Traditionally, it is the responsibility of women in Africa to care for their children materially and to guard their welfare. To a greater extent than elsewhere in the developing world, they are managers of the household and without them, families and communal existence will cease to be. Their burdens are enormous, despite developments in agriculture technology, contraception availability, and changes in their socioeconomic status, which were supposed to enable them to lead happier lives. There is little to wonder as to why.
By relation and implied definition, an African woman is a person of the female gender, who is born and most times lives on the continent of Africa as a part of the continent. African women’s history, evolution, and culture are interrelated with the history of the entire continent. Their position varies across nations and regions in Africa. In the course of time, debates and the like led to the discovery that women in pre-colonial society had different roles and statuses prior to colonization.
Studies on how women have dealt with these dynamic forces in the post-colonial era has explored various oppressions, and domestic enculturation, and unearthed women’s role in national struggles to achieve independence. Throughout the history of the African continent, women have played important roles in economic, political, social, and cultural development.
In spite of being seen as subordinate to their husbands and older men, African women have dramatically changed and have become much more independent since the post-colonial era. Despite the fact that women were rarely recognized in several pre-colonial African societies, they served as queen mothers and queen sisters, princesses, chiefs, holders of office and village heads, and also occasionally warriors or monarchs. African women were often acclaimed and respected by society for their spiritual roles in ancient Africa. Various positions in the spiritual system in the land were taken by these women including those of oracles, mediums, seers, and advisors.
As a matter of fact, in the modern world, the economic and social situation in Africa has changed, which has increased the workload of African women. Currently, their economic capacity, particularly their ability to manage family welfare, is continually at risk and intricate lessons from their history (which though imperfect) have been abandoned. With the advent of colonialism and independence, African women now suffer a lull in development geared toward becoming better versions of their pre-colonial counterparts.
In most African regions, two-thirds of the illiterates are women, so women’s expectations of achieving the same level of education as men are severely stifled, especially in what is considered ‘male’ fields in careers. There is a widespread assumption that educating women will make them too independent; in other words, they won’t do what is expected of them, such as look after the house, raise children, and cater to their husband’s needs. African women are not exonerated from this assumption as well.
When cultural and monetary costs are high or benefits are limited, it is difficult to increase access to education and training in poor countries. In the face of economic hardship, many families prefer to invest their limited resources in the education of boys rather than provide such a prestigious education for girls who would eventually marry and abandon their professions anyway. Unavoidably is the fact that there is a surge of abuse and occasional decadence in morals of some literate African women who fine-tune their lifestyle to other non-African roots.
However, African women increasingly get an education, and the focus of concern is gradually shifting to providing access to the same range of educational opportunities open to African men. Through years of consistent efforts, African women are now able to evolve through education and inspire massive innovations and varying civilizations in unique ways. This can be seen through policies which are more supportive of measures designed to expand the educational horizons of African women today than it was centuries ago.
This easily earns a true African woman the position of a queen, characterized by the rich, pure, and natural self-reflection in ancestral knowledge and untapped generational wealth. It does not deprive them of their traditional roles prior to colonization. It only makes them the cynosure of an emerging civilization in which centuries of remedies and stories, formed the ingredients used to create the African woman today. That is why a true African woman easily represents African beauty.
Chizaram D. Ezugwu