Gender discrimination rampant in rural Africa

The noises she recalls vividly are those of cows mooing, owls screaming, chickens cackling, dogs barking, cats yowling, pigs squealing, pigeons cooing, beetles clicking, bats screeching, crickets creaking, different hisses made by different snakes and numerous melodies made by birds.
Memories that drive melancholy away from her mind are that of last Christmas when Uncle Jonathan brought her some sugar, powdered milk, bread and butter from Harare.
She is so remote.
When she was still a girl, her aunt used to tell her how marriage is tough since men are “the lion of the tribe of the home” and it really baffles her mind when her husband goes for a week without giving her a lash or two.
Whip lashes are the order of the day for her and she does not care at all because she has accepted the reality her aunt told her.
On the other hand, is her male counterpart who wakes up early in the morning to go to the chief`s kangaroo courts to gather with other men to discuss issues affecting the village.
After meeting with other men, he goes into the bush to look for some fruits, mice or rabbits to bring to his wife and kids who wholesomely depend on him.
I am talking about girls, boys, women and men who live in the remote rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa who are illiterate that the illiterate calls them illiterate; poor that the poor calls them poor, downcast that the destitute and vagabonds feel they are better.
The women are still heavily bound by the shackles and chains of patriarch and gender stereotypes, while the men are basking in the glory of the two (patriarch and stereotypes).
For the past decade to now, Africa has made tremendous improvements, though not enough, in empowering the girl child and demolishing gender inequality and gender discrimination.
The world saw African women making it in business, politics, sports and economics.
The likes of Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia, Joice Mujuru of Zimbabwe, Joyce Banda of Malawi, Isabel Dos Santos of Angola, Dienzani Allison of Nigeria, Linah Mohohlo of Botswana, Gil Marcus of South Africa, Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, to mention but a few.
The question now is what are African governments doing to untie rural African women from the two monsters (patriarch and gender stereotypes) and to consciously sensitise the rural African men on the subject of gender and women rights?
“Harmful traditional practices are a contentious issue for nations and a major site of resistance to change where women’s rights are concerned.
“In countries where great emphasis is placed on custom and tradition, violence against women in this context is either condoned or accepted as a way of life, says Violet Nkatazo, a gender analyst
More often than not in rural areas, are these traditions more prevalent deeming the rural areas a decade behind the urban areas?
There are a number of cultural factors that contribute to the discrimination and marginalisation of African women, especially those in rural areas.
These practices include chiramu (privileges typically given to uncles and brothers-in-law which allow them to fondle and even engage in sexual activity with younger girls in the family), debt-bondage (a custom whereby a family in need typically receives help from another family, on the condition that the family receiving assistance commits to giving a girl child, or bearing a girl child, and giving it to the donor family) and wife inheritance (a woman whose husband has died may be given to a surviving brother-in-law to marry, or a man whose wife has died is given a young girl from his wife's family to marry).
The practices also consist of forced elongation of labia minora (females are required to lengthen their labia minora in preparation for sex in marriage), musenga bere (if a man admired a woman, he did not necessarily have to go through the courtship process but could simply carry the bride-to-be on his shoulders kicking and screaming to his home) and infibulation or pharaonic circumcision (partial closure of the vaginal orifice after excision of varying amount of tissue from the vulva, In its extreme form, all of the mons veneris, labia majora and minora, and clitoris are removed and the involved areas closed by means of sutures or thorns), virginity testing, to mention but a few.
“These practices persist because African governments are reluctant to act and reach out to these gender stereotypes ravaged rural communities. The practices were mainly designed to perpetuate patriarchy and will often be strongly defended by traditional leaders, often men, as being a “part of our culture”.
“Women in the societies where these harmful practices persist will often also defend them without questioning them because they lack knowledge,” says Nkatazo.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of African governments to take considerable time, effort and resources to train the traditional leaders, chiefs and headman on the subject of woman rights and gender if Africa is to see its rural people rising and becoming champions in life.
If well educated through governmental outreach programmes, seminars and through the media, these women and men will live a good legacy to their grandchildren and maybe poverty and other calamities will come to a halt in Africa.

March 2013
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