Women_in_African_Societies_under_Colonia

Women_in_African_Societies_under_Colonia - F.E.F AYOKHAI...

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F.E.F. AYOKHAI WOMEN IN WEST AFRICAN SOCIETIES UNDER COLONIAL RULE: A STUDY IN CULTURAL RESILIENCE AMONG UZAIRHUE WOMEN OF BENIN PROVINCE, 1900 – 1960 Abstract The study of colonization in West African societies has mostly negated and neglected the gender factor. The emphasis has either been patriarchal or simply gender neutral. Yet the women in West African societies bore the yoke of colonization as much as they paid the price of the colonial enterprise. In the process, West African women demonstrated uncommon resilience that kept the indigenous productive processes and economic systems afloat in the face of the marauding globalization. This study examines the role and place of Uzairhue women of Benin Province in sustaining the internal dynamics of the indigenous economy and society, and by extension, the African agency in the face of the export oriented transformation of colonization. It also interrogates the internal dynamics that motivated the activities of the women. Finally, it concludes that the historical reality of Uzairhue women under colonial rule contradicts the thesis of stagnation and change that dominates colonial studies in West Africa, and makes bold to posit that, on the contrary,they represent an embodiment of cultural resilience and its struggle for survival. It therefore recommends that a critical review of the place and role of women in contemporary affairs of the region be undertaken as a possible way out of the region’s crisis of development. Introduction West African women are noted for their industry under the indigenous economic system. They also demonstrated this quality during the transformation of the economy into the exploitative capitalist system under colonial rule. Their role as “fetchers of water” and “hewers of wood” have been blown out of proportion by Eurocentric scholars who targeted the men as “idle and lazy lay about” who abandoned the responsibility of fending for their families in the pursuit of pleasure. What is important however is that West African women are noted for their hard work and sense of social responsibility. This study interrogates the cultural resilience demonstrated by Uzairhue women of Benin province in the face of the pervasive impact of colonization with a
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view to answering the following questions; 1. In what ways did Uzairhue women manifest cultural resilience? 2. What were the active agents in Uzairhue indigenous social system that promoted this resilience? 3. What is the net impact of the transformative process of colonization on this resilience among Uzairhue women? 4. What lessons are useful to current efforts of social re-engineering in West Africa? 5. How are they relevant in resolving the social malaise that characterizes contemporary West African societies?
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