta: Colonization was a far more superior tool than slavery because it enslaved whole nations in their own countries and exploited their resources for the advantage of the colonial occupiers in a grand scale. Neo-colonialism on the other hand is a far more developed scheme than colonialism because it is insidious, invisible and imperceptible to the enslaved.

 I think the time has come to overhaul colonial and neo-colonial ideals and institutions and reimagine our way of life – modelling society and government after the African Ubuntu Philosophy. The Ubuntu Philosophy most aptly captures the indigenous African spirit of community, sharing, spirituality, and purpose. It is this philosophy that was the bedrock of ancient African civilizations such as the Imamate of Futa Jallon, Egypt, Manding Empire and the Zulu kingdom.

In this system, a child belongs to the community (I am told the notion inspired Hillary Clinton’s ‘It Takes a Village’.) Here, spirituality, education, and work are seamlessly integrated with community – not in an odious and diabolical way, but in a wholesome and edifying style.

Fatoumatta: African feminists need to look further than the western concept of gender relations and equity. African women need to care to read academic articles and books inspired by modern day gender consciousness writers for example “On Mariama Ba’s novels, stereotypes and silence”. And other publications such as: “Women and Colonialism” by Kathleen Sheldon, “Women and Gender; Colonialism and Political Rethinking” Journal Articles of African History edited by Helen Bradford.

 The idea of a housewife, which people use to appeal to the impact of colonialism and capitalism on African gender relations, is not an African concept. So, it cannot be “traditionally African.”

This capitalistic-materialistic duality of evil underscores the biggest problems blighting society in the 21st century. It has brought forth a class of militant feminists who have sworn to oust the system of values that previously undergirded family and social life. With the ensuing denigration of family and social values such as the sacredness of the womb, chastity, faithfulness, and family cooperation — divorce, separation, and their corollary problems have been on the rise.

 The image of the housewife started during the industrial revolution and the rise of imperialism in Europe. In France, the image of the housewife was promoted during the years of Napoleon in both Europe and its colonies in Africa. In Europe, the housewife was the bourgeois wife who stayed at home to take care of the children of the emerging industrialists, while in Africa; the housewife was the model of European womanhood which African women were supposed to be trained as, so that they could become wives for the African elite being trained by colonial schools to become Frenchmen.

 The subject of home science was taught in colonial African schools to train African girls to become European-style wives for the African elite. And in French colonies, this business was serious. After an African man finished his colonial education, he applied to become a French citizen. Part of the interview meant the government inspecting his home to see if it was arranged in the bourgeois European style, and if his wife had European manners.

Fatoumatta: One would need to check colonial Francophone African countries, Senegal for example, but I suspect that a similar dynamic was at work with the African womanhood in other part of colonial Africa.

So African rural women are not housewives. They are simply rural women, most often poor, and who often work very hard. They go to the “farros”, herd cattle, sheep, and goats. They are also engaged in horticulture farming or take fruits and vegetables to the market. THAT IS WORK, whether the men in parliament think so or not. Those are not women staying at home doing nothing.

Fatoumatta: So, we must stop naming women without access to colonial education and capitalist employment “housewives.” Housewives were educated white women married to rich men, who could spend their lives bearing kids and sipping afternoon coffee or tea in small cups served by the cook, on the land they grabbed. We need to set that straight.

The other thing to set straight is that if colonial education and capitalist employment are disempowering for men, alienating them from their roots to serve the interests of imperialism, they have the same effect on women. No one imagines that colonial education empowered men. So why do you think it empowers women? All it does is expanding capital to include women, because capital needs numbers.

Fatoumatta: It is not empowering to work under capitalism, whether you are male or female. And all of us know that because we can hardly wait to jump out of employment and be on our own. Employment comes with schizophrenic lives, depression because we must pretend to smile and to like the boss, and taxes and deductions to support the rich lifestyle of the thieves in parliament and in government.

Fatoumatta: No female is empowered by being employed. At all. In fact, women want a democratic workplace where they who work and generate profits for sharks should also have a say in how the profits, they make, are distributed.

Now, there is a common narrative of women ending relationships with men who don’t bring home any money. Well, men that comes with money is not exclusive to women. Our constant complaint about politicians is how much men become richer (from stolen loot) than women are. That man goes all round. I’ve heard numerous stories of women coming home to find their husbands in the marital bed and told by the husbands to deal with it because the men bring home the money.

 Victims of domestic abuse stay in their abusive marriages because they have no income to live on their own. Capitalism is bullshitting all around, and to be told that somehow, it’s a privilege for women to now be included in it is an insult, largely from men who were emasculated a long time ago by capitalism and haven’t realized it.

Neneh Fatoumatta:  With that in the backdrop, we begin to see why Dambisa Moyo’s recommendations for state capitalism appeal to a class of Commonwealth citizens of like-minded people of the 21st century who are not convinced with classic capitalism, especially in its failure to be a succor for economic liberty. A true economic model must emphasize and ensure equality of opportunities – at least.

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