Monday, March 23, 2009

The Changing Roles of African Women

Last Friday I delivered a lecture to my alma mater on “The Changing Roles of African Women: 1800 to date”. Yes, that was a huge area to cover (but that was what I was requested to do). The audience was an International Baccalaureate History class and the lecture covered the:

Pre colonial era
Colonial era
Nationalist Struggles for Independence
Post Colonial era?
Opportunities for African women
Challenges for African women

It was fun to interact with the class but what was probably even more interesting to me was some of the random questions that some of the students posed to me:

Do you think women and men are equal?”

My response: “It depends on how you define equal?”

I think women and men are not equal. We are different…”

Suddenly several hands shot up in the air, “Its socialisation”.

Someone protested “…but they (the college authorities) ask the boys to pick up the tables and the girls to pick up the chairs after assembly

Its socialisation” some more voices insisted. One particular student pointed out how in previous eras such as the rule of the Songhai empire women had played roles in the military which is currently seen as a role for men…

My response to round up that particular question session was to talk about the difference in the concept of equality and diversity as well as to state my preference for the latter which acknowledges the importance of considering the different needs of individuals which may include a historical context of discrimination for e.g.

Another question from the students:

What do you think of abortion?” Several students’ hands shot up in the air…

A student responded “I don’t think it’s fair that men do not have a choice about abortions, it is unfortunate for women

If it’s unfortunate for women then I should be the one to make that choice”, one student retorted.

I tell you I had no idea when I was heading into class that I would have such an enjoyable session. I was especially pleased that young people are already having conversations on abortion, gender equality and African women. What are your thoughts?

Nana Sekyiamah
Programme Officer
Fundraising & Communications

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