Decolonising African Feminism

“The fight to stop violence against women in Africa must diverge from the dominant Western feminism that implants alien perspectives and methods into an African struggle, writes Jenn Jagire. Jagire urges Africa’s feminists to regain agency and ‘deEuropeanise’ African feminism, avoiding perpetuating neo-colonial mentalities and development models that see Africa’s women as victims rather than the drivers of their own destiny. Much has been advocated about the violence meted out against women by their husbands or intimate relations. However, it must be appreciated that, somehow, women have always tried to speak out against violence, or helped each other to fight against spousal perpetrated violence. For example, in the past, there have been communal songs coined about violence against women and their efforts to overcome violence. Such songs praised women’s resistance to spousal violence.

Activism for women’s causes must be based on local people’s experiences, not foreign experiences that overlook the successes of local women. The much-loved over-emphasis on African women’s failure and disaster is done from a Eurocentric perspective which insults our dignity as Africans. It is worth noting that the present day type of patriarchy in Uganda was exported from Britain during the colonial era. Colonialism was violent in many ways. On the other hand, in talking about African satirical communal songs, there are songs recorded about women fleeing wealthy but violent husbands and settling for more humble ones. For example, in present day Tororo District in Uganda, there is a song about Nola (which was not her real name) who left a rich man, Opondo (let’s suppose it was not his real name either), who owned much property to go to a man who had reeds for a bed. The communal song stresses that the woman’s decision was probably because of roasted meat or some potion from the humble man. The bottom line is that it was that woman’s initiative to take an appropriate action that enabled her to escape violence…”

Pambazuka News, Issue 494


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