The debate on the issue of gender is always tense and critical in Africa. Most of the time men reject any debate on it and adopt a defensive stance, as they think it is a means for women to attack and overtake them—so gender relates to power-seeking and the need for societal control.
Further, they do not want to lose their long-established historical privilege of being the ‘chief’ of the family and the ‘commander’ of women. They use for their defence the Biblical texts alleging that God has created woman inferior to man and placed her beside him as servant; that God has appointed man as the chief. Other men suspect the gender issue is a means for Western society to re-colonize Africa by infusing there the Western way of life. And so for this category of men, gender is an instrumental tool aimed at destroying African cultures. Some go so far as to relate gender to homosexuality.
Anyway, this is what I have become used to listening during numerous workshops I have been attending where the issue is broached. By so doing, they allegedly brandish African traditions, which have deﬁnitely instituted man as superior and protector of woman and organized the different roles in the society.
The ﬁrst rationale for rejecting gender discussion relates to power. This is true. Gender effectively deals with the question of power in the society. It engages the whole societal body, questioning how power is shared, the leadership, and the different roles of societal components. More precisely, it encompasses how women and men are organized and how they interact in society, including the family, the Church, politics, the economy, and so on.
But the false element in this rationale is the allegation that women contest power with men in order to edge them out. This is false, because gender deals with power insofar as the quest for justice in societal structure is concerned. So talking about gender in Africa means seeking to know if the social structure we have...
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