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Indigenous People

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Topics: Colonialism, Africa
Introduction Women, in general have a very important role in the society. If women had not existed, human would not be on Earth today. They are to be treated very respectfully everywhere on the planet. One of the most valuable treasures in the world was being menaced and still is nowadays, and this is the torture of women. This is happening everywhere in the world, in every corner, either it a very rich country or a very poor one. We would think that slavery is extinct because the country is no more ruled by Europeans, but it is not true, since slavery has always existed and always will, especially in indigenous women’s cases, one of the most hardworking women society ever existed. This is what my paper is based on: Indigenous Women’s Right and the Effects of Colonization. This topic was chosen because it is sad to see how women were badly treated in the older generations, in the indigenous world as well as how today their lifestyle has not improved, but has worsen tremendously over a short lap of period. Different times of period are shown about their lifestyle, such as the history of African women and colonization, their rights prior to the colonization, and finally, the effect of Colonialism on Indigenous African Women.

The History of Indigenous African women and Colonization
The Europeans have been in contact with African Societies since the 1880’s, but mostly, over the past centuries, it has been the British who ruled the most part of the African countries. During the aggressive period of colonization, the Europeans have aimed to take possession of every single country; likewise they also tried to take possession of the African continent. During the 1880’s, African countries were dominated by the Europeans: it was the indigenous women of Africa who suffered the most. According to Jeremie Gilbert (2011), the indigenous communities were forced from ancestral lands by the Europeans. It is shown how the colonial law, which was new to the indigenous people and placed by the Europeans prevented them from accessing land. The Europeans did not even have the permission of the land owners. This law of no access to their land which was implemented by the British was the invention of a rule by a person who then orders all the communities to follow. In this case, the Europeans imposed new laws for all the African population. With these new laws, women’s lives changed. The colonial laws created greater imbalance between men and women in these indigenous African societies. Abdulraheem Nimah Modupe(1995) gives an example that indigenous women in Nigeria were regarded as being housewives under the invented law. According to Elisa Scalise (2012), aside from the indigenous women’s having their property painfully snatched away from them, they also went through abuse in order to satisfy unmarried men. While walking between villages, the risk of danger increased as those indigenous women were getting raped, mentally and physically assaulted by British security forces. As opposed to their job, the governments of African countries were not doing anything to prevent it from happening (Scalise, 2012). The loss of the lands meant a loss of access and a loss of authority. Indigenous women were unable to nourish their families with the necessities, as there were no more crops to feed them as they got their land snatched away (Modupe, 1995). For example indigenous women from Batwa in Uganda who had tradition role of “beast of burden,” (Modupe, 1995), had to walk miles to be able to gather the food needed for the famished family members (Scalise,2012).
Having lost their rights, they became accustomed to asking each and every single thing to their husband for permission before proceeding. This intensified the importance of men in indigenous women’s lives. “In some cases, an indigenous woman is viewed as being there to bear children, to serve her father, her brother and later her husband and her in laws. She cannot inherit any property.” (Lucie Mulenki, 2002). Stanlie James and Abena Busia(1993) explain how the Europeans colonization of African society has had a bad impact on women and it is not going to end any time soon, since from that time, Africans live in a patriarchal society, where man rules everything everywhere. On the other hand, living in the patriarchal society went from bad to worse as women were forced to work under wage labour.
Since the indigenous African men working under the European colonial were underpaid, this made the women’s wage even labour since the indigenous women were regarded as inferior in African society. (James & Busia, 1993).

Indigenous Women prior to colonization Before European colonization, there were a lot of kingdoms within Africa which were destroyed and taken possession by several nations such as British, French, Germany and Italy. This is when laws were invented, so the conquerors could better supervise the conquered, which were the indigenous people who were turned out to be strangers on their own lands. Among them, there were indigenous women who had a lot of power and rights. Those indigenous African women had recognized and important roles in the economic development of their communities. According to Peters (1998), the majority societies, women were the major food producers. The ancient women, the indigenous women, were seen as the gatherer of grains, of seeds, root berries and other foods. Those indigenous people developed a practice of a purposeful cultivation which it helped the expansion of the population. This is one of the reasons they had access to land and also they had an authority of how the land should be used and cultivated (Peters, 1998).
Moreover Peters (1998) explains that the responsibility for the most day-to-day work in the field fell on women, since they were the ones who know how to get the job done. According to Clark (1980), apart from taking care of their families, women’s tasks were also to plant several crops such as staple crops-maize, beans and millet. They were required to hoe, weed, to harvest crops as well as storing and caring for the food supply. They had to carry out several other activities like “cooking, fetching water and firewood, grinding and pounding sugar cane for beer, tending hives, making and milking cows” (Clark, 1980). Likewise, according to Clark (1980), the presence of an indigenous woman when long-distance trade would be made was essential as they were acting as interpreters and represented as a sign of peace. Since they were present when the negotiations were made, indigenous women had access and rights over the livestocks (Clark, 1980)
In addition according to Ogbu (1978), marriage between the indigenous people was an exchange process; The in-laws gave bride wealth to the bride’s family in exchange of their daughter. It was a very crucial step in the wedding, without which could bring shame to the family. Bride wealth would make the women economically independent and power to a certain extain. (Ogbu,1978). The bride wealth could be cows, or goats or even sheep or even some other things that could be used as traditionally to pay off the bride. The bride wealth was either given to the girl herself or to the her parents as a respect to show how well they had raised their daughter and now it is her turn to fulfill what her parents made out of her in the next generation. (Clark, 1980). Other meanings of giving a bridewealth are for the man to be secured legal rights to his wife; also, to secure for the man all the domestic and sexual rights to the wife as well as the rights over issue to the wife. So briefly, it the bridewealth is given like a contract to confirm that he can do whatever he wants with the wife (Clark, 1980). According to Clark (1980), this creates independence in a society which practices widow inheritance.
Moreover Modupe (1995), explains that indigenous African men were regarded their wives as their children’s mothers. For example, “Under the customary law, women generally were regarded as "beasts of burden”, “hewers of wood”, “carriers of water” and “baby making machines” It was their child bearing that won for them the closest attachment of their husbands.” (Modupe,1995). Indigenous women who were childless did not have the as much rights as other indigenous women with child hence childless indigenous women could owne personal properties such a farm but not the land itself (Modupe, 1995). Indigenous women had to depend on their husband before doing anything and also shared any profits she made (Modupe, 1995).

Effect of Colonialism on Indigenous African Women Even after the conquerors departed from Africa, according to Elizabeth Colson, the laws that they invented remained the same (Turner, 1971). The end of the colonial period was supposed to make the people living in the rural areas less rural, since most of them lost their lands; but instead the majority of the population remained or became more rural than before, since they had to look for other alternatives, such as discover new lands that were not yet recovered by the Europeans or even go beg for a new access to land in order to fulfill their daily needs by growing crops to fight for survival. Concerning the women, their lifestyle changed drastically after colonization, as already they were not treated well by the Europeans during the colonization, and after colonization, it became worse, as it was as if the way the Europeans were treating the women stayed with the African husbands after they left Africa. Elizabeth (1997) explains how after the colonization period, men saw themselves linked to their lands through membership in social groups, thus diminishing the status of women. The first thing that the men took care of to diminish the status of women was to lower their wage. The men did not agree to the fact that the women should have any other work than taking care of the house. This particularly affected them because it drew them away from their normal economic activities such as planting crops, getting fruit, nuts; caterpillars, termites, and mushrooms which were both gathered for trading and for food. (Elizabeth, 1997).The women were also forbidden to play their games such as hunting buffalo and elephants by the arrows and bows that they would create themselves. According to Dobkin (1968) this right is viewed by Balandier as being legal, since it is a deprivation of the woman's legal rights. He believes that only the husbands had a right to say something about how they want their wife to lead their life now. (Dobkin, 1968). Also, if they were found on the way to work or anywhere else, strangers would please themselves by sexually abuse them and would physically beat them up. This is one of the reasons why this lead them to polygamy, prostitution and a lack of social services like adequate health care services which led to an increase of diseases. Worst of all, the main diseases were the sexually transmitted diseases and not to forget AIDS and HIV, affirms Lucy Mulenkei (2002). Not forgetting when the men were forced to work for the Europeans, the women had to carry not only their work but also work of their husband since the men were barely home, but then once again, the wives would get paid much less along with the unwanted sex, explains Marlene Dobkin (1968). Women had to suffer burden over burden all the time. Talking about political positions, women had the rights to trade and to talk their opinion out before colonization. After colonization, they lost everything, since they could not even ask for their lands back from their husband.Before colonization, women had a great autonomy for indigenous culture and laws, and Scalise (2012) explains that they had all the rights they wanted to do whatever they wanted. According to Scalise (2012), when the Europeans departed the indigenous women had to ask permission to their husband about getting their land back and if the husband agrees to it, then they would both negotiate within their communities and they go through formal legal frameworks in order to hand it back to the previous owner.

Conclusion To conclude everything, we see how the arrival of the Europeans on the continent of the Indigenous people changed their drastically, but mostly how it changed the lifestyle of the indigenous women forever, not only mentally, but physically as well. Knowing that the amount of AIDS and HIVs are really high in Africa because these women passed from different men several times, the women went through traumas. Also, the fact that they lost their lands and the fact that they were constantly beaten up either by their husband or the Europeans or sometimes both did not make their life easier, but harder. It shows that there was no ethical law in African, and that men would freely do whatever they want with the women, such as make them work harder than them, not understanding that they are human too. It is sad that women in Africa nowadays still have to live in the way that colonialism led this country. Women went through abused in the past and this is still happening in Africa. Women are still considered as being inferior. The worst part is that their own people who are the African men, believe that they are much more superior than African women. Colonialism brought about many changes which African society hence making African women ecomically dependant on African men and have a lower status. It is evident, even though we live in a modern society, Africa women are still living with suppression and abuse just because they are women. However, there are different organization that women created to try to fight back to get the rights that they deserve. They are refusing any kind of injustice. It will take time for those women to be treated equally and for the men to change the way they see things but whenever this change will happen, the world will be a better place to live in for everyone.

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