November 26, 1995
Women in Africa
In many parts of Africa, there is a large discrepancy in who controlled the
resources, access to the economy, individual autonomy and central voice in the
government between the men and the women.
African men, for the most part, have the
largest say in the activities of the country.
When issues of concern arise, "men's
issues" usually became the issues of national concern, and those issues pertinent
to women go to the back of everyone's mind.
Women are forced to accept the results
of men's actions, and usually nothing gets accomplished that benefits them.
Because women continually were overlooked, they began to come together and protest.
If one examines the following women's protests and their outcomes:
The Warrant Chiefs, Sylvia Leith-Ross' African Women, Jean Allman's "Rounding Up
Spinsters: Gender Chaos and Unmarried Women in Colonial Asante", and Irene
Mothers of the Revolution, several questions arise.
What were women
seeking and how did this differ from what men wanted?
Did women attain their
goals, and if not, why not?
If women were not successful in getting their
concerns at the forefront of national interest, at what, if anything, were they
In several instances women became so angered by their lack of voice, that
they were moved to act.
In some of these cases, women were relatively successful
in organizing and mobilizing.
The story of the Aba Riots, which is discussed in
both The Warrant Chiefs and African Women, proves this point well.
In Nigeria, in
the late 1920's, the Warrant Chiefs wanted to impose a system of annual taxation.
What was so displeasing to the people about the tax was that it involved a census,
and that the money went towards no specific project.
The concept of counting free
people was a foreign one to the Igbo. This notion went contrary to custom, and it
was believed to bring about death (Afigbo, 229).
The people of the Eastern
Provinces felt that because they were being counted, the colonial government was
enslaving them or that they were out to destroy them.
Also objectionable to these
people was the fact that the collected money went towards "'development'" (Afigbo,
228), something for which these communities had not asked.
The first year of tax collection went surprisingly well; except for a few
The first year was rather non-violent for two reasons: "It
needed the shock of the first payment for people to realize what taxation meant in
practical terms" and the second reason was the large police presence and
prosecutions of opponents to the tax (Afigbo, 233).
These two factors allowed for
a relatively peaceful tax collection.
However, when year two arrived, so did the resistance.