The World

The African woman

For some time now, there has been a radical change in the paradigm of African women, especially in Kenya, both socially, professionally and socially.

Martyn Drakard-December 16, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
African woman

Ever since the African continent opened up to the outside world, it has been the scene of all kinds of human tragedies. Now, some 150 years after the great European explorers ventured inland, the transformation has been immense. One area where this enormous change is noticed and felt is in the lives of African women.

In Kenya, sixty years ago, it was quite normal to see women of all ages carrying huge bundles of firewood on their shoulders, heading home to light the fire and prepare dinner. Those days are long gone. Now, thanks to improved living standards, universal education and healthcare and, above all, technology, African women are on a par with their sisters in Western countries.

Women are present in virtually all professions. In parliament, although in the region, Kenya lags behind Uganda and far behind Rwanda. In primary education, women have taken over and are well represented at secondary and university levels. In the legal profession they will soon outnumber men and the current Chief Justice of Kenya is a woman. Something similar is expected to happen among doctors. In sports, female athletes are known worldwide, and are making inroads in men's sports such as boxing and rugby. They have long been present in fields such as fashion, media and tourism. And more recently as airline pilots.

The African woman has taken to technology, in the form of a cell phone, like a fish to water: it helps her stay in constant contact with family and transfer money, through "M-pesa", a Kenyan invention. It also puts her in touch with the rest of the world. It seems that the African woman not only wants to catch up with women all over the world, but even surpass them.

Moreover, and this is important: Kenya is not ruled by an autocrat, like much of Africa, but enjoys a democratic system that elects its president every five years without fail. As Charles Onyango-Obbo writes in the Daily Nation on October 21, 2021: "Kenya has probably surpassed the United States as the country where, immediately after a general election ends, campaigning for the next one begins," and "Kenya is the most politically litigious country in Africa. Virtually every government and presidential decision ends up in court." In other words, everyone, including women, feels entitled to be heard, even in high places.

Both freedom and technology have helped African women, and not just Kenyan women. Many people now enjoy a fairly high standard of living and many material problems of sixty years ago have disappeared, hopefully for good.

However, technology has its downside, especially for women, and more and more young women are being exposed to the addictive nature of social media and many of the negative ideas coming into the country from more developed countries: they learn about LGBT, culture woke and all social and moral trends abroad. In vitro fertilization is beginning to be seen as a ray of hope for those who cannot have children. And the anti-natalist pressure has been intense since just after independence in the 1960s. Still, many have resisted, and one of the main reasons for the slow acceptance of coronavirus vaccination is that many believe it makes one infertile.

Nevertheless, old values are still strong in the country. As elsewhere, the capital is not representative of the entire population. The family is still strong, thanks largely to the woman, and to the mother's sacrifice and tireless effort. The woman transmits to her sons the customs, manners and religious beliefs, and teaches her daughters the norms she has learned from her mother and grandmother; and how to combine all this with modern ways.

As other African countries become more open and experience the freedoms that Kenya enjoys, the status of African women will generally improve on the continent; the next ten to twenty years are likely to see major changes in this regard.

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