Category Archives: Gender in Africa

Africa’s Second Class Citizens

While it is evident that women have become apart of the business elite, woman are still viewed as lesser than to their male coworkers. In Africa, much like other countries, women are branded as food and cosmetic workers, with few in notable positions of power. A woman’s role is still stigmatized as being the caretaker, rather than a business leader, simply based on their gender, and the societal concepts affiliated with it. “The potential for women to create and lead businesses that will drive African growth into the next century is massive, but women’s ability to deliver on this potential is tightly constrained by a lack of access to support services, sponsorship from business leaders, and supply chains” (2018). The sexism within the societal structures poses as an extra obstacle that only women must battle with when attempting to gain promotion within the career industry.

Women are deemed lesser than due to the social factors of presuming the woman be less educated, poor, or busy with other caregiving duties. The women of Africa also have added oppression due to regulations within the food and cosmetic industries. “In Nigeria, to gain approval to manufacture food and beauty products, one must jump through hoops to obtain an expensive license from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control” (2018). These bureaucratic obstacles place more difficulty on women to obtain such licenses. Women are set up to fail due to lack of time and resources needed to gain such documentation.


Haley McKinney

Population and forcible birthcontrol

In 2013 it was reported that Israel’s African female refugee population was given no option but to take the depo shot as a form of birth control. The idea was to forcibly keep the population in control. The article in from 2018 brings up the murmurings that from the U.S. recent involvement with Israel the refugee’s may be forced to leave the country.

This article brought up a long argument that I have had with my doctor and my friends have had with theirs, how in control are we as women over reproduction? Either through lack of education, lack of resources, or my favorite argument “you’ll change your mind and want kids later.” These women had their control taken from them and it is unclear if they even understood all the ramifications of taking that particular form of birth control.

My question is do you believe they should have given the refugees an educated choice to take the birth control(which is every 12weeks and can take up to a year to fully exit the system) or brought up safe sex practices to let women have the choice to have a family when they want?

Southern Africa’s Contraceptive Control

Abigail Detwiller

Puberty is a crucial step as girls prepare for the decisions and responsibilities of sexuality and reproduction.

Faridah Nalubega, a 26 year-old woman intended to have just two or three children, the most she felt she could afford by selling fried fish in Kampala, Uganda, according to PAI, a U.S.-based family-planning advocacy group. But she ended up with six children—in large part, she told PAI, because her husband forbade her to use contraceptive pills and her local family-planning clinic offered no suitable alternative. In this area of Uganda, men often become violent with their partners who show an interest in using contraception.

Two barriers that limit the access to and use of contraceptives is southern Africa are the myths and misconceptions of young people, and the attitudes of adults in these communities. If these can change then the use of contraceptives will increase and the number of unwanted pregnancies will decrease. The first step would be to expand the learning and accessibility of information on the many different methods of contraceptives. The young people need to understand that the myths and misconceptions that they are taught by their peers and adults are incorrect and hold no scientific grounds. If they could meet others who use contraception and ask questions it could be a very good experience for the youth, and for the adults who have the misconceptions. It is one thing to be able to reach the youth, but if you do not change the view ofthe adults have then all the work you did can be easily reversed because of the place they hold in their society over the younger generations. After being able to teach and give more factual based information on contraception they would need to focus more of their time focused on the older generation. If the older generation views contraceptives as bad and refuse to provide the youth with them then all the work teaching the youths would be of no use. The youth would not be able to get the contraceptives so their knowledge would be no help because without contraception’s no matter what they try it will be unsuccessful. Young people are seen by societies around the world as needing to be guided by the older generations to make sure they are not making immature decisions. Though sometimes the problem stems from the older generations decisions that are being forced upon the youth.

In South Africa the traditional view against contraceptive use is held by the men, so if a man does not want his wife on contraceptives then she cannot unless she hides it. Engelman writes that “unfortunately, helping women plan their families stealthily—by using contraceptive injections, for example—is a leading strategy because many male partners believe childbearing decisions are theirs alone to make. Men also tend to want one to three more children than women do, not surprising given who gets pregnant, gives birth and handles most of the child care.” Traditional values are taught to the next generation through multiple ways, but some traditional values are oppressive towards others and should not be implemented. If these traditions are stopped it does not mean that it is lost the tradition will be a part of the people’s history, and generations will be taught why they changed, and how it has helped the people grow. Just because people no longer apply that tradition does not mean they have lost who they are it just means there might have been a healthier way for them to celebrate.

When introducing new ideas and concepts some people can create myths and misconceptions about the information and make it so that the general population is against something without learning all the facts. Most youth are uneducated in the correct procedures, heavily influenced and trusting of their peer members, and so believe false information easily because of misplaced trust. In a study, Ochaco et al. found that “Many fears were based on myths and misconceptions. Young women learn about both true side effects and myths from their social networks” Most myths and misconceptions that were taught to the young girls is that if the use any contraception they will not be able to have children later. By creating these myths and misconceptions many girls are then later pressured to get rid of pregnancies that come from not being able to use contraception’s. To combat the myths and misconception education for both males and females is important. By continuing to go to school both genders will be able to learn the importance of contraception and how big of a role they all play. Though, at the moment, since South Africa is a patriarchal society, females are not seen as important enough to continue their education most of the time passed elementary level.

It is important to teach the younger generations because without access to contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies increase.. Hoopes et al. report that “Approximately one-quarter of women aged 15–19 years in South Africa report having been pregnant. Although teen fertility has mirrored a decline in fertility among all women in South Africa, South African teens experience a birth rate of 54 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 years, twice that of teens in the United States.”

Though Africa has been more progressive in their abortion laws such as, “…nurses and midwives are trained and permitted to perform abortions, paving the road for accessible abortions at conveniently located facilities” (“Common Reproductive Health Concerns in Anglophone Africa.”), many girls have resort to extreme measures to get rid of unwanted pregnancies aborted because of the limited number of professionals.

If men and women are not taught the true information pertaining to contraceptives they will continue to have problems. Traditional values can still be part of who the people are but will just not be implemented. Women deserve the same education opportunities as men. By having these options available the knowledge about birth control will be more widely available and not seen as something bad, instead a positive.

Abigail Detwiller has an associate’s in Science and attends East Carolina University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. After graduation she plans to enroll into a Dental Hygienist program to obtain her license and work in the dental field helping others.

The (Un)Happy Tale of Nigerian Women

Leangei Gomez Nuñez

The PM News (Nigerian News) reported that a man named M.Y. murdered his wife on the 17th of November 2011 for refusing to have sex with him. He was sent to the prison by the Ilorian Magistrate Court [PM News, 2012]

            One in every four women in Nigeria experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. Many have also undergone female genital mutilation,  and eighty-eight percent of young girls have been married too young. All of this violence towards women can be accounted for by Nigerian patrilocal customs. Their customs dictate that women are subordinate to men and must do as their father and husbands command. According to Ifemeje, men expect obedience from their wives and have sexual rights to them. Husbands, therefore, can physically assault and rape their wives if they feel as if a wife is not fluffing her obligations to him. This is a major issue for these women as these forms of violence that they are been submitted to are not seem as a problem but rather normal.

Nigerian women also suffer from female genital mutilation. Female genital mutilation is practiced throughout the country, with the exception of one ethnic group. Different ethnic groups practice different forms of FGM with clitoridectomies being more common in the south and infibulation in the north. According to Okeke, the practice has been attributed to the preservation of chastity, family honor, and protection of promiscuity as well as the control of sexual attitudes.

Child marriage is another phenomenon that has deep roots in the Nigerian customs. The country has one of the highest rates in the world, with 88% of young girls being married before the age of 16. Families believe that by marrying their daughters they will be protected and supported. This, however, puts them as a higher risk to be physically, sexually, and psychologically abused by their partners.

Cultural views and lack of income are said to be the main factors contributing to violence against women. Most Nigerians live in systems of patrilineal kinship with wives moving to live with the families of their husbands after marriage. In this system, men have power and control over women and it is considered normal to physically punish wives if they are not following orders or behaving appropriately. Social customs also dictate that young wives must be initiated into sex often by force or rape. This sexual abuse continues throughout the marriage. Although these are clear forms of abuse, they are not view as problems or crimes because of cultural views regarding gender roles.

Income has also been noted to play a major part when it comes to domestic violence. According to Gage and Thomas, the loss of employment and of the breadwinner role have been noted as a stressor in marital relationships. Women who earn an income are at higher risk of being physically attacked by their husbands. This is because when women become the providers and are more economically independent, men may respond by using violence to keep hold of their hierarchy and compensate for the loss of the breadwinner role.

Although prevention and resolution of violence against women are harder to achieve because many times the acts are not reported, there are many campaigns that are fighting to put an end to these issues. The Nigerian government has implemented policies to out end to them. In 2015, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition act was adopted which prohibits female genital mutilation, harmful widowhood practices, harmful traditional practices and all forms of violence against persons in both private and public life. The state of Ekiti has stablished a Gender-Based Violence Fund to provide basic material support for victims; here they receive free shelter and vocational training. Lagos government has outline plants to establish a Fund to pay for free legal services to women and children suffering violence. Even with government there are still many challenges ahead both legally and culturally.


Leangei Gomez is a Senior at ECU majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in culture and a minor in history. She is graduating in May 2018, and hopes to join the Peace Corp in 2020 before applying for Grad School. Leangei hopes to work in bettering education systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.

What is Female Genital Mutilation and How Do We Stop It?

By Giuliana Davis

            Let’s examine the average 12-year-old girl. Having just starting understanding how men will a play a role in her life, she spends her time day dreaming over the boy she met in school. She enjoys playing with her friends, and experimenting with makeup. She shouldn’t have a care in the world, unless you consider finding a dress for her first formal to be serious business. But this is not the reality for many girls around the world. In many parts of Africa and Asia, the 12-year-old you imagine, is actually spending time preparing herself for a very invasive procedure. She can’t scream, or cry. She’ll bring shame upon herself and her family. If she doesn’t have the procedure, she’ll become a social pariah and men will discard her like a piece of garbage. Every woman she has ever known has been forced to have the procedure. It’s tradition. She’s going to be circumcised. She’ll have her labia majora, minora, and clitoris removed while fully conscious and aware. Depending on where she lives, she may also have her vaginal opening sewn shut, allowing only a small hole for urine and menstrual fluids.

This is a shocking, but very real, glimpse into the lives of thousands of girls ages 12-16 throughout 29 different countries on Earth. And while their cultures consider it to be a necessity, there is absolutely no medical benefit for this procedure. On the contrary, it often causes infection and pain that can be deadly. The most common and severe complication that occurs due to female circumcision is known as obstetric fistulae. Obstetric fistulae occur when a woman is giving birth, but the blockage caused by her sewn vaginal opening causes her to be unable to push. Labor often goes on for days, and the newborn is almost always stillborn. Due to the pressure caused by her attempts to push, and the resistance due to a sewn vaginal opening, the baby’s head presses against the soft tissues inside of the birthing canal, causing a tear between the canal and the bladder or anus. Once she has finally pushed out her stillborn baby, she’ll fall into a deep, exhausted sleep, only to wake up to the realization that she has wet the bed. Thinking it to be a one-time accident, she’ll quietly wait for it to dry, but it never will. She has completely lost control of her bladder, and will forever be incontinent.

In this culture, the incontinence caused by obstetric fistulae is worse than death. These women face a life of shame ahead of them. They are isolated and treated as pariahs, and are forced out of society. They are the Untouchables of Africa. Their husbands want nothing to do with them, and they end up living out the rest of their lives in small huts on the edge of their villages, with virtually no contact with any members of their previous cultures.

But there is hope. Many organizations are taking active roles in the fight against female genital mutilation, and aiding in the recovery of those who have undergone it and may be suffering health consequences:

  • “28 Too Many”- this organization helps on 3 levels. First, they educate those in places like the U.S., who have likely never heard of the practice. Second, they educate influential members of the societies in which FGM is practiced, and encourage them to take a stand against it. And finally, they equip local people and organizations with the tools they need to oppose the practice.
  • “The Day of Zero Tolerance”- this is an international day introduced by the UN in an attempt to globalize the fight against FGM. Education is key, and this day makes it possible for people around the world to become educated.
  • “The Desert Flower Foundation”- started by a model who escaped the world of FGM and came to the United States, the Desert Flower Foundation strives to educate people and encourages governments to pass laws that ban Female Genital Mutilation.

So while the outlook may seem bleak, there is always hope for the future when people take a stand for what they believe in. But it is essential that we don’t just watch other people do the work. Each and every person needs to become part of the fight, because as Desmond Tutu so accurately put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Giuliana Davis is a double major in Criminal Justice and Anthropology with a minor in Forensic Science. She hopes to go into the field of forensic anthropology, and her dream is to work with the Smithsonian Institute.


The Effect of Increased Women’s Representation in Parliament: The Case of Rwanda-Substantive Blog 4

Rwanda is one of the countries that has lived one of the bloodiest conflicts of the last decades that between April and July 1994 left more than 800,000 dead when ethnic Hutu militias and government forces attacked Tutsi Rwandans. In the article that I selected this week for my final paper, its authors -Claire Devlin and Robert Elgie- analyze what has been the effect of the increase in the number of women in the Rwandan parliament in the post-conflict stage.

In the case of Rwanda, although women were victims of murder, rape and sexual torture during the genocide, it was men and boys who were the primary targets for extermination (Devlin and Elgie 2008:241). Consequently, after the conflict the majority of the population was female (70%) and many women had to exercise traditional male roles in the economy and politics during the post-conflict stage. In the specific case of politics, since 2003 elections, Rwanda has been consolidated as the country with the highest percentage of women’s representation in parliament in the world: In 2008, 48.75 per cent of the seats in the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies are held by women (Devlin and Elgie 2008:243)

In order to assess the effects that women representatives have had on the Rwandan parliament, Devlin and Elgie (2008) interviewed 9 woman who were in parliament both prior to the 2003 election and who were also elected to parliament after 2003. The authors examined the women’s impact in three areas: Culture of parliament, political agenda and public policy.

Regarding culture of parliament, they found  that  Rwandan female deputies did not seem to have been relegated to traditional ‘women’s areas’ , on the contrary women  held positions like Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Research, Minister in the Office of the President and Minister of Economic Planning and Cooperation. Likewise, women occupied  60 per cent of the vice-presidential positions and 27 per cent of the presidential positions on the standing committees (Devlin and Elgie 2008:244). Aditionally,  the interviewed manifested that  ‘social climate’ of parliament changed positively which translated into greater solidarity among women and a more fluid relationship with men who increased their respect and interest in gender issues.

In terms of political agenda the deputies identified as a central themes of their agenda the support to initiatives focused in women entrepreneurs, education for girls and women, female solidarity within the parliament and  international female solidarity.

Meanwhile, in the sphere of public policy, the great achievements have been the status of category one  for rape or sexual torture, a law extending the rights of pregnant and breast-feeding mothers in the workplace, a law on the protection of children from violence, the  gender-sensitive Rwandan Constitution and the  ‘Law on the Prevention, Protection and Punishment of Any Gender-Based Violence’ (Devlin and Elgie 2008:249).

Ultimately, the increase in the number of women in the parliament in Rwanda has allowed that in the post-conflict stage, the gender issues have had a special importance and that not only the parliament but all the government instances have begun to work favor of women’s rights.


Devlin, Claire and Elgie Robert. 2008. “The Effect of Increased Women’s Representation in Parliament: The Case of Rwanda” Parliamentary Affairs (61:2), 237–254.


Umoja – a village with no men

Umoja is a village in Kenya, I had seen a video on Facebook and decided to do a little more digging into this village. The name of the village in Swahili means “unity”. This village has banned men from itself, it was founded in 1990 by female survivors of rape and sexual violence, but also is a safe haven for women who flee these situations; they also welcome women who are fleeing genital mutilation and child marriage but also anything that causes harm emotionally or physically to women. The village only consists of 20 women and 200 children.

Umoja has inspired other women-only villages within Kenya.

“Building community through peace, love and understanding rather than fear and violence.”


Personally I thought this video was amazing, to find out that these women, even what they’ve been through have found strength to fight to get their lives back and help other women in Kenya and other fleeing women to do the same; it’s inspirational.

Husband School

Husbands gather to discuss maternal and population concerns in a quest to improve conditions within their own community. (Photo credit: UNFPA)

In Niger, more than one woman dies every two hours in childbirth, and many more become disabled.  With high levels of gender inequality and maternal deaths, the United Nations Population Fund began offering “Husbands’ School” to educate married men about maternal health and related matters.  This program brings together cultural and religious leaders, NGO’s and married men to not only discuss these issues, but to make decisions and put action plans into place.  The idea has quickly spread to other African countries and has spurred interest in hygiene as well as working towards healthier pregnancy and childbirth.

I think this is a good example of educating people and saving lives while maintaining cultural relativism.  Involving cultural and religious leaders has allowed this program to flourish and create maternal and other public health awareness across 5 countries, with several more countries also showing interest in this program.


Working towards ending FGM

February 6 of each year is “The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.” This article highlights efforts of the UN in educating communities about the myths and negative outcomes of this procedure still common in several African and Middle Easter countries in both Muslim and Christian communities.

FGM has many serious short – and long-term health consequences for girls and women. This year’s theme was “ending the ‘medicalization’ of the procedure.” FGM, even when conducted by a medical workers, is harmful to girls and women; however, as these workers become better educated about the negative consequences of FGM, some are beginning to refuse conducting the procedure.

How Menstrual Cups Can Improve Educational Outcomes For Girls In Africa

Menstruation is an often overlooked factor in understanding poor educational outcomes for girls in parts of Africa and other developing areas.  Without access to sanitary products, many girls (and women) are often forced to use items like unsanitary rags, leaves or old newspapers to cope with their periods.  Due to the lack of sufficient sanitation facilities at schools as well as an inability to purchase proper sanitary products, many girls can miss up to 6 weeks of school per year.

Project Dignity is one of several organizations devoted to providing access to sanitary products.  For each box of menstrual cups purchased at participating locations, they promise to provide a free 3 month supply of menstrual cups to a girl in one of these developing areas.  By providing access to sanitary products, projects like this can help increase educational outcomes for girls as well as addressing a public health issue.

RH Reality Check – Menstruation can be a curse

WomenCare Global – Project Dignity


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