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TRAVAILS FACED BY AFRICAN WOMEN, CASE STUDY OF BUCHI EMECHETA’S JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD AND NAWAL EL SAADAWI THE WOMAN AT POIT ZERO

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TRAVAILS FACED BY AFRICAN WOMEN, CASE STUDY OF BUCHI EMECHETA’S JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD AND NAWAL EL SAADAWI THE WOMAN AT POIT ZERO

 

Abstract

This work discusses travails faced by african women, case study of buchi emecheta’s joys of motherhood and nawal el saadawi the woman at poit zero.

A critical review of the existing literature on Africa clearly shows that women occupy an inferior position in society. Having a voice in society is often something that women in the Western world take for granted. However, in many African countries, especially the Islamic ones, the majority of women remain silent. This study therefore examines the treatment of patriarchy in Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point of Zero. The study is grounded on feminist theory. Feminism is considered appropriate because it is aimed at empowering women in the society, and the novels under review expose how women are oppressed and marginalized in many African societies, and stress the need for the women to challenge the status quo with a view to liberating themselves from the oppressive African men. The research is essentially library-based and involves textual analysis. The study demonstrates how female African novelists have responded to the phallic nature of the African literature by empowering the female characters in their novels, and unabashedly exposing the patriarchal proclivity of the African men. The study shows how the two novelists give a fair representation of the historical backgrounds of their novels. One recurring feature of these novels is that the feminist zeal of the novelists sometimes beclouds their sense of judgement. The male characters in the novels are unfairly represented and bestialised. The import of this is that, given the proliferation of promising African female novelists in our present generation, there is the need for them to pursue their feminist goal vigorously but realistically.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

One of the challenges facing women in Africa society today is the revision of some African cultural practices that denigrate the image and status of women in the society. Male and female children right from their birth are assigned different roles, values, and status by the society where they are born. In many societies, preference for sons is a powerful tradition, which manifests itself in neglect, deprivation, and discriminatory treatment of daughters to the detriment of their physical and mental health. Male preference adversely affects females through inequitable allocation of food, education, and health care, a disparity frequently reinforced throughout life. This preference begins early in life and professional training is reserved exclusively for males while the females are given out in marriage at an early age. In many cultures, the tradition of marrying daughters at a young age is common; female children, already undervalued are often married to much older men. In such marriages, females have little power and sense of self-determination. Those who marry early cannot stay in school and often have little motivation or ability to plan their families. Mineke asserts that: In the Igbo society, a woman is always owned by a man. First, she belongs to her father until she is of an age when she can be [married]. Pre-arranged marriages are normal. How the daughter feels toward her husband is of little importance. After acquiring her, she is only valuable in terms of producing offspring, preferably males (2008).

Debbie O’Neill also asserts that: Igbo society upholds the notion of manliness as fundamental social norm. Violence against women is justified, African women languished on the fringe of their universe-neglected, exploited, degenerated, and indeed made to feel like outsiders (2009). The reason for this priority placed over male offspring is due to “unbroken chain of inheritance”(Mbat 142). Males are valued as the stronger and great achievers in contrast to the females, who are regarded as weak and non- achievers, and, are therefore, assigned minor roles. The number of male children a man has during his lifetime not only ensures the continuity of the family lineage but also is a form of social security for parents when they grow old. The woman represents the ultimate value in life, such as the continuity of the husband’s lineage (Steady 198). She does not therefore interrupt her ability to reproduce since a family’s wealth would depend on its number of children. Women without children are stigmatized and their sterility is punishment for past sins. Mbat concludes that negativism is traceable to African belief in male chauvinism, which, in, itself, has clouded African minds of the true nature, value, dignity and contribution of women in rural and national development. Using an analogy of soul and body,    Aristotle declares that: Men are born to rule women just as the soul, which is superior rules the body, men are by nature superior, and the women inferior; and one rules while the other is ruled; this principle of necessity extends to all mankind (Quoted in Khan 21). Aristotle concludes that women represent a “defaced human nature”. The female, he argues, “is a mutilated male” (21). In the African literary genre, persons who have read novels, stories, poems, songs, proverbs, folktales, authored by Africans will be amazingly familiar with the negativism depicted on the portrayal of girls and women in traditional African cultural setting. A Kenyan feminist philosopher lists what she found to be the common characteristics of the majority of African women as rural, illiterate, poor, isolated, passive, submissive, parochial, afraid and lonely (Oduk 160). These and other uncritical and provoking African cultural worldviews and practices which arise from narrow-minded chauvinism, have grossly misrepresented the nature and the concept of women and womanhood in particular and of human nature as a whole. Some African female writers have through their works revealed women struggling against some of these oppressive forms (patriarchy, polygamy, class and religion) in African society. Among pioneer female writers who rose to salvage African women’s image are Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta,

Nawal El Saadawi, Zaynab Alkali, Mariama Ba, Ama Ata Aidoo and recently, Gracy Ukala. These women write fiction, poems and plays in an attempt to attack the stereotypes and misconceptions about women and in a way show their concern for the plight of women and their strong advocacy for social transformation where women will be given their due recognition. One method through which this is taken up and dealt with is through fiction. Modupe asserts Literature as a major avenue of self-expression for many African women in the on-going quest for new gender myths and collective self- retrieval (Modupe 42). D’almeida further addresses the political importance of women authorship when describing literature as “a venue through which women portray themselves as actorsinstead of spectators.

They are at the core instead of the periphery. They explore, deplore, subvert, and redress the status quo within their fiction” (D’almeida 22). These works have been able to critique existing models of development as well as challenge male dominance in African society. The power of the novel to represent the inner life of the subject has been used by many writers especially female ones to expose the sufferings of women participating in polygamous and patriarchal relationships. The aim of this thesis is therefore a critical analysis of the structures of female oppression in the African societies. This will be done primarily through a study of relevant literature on gender discrimination in some African novels. It seems that attempt to eradicate gender discrimination in any society will not succeed without first identifying deep-rooted structures of domination that serve to perpetuate the African women. I will therefore, explore some of the forms of female oppression in African fiction especially as it concerns patriarchy and polygamy as African cultural practices that reduce the status of women. These structures as shown in this project have played a major role in shaping the plight of women and widening the gap of inequality between the sexes. Carole Boyce Davies in her essay “Feminist Consciousness” remarks on the African women’s role as subjects to interconnected forms of oppression: to the racism of colonialism and to indigenous and foreign structures of domination. Davies points out that colonial polices combined with indigenous attitudes contribute to denying African women their rights” (Davies 3). Jagne adds that women in African society are always relegated to a position where their voices cannot be heard (Jagne 2).

However, having a voice in society is often something that women in the Western world take for granted. On the other hand, in many African countries, the majority of women remain silent. This is because traditional African societies have cultural and traditional practices that hold them together and act as their codes of conduct and this has been compounded by social, economic, political and cultural structures built on assumptions that are deeply rooted in our societies. These assumptions are taken by many women as well as men to be part of the order of things, a part of the land scope rather than a man made edifice built upon gender oppression. Through centuries of male chauvinism, the woman has come to accept the misconception that: “To be a woman is a natural infirmity and every woman gets used to it. To be a man is an illusion, an act of violence that requires no justification (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1985).  She has therefore become the passive sacrificial lamb, always ready to be sacrificed on the altar of man’s bloated ego. The situation has been compounded by religious fundamentalism and cultural nationalism. Consequently, postcolonial feminists have had to contend with two obvious realities: the women’s respect for, and obedience to their communities’ traditional demands and the subservience to the dictates of fundamentalist religious rules.

Disgruntled at the patriarchal depiction of culture by their male counterparts, African women writers have learned to use writing to make their voices heard on their own terms. They have used writing as a tool of communication to bring to the attention of their own people and, by extension, to the wider readership aspects of culture which are of most concern to women but which have not been addressed at all or insufficiently addressed. Their writings provide the literary spaces where questions on women are posed, discussed, and, in some cases, answered. Yet, from Bessie Head to Buchi Emecheta to Mariama Bâ, many African Women Writers and some men like to declare that they are not feminists (New York: Routledge, 2000).  However, nothing could be more feminist than the forceful articulation in their writings of deep preoccupations with, and attempts at explaining the experiences and fate of women in patriarchal African societies.

Nawal El Saadawi, the Arab world’s most well-known feminist is one of the writers whose writings attempt at explaining the experiences and fate of women in patriarchal African societies. Her works reflect cultural contexts where rape and female sacrifice embody the violence of a social structure that has established virility as its norm for manhood. Such a concern may also serve as a way of pointing the finger at the pain and suffering of muslim

1.2 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

The bropad objective is to review the challenges of womanhood in an african  society;  a case study of Buchi Emecheta’s joy of motherhood and Nawal El Saadawi’s woman at point of zero.

Thus the specific objectives include;

1. To examine the cultural status of women in African society as portrays in the novels.

  1. To examine the womanhood in traditional Africa society
  2. To examine the state of women in contemporary Africa society.
  3. To reviews Emecheta’s expression on the Issue of gender in African society.

1.3 Significance of the Study

In today’s world where terrorism and Islam have become almost synonymous, it has become important more than ever to delve into an Islamic community and to clear some peoples mind on the negative perception of women attributed to Islam.  Again, in the wake of the proliferation of religious bodies in Ghana, the study educates people especially women on the deceptive nature of some people who use religion as a bait to exploit and to perpetuate injustice to mankind.  The study further seeks to educate all people that culture is dynamic and that it is necessary we do away with that part of our culture which is outdated and dehumanizing to humankind.

Finally the study seeks to implore stakeholders to strife for education for women since that could in a way liberate women from some cultural practices.

1.4 Methodology

A brief review of how women were treated in Africa society were carried out. A focus on the position of Islam/African culture regarding the womanhood will then be analyzed. A content analysis of the texts which are set in a African society will be carried out. A conclusion will then be drawn on what African culture contribute or fail to contribute toward the restoration of the womanhood, rights and dignity of women in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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