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date: 26 April 2019

Women in Central African History

Summary and Keywords

This examination of the history of women’s situation in Central Africa from the late colonial period of the 19th to the early 21st century sheds light on women’s experiences by highlighting their agency in confronting the changes they faced. The colonizers’ introduction of cash crop production and forced labor in the late 19th century to modernize the economy impacted the sexual division of labor, transforming the organization of the work within the family and community. In the post-independence period, traditional gender expectations continued to shape the lives of the majority of women, but a small number were able to take advantage of social mutations in the domains of education, politics, and work to become leaders. Transformations brought about by postcolonial armed conflict in three Central African countries profoundly affected women’s lives.

Keywords: Central African women, cash crop production, forced labor, sexual division of labor, women’s resistance/revolt, gender relations and colonial city, education, women and politics, armed conflict, reproductive rights

This article provides insight into the history of women in Central Africa during the colonial era from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries by shedding light on the impact of colonization on women’s socioeconomic and political situations. Central Africa is a geographical and political aggregate which represents a large continental subregion characterized by a diversity of populations, religions, and political, socioeconomic, and cultural traditions. The United Nations defines it as encompassing nine countries—Angola, Republic of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tomé and Principe. Since women do not constitute a homogeneous group, it is necessary to prioritize and be selective about what to emphasize in writing their history. Colonization has affected women in a multitude of ways, transforming their lives in relation to their rural or urban location, religion, ethnicity, class, and family situation. This article focuses in particular on women and work in rural as well as in urban milieus, on women and education, women in politics, and on the impact of postcolonial conflicts in Central Africa on women.

The argument that sustains this analysis is closely linked to analyses made of colonialism in Africa—women continue to live with the imprint of the colonial legacy. One of the best ways to approach their history is through the lens of the colonizing structures whose three axes—administrative, economic, and missionary—acted simultaneously. The colonial legacy in Africa was shaped by close collaboration between the colonial administrations, imperial economic interests, and missionaries.1

On the basis of readings that document Central African women’s situation, this analysis attempts to present women through their experiences as active agents undertaking actions in the context of changing social mutations linked to the intersection of religious, class, and ethnic identity as well as spatial location—rural or urban. The article has two major sections. The first discusses colonization from the late 19th century to the independence of the Central African countries. It examines important aspects of colonial rule such as the imposition of forced labor that accompanied implementation of cash crop production and mining exploitation. Focusing on how colonial rule affected women, the section emphasizes women’s actions in the face of change. The second section presents an overview of women’s implication in mutations in education, politics, and the economy in the postcolonial period from the early 1960s to the early 21st century, including the impact of armed conflict on women in three Central African countries. The section emphasizes how women have mobilized resources to resist and/or make changes in their livelihood.

Women in the Colonial Era: The Late 19th Century to the Early 1960s

Extending into the decade following World War II in Central Africa, the period of colonization inaugurated an era of cash crop production and mining exploitation that substantially transformed the sexual division of labor within African families. Regardless of whether the colonial administration was French, British, Belgian, German, or Portuguese, the new mechanisms of colonization that predominated everywhere mining companies were located across the regions of Ubangi-Chari (Central Africa Republic and Chad), Gabon, and the French Congo (Republic of the Congo)—regrouped as French Equatorial Africa—and the Belgian Congo necessitated the imposition of forced labor.2 Construction of railways from the interior to the coast of the Belgian Congo in 1880–1889 and the Congo-Ocean (CFCO) railways of the French Congo in 1921–1934, the establishment of mining companies in the Belgian Congo (the Katanga copper mines in 1920s) and in the British, French, and German Cameroon, together with implementation of plantations for the production of cash crops necessitated mobilization of huge numbers of workers through forced labor.3 As railway construction progressed, workers were moved from village to village where they lived crowded together in very poor conditions; many did not survive. Responsibility for feeding these workers inaugurated a substantial increase in peasant women’s workload, contributing to the intensification of women’s cash crop production as well as their cultivation of surplus foodstuffs directed to the market for sale. Indeed, to provide the food necessary to feed the workers, women were obliged to continue to produce on their individual fields and commanded to work on the communal fields.4

Cash Crops and the Exploitation of Women’s Labor

The colonists imposed their own division of labor when introducing plantations for the production of cash crops. Men were initially obliged to cultivate new crops such as peanuts, cocoa, and coffee. Women continued to be responsible for production of subsistence crops yet also became responsible for cultivation of foodstuffs such as corn and yams for market.5 In addition to contributing to an increase in women’s workload, cash crop production substantially changed women’s access to land and the way work on land was organized.6 Villages across Central Africa were regrouped around a traditional chief who supervised and controlled cash crop production for the market in ways that undermined traditional practices governing access to land.

The case of the Beti in the Cameroons illustrates how women were marginalized from their main agricultural activity—cocoa production—when its cultivation was taken over my men in the interwar period.7 The imposition of tax and the requirement that land rights be made permanent allowed this to happen. Customarily, men controlled the right to access land among the patrilineal Beti and were responsible for clearing the forest to develop land on which cocoa was grown. Women were responsible for cultivating cocoa. The introduction of cocoa production for the market benefited men more than women because it augmented the amount of land men could control. Moreover, the cocoa-harvesting calendar coincided with that for harvesting yam and watermelon, foodstuffs whose cultivation was traditionally men’s responsibility. Many polygamous village chiefs ordered their wives to undertake the extra work necessitated by the cultivation of “male” crops while continuing to cultivate “traditional” women’s foodstuffs—yam and peanuts—in their own fields.8

The reorganization of peasant production imposed by the colonists to promote their interests met with considerable resistance from both men and women peasants (women’s agency in such resistance has often been ignored). When the French reorganized peasant agricultural production in the Maka region of the Southern Cameroons in 1938 to ensure a supply of food for the market, the colonial authorities imposed a strict work schedule that governed the production of specific products. The colonists specified that villagers divide themselves into three men’s and two women’s teams, each led by a team leader, and ordered them to work every day from seven in the morning to four in the afternoon. The women’s teams were assigned village maintenance tasks and given detailed instructions about what was to be done on two days per month: “weeds must be cleared away in the area of fifteen yards around the houses and thirty yards at the entrance of the village.”9 Each woman was given a field sixty yards wide on which to cultivate food crops—bananas, cassava, maize—and a second same-sized field on which she was to produce groundnuts as well as cultivate a certain amount of rice for market sale. Their work on these two new fields added to the work women were already doing to cultivate their own fields. One men’s team was in charge of road maintenance; a second was responsible for taking care of keeping the houses and the fences around the village in good repair and of cultivating coffee and cacao.10 The duty of the third men’s team was to go into the forest to collect palm nuts and tap rubber. Each man was tasked with collecting at least fifty-five pounds of rubber to be sold at the market every month. Those men employed as wage laborers were exempt from such work obligations.11

In the absence of the colonial officer, villagers ignored the duties and work schedule imposed by the colonial authorities, no matter their gender. Exceptionally, however, the teams worked as instructed when villagers learned that the colonial officer was on an inspection tour. In this way they engaged in a type of passive resistance to colonial pressure to undertake production for the market.

The various colonial administrations and companies through which cash crop production plantations were established worked together. This type of connivance is illustrated by a colonial law enacted in French Equatorial Africa in 1904 that provided the legal framework for the reorganization of land ownership. Modeled on the Napoleonic code, the law provided the legal basis for collectively held land to become private property when duly registered and attributed to an individual. The Napoleonic code states that land that is private property automatically belongs to the husband as a head of the family.12 Women’s rights to access land were legally carried away in this way. In countries in which political consciousness was cultivated within women’s associations, women mobilized to protest politically, organizing revolts that opposed colonial rule.

Women and Tax Revolt: The Douala Women’s Revolt Against the Head Tax

The Douala women’s revolt against the head tax was one of many instances of African women’s resistance to the imposition of colonial rule. French colonial tax policy in the Cameroons in 1930 exempted all women living in Douala with children under age seven from paying the head tax. In 1931, however, the French authorities decided to extend collection of the head tax from all women and others who had previously been exempted. In response, the women of Douala wrote a letter to the French district colonial administrative authority requesting that they remain exempt from this tax. In the absence of a response to their request, the women decided to organize. They created an association, elected leaders, and carried out protests which the colonial administration aggressively repressed. One Douala woman leader was injured; several were incarcerated for fifteen days. The Douala women’s revolt led to the creation of the Association of the Women of Wouri, but the French colonial administration did not eradicate the head tax.13

Women and Colonial Education

The systems of education put in place for women throughout Central Africa reveal close collaboration between various colonial administrations and the mining and agricultural companies. The intent of the educational system the colonists established was to train individuals to work in the modern economy to facilitate the colonial imperial mission. Trained to become subordinate to colonial settlers, men were the first to receive an education. Left out, women remained confined to traditional roles as mothers and wives working on the family farm.

In French Equatorial Africa, Catholic missionaries became responsible for education on the basis of an agreement between the French government and the Holy Ghost Fathers. Favoring boys’ technical training to become artisans, the missionaries were of the opinion that religiously based basic education should be given in the local language.14 Girl’s education was neglected; by 1931, a few girls were enrolled in the boys’ schools that existed but no schools had been established for girls. The first school to offer one to three years of post-primary education for teachers and government employees was created in 1935. By 1939, only three hundred Africans held primary school certificates in the four colonies of French Equatorial Africa.15 Girls’ education was even more limited in Muslim communities.16 Congo Brazzaville exemplifies the situation that prevailed in French Equatorial Africa in terms of the education of Africans and of girls in particular. Only a few places were reserved for girls when the colonial administration opened the first primary school in the Middle Congo in the mid-1920s.17

It is worth underlining that in French Equatorial Africa, in contrast to the situation in the Belgian Congo and the Portuguese colony of Angola, women attended secondary school in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1949, Madeleine Mbono Samba was the first young woman in the Cameroons to receive her baccalaureate and successfully finish secondary school; she was 24 years old. Samba later earned a doctorate at the University of Bordeaux.18 Bouboutu and Mambou Aimé Gnali both attended secondary school in Congo Brazzaville in the 1950s. Mambou Aimé Gnal, who received her high school diploma (baccalauréat) in 1955, was the first girl in Congo Brazzaville to succeed at the secondary level.19

The signing of a convention between the Catholic Church and the Independent State of the Congo on May 26, 1906, ensured that education in the Belgian Congo was similarly entrusted to missionaries.20 A Christian education was required for both boys and girls. The purpose of girls’ education, however, was training to become Christian wives and mothers; boys were prepared to become auxiliaries of whites and craftsmen.21 By late 1955, only six girls’ schools existed in the Belgian Congo that offered education that could prepare girls for the post-secondary level and thirty classes that trained girls for post-primary education.22

Women in Central African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 1. Girls taking needlework classes in the first technical girl school in Belgian Congo.

(Photo by Joseph Makula. Courtesy of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, HP.1957.1.119)

The situation in the Portuguese colony of Angola where education was in the hands of Catholic as well as Protestant missionaries was similar to that in Equatorial Africa and the Belgian Congo.23 Schools aimed to train African boys as auxiliaries of the white colonialists and girls to perform domestic activities.24

Women Negotiating Gender Relations in the Colonial City

The cities of Brazzaville and Léopoldville in Central Africa’s Belgian Congo, like cities elsewhere in colonial Africa, were places where young men came to work and where they lived huddled together in labor camps.25 Léopoldville and most cities during the 1920s were populated by male workers. Women remained in the rural areas cultivating food crops where they engaged in all stages of production. Single women who migrated to cities in the Belgian Congo were labeled femmes indigene adultes valides vivant théoriquement seules (able-bodied native adult women theoretically living alone). As they extended their missions across the colony, the Catholic missionaries strongly resisted permitting women to move to Léopoldville and other cities because cities were reputed to be places of depravation.26 It was not until World War II that women were permitted to move to cities. Once present, women faced marginalization in the cities because their lack of education resulted in their exclusion from urban opportunities. To support themselves, women such as the Lari in Leopoldville turned to food production, cultivating vacant land, and to small-scale trade.27 It was through these activities that women overcame their initial exclusion from the city and gained economic independence.

Following World War II, bars with names such as Elegance and Shining Star were among several types of entertainment that flourished in Brazzaville, where they attracted stylishly and richly dressed young women. Although the women were characterized as prostitutes, the bars were places where women, organized into associations, performed songs and danced to entertain the clientele.28 The associations provided members with mutual aid on which they could rely to pay the extraordinary expense needed for a burial, for example, and/or sickness. Similar women’s associations existed in Léopoldville during that period, where some bars even had the same name as those in Brazzaville—Elegance. As venues for the performance of popular music, which was a male domain, the bars in Léopoldville attracted large numbers of people.29 Like the women’s associations in Brazzaville, those in Léopodville were mutual-aid clubs whose members met in the bars. Although many of these associations were initiated by men, women used them to earn their economic independence. The situation of women in colonial Libreville, Gabon, was similar, though women had more economic opportunities there and some access to political power.30

The extremity of the Belgian colonial administration’s inflexibility with respect to discouraging the existence of urban women’s association is illustrated by a 1958 decree that stipulated that a married woman’s enrollment in a women’s club was conditional upon her husband’s permission. In their effort to control sexual behavior, the French colonial administration in Gabon enacted regulations that contributed to the creation of a sexual economy of prostitution.31 In addition to facilitating women’s economic autonomy, it is important to note that the urban women’s associations in the Belgian Congo played an important role in promoting women’s adoption of fashions, such as wearing clothing made of wax print textiles and a preference for speaking Lingala—most of these women refused to speak French—which expressed their resistance to certain European values.32 Their associations facilitated the ability of groups of women who refused to be confined to the domestic sphere to penetrate male spaces from which they had previously been excluded. Colonial law prescribed that only men could open bank accounts. To manage their finances, women circumvented being excluded from using banks by designating a man to represent them.

Women in Politics: Acting in the Shadow of the Main Political Party

Women were active participants in Central African independence movements. The earliest political parties were formed to take part in the 1946 legislative elections. Exceptional circumstances developed in Chad and the Republic of Cameroon that resulted in women taking leadership positions. When the Chadian Progressive Party–African Democratic Assembly (Parti Progressiste Tchadien-Rasemblement Démocratique Africain, PPT–RDA) was created in 1946, a women’s section of the party was founded by Gabrielle Lisette under the presidency of Madames Hadje Halimé and Kaltouma Guelmbang. Kaltouma Guelmbang was elected to the legislative assembly in 1959.33

In 1952, when the Republic of Cameroon was still divided between French and British administrations, women in the French sector formed the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women (Union Démocratique des Femmes Camerounaises, UDEFEC)—the women’s wing of the Union of the Cameroonian Populations (Union des Populations du Cameroun, UPC). Though created in 1949, UDEFEC remained nominal until 1952 when Irène Ngapeth Biyong and Emma Ngon Mbem called upon women in Douala to activate it. Ngon Mbem had just returned from Vienna, where she participated in a meeting of the Women’s International Democratic Federation, which was willing to fund and support women’s groups around the world. Under the leadership of Biyong, who became its first president, UDEFEC took an active political role promoting women’s issues within the UPC as well as collecting information and arranging papers to be sent to the UN.34

The women’s revolt in the Western Grassfields of the British Cameroons was one of numerous struggles against colonialism in Central Africa that exemplifies women’s political agency. Anticipating that it would undercut their authority and control over fertility and food protection and thus result in the suppression of their autonomy and the exploitation of their labor, women in the Western Grassfields opposed an agrarian reform the British colonial administration planned to introduce in 1958.35 The women’s well-coordinated actions, organized from the bottom up, benefited from efficient leadership. Wearing trousers and carrying tree branches, the women chanted and sang abusive songs as they protested against introduction of these colonial agrarian reforms.36 Moreover, as a tactical weapon to convey their message of opposition to the colonial authorities’ planned agricultural reform, the women stripped off their clothes to expose their nakedness.37 In adopting this strategy, the women drew upon traditional beliefs and practices that symbolically linked the female body to human and social fertility. The women’s revolt lasted three years. It began independently but later became affiliated with the anti-colonial political party, the Kameruns (Cameroons) National Democratic Party (KNDP), and contributed to successful liberation of the Western Grassfields in the Cameroons as well as to the reunification of the British and French Cameroons in 1961.38

At a forum in Brazzaville on September 28, 1958, Alice Badiangana was among young activists who pronounced themselves in favor of the immediate independence of Congo Brazzaville. Badiangana was a member of the General Confederation of African Workers union (Confederation Générale Africaine des travailleurs, CGAT) in Congo Brazzaville, which was affiliated with the CGT in France. She was also a member of the Union of Congolese Youth (l’Union de la Jeunesse Congolese, UJC) and, in that capacity, traveled to Czechoslovakia in 1957 and Australia in 1958, where she attended meetings held by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (Fédération Mondiale de la Jeunesse Démocratique) that reinforced her militancy. Badiangana was the only woman among the sixteen members of the CGAT and eight members of the UJC arrested on May 10, 1960. Congo Brazzaville became independent on August 15, 1960.39

Despite deliberate efforts by each colonial administration in Central Africa to marginalize women, the historical record demonstrates African women’s resilience and agency. Women managed to continue to cultivate subsistence crops on their own fields to provide for the community as well as workers doing forced labor, when needed, despite being burdened with additional unpaid work on men’s cash crop fields. In some regions, women resisted colonial rule by protesting against the head tax and agrarian changes that were detrimental to them. In urban environments, women created spaces for political engagement and successfully negotiated gender relations to maintain control over their economic and social well-being.

Women in the Postcolonial Period

Independence liberated the citizens of Central African from the colonial administration’s direct authority. The former colonial presence, nevertheless, continued to affect the situation of the populations of the newly independent states in numerous ways in the early postcolonial period. Women’s education, work, and political opportunities continued to be affected by the imprint of the educational, religious, and legal institutions the various colonial administrations had put in place. While substantial change has occurred over time, women continue to face significant new challenges in the context of massive social changes, economic crises, and, in three of the nine Central African countries, recurring warfare.

Women and Education: Challenging the Colonial Legacy and Traditional Customs

Girls lagged behind boys in education during the first decade of independence in Central Africa. It is, therefore, not surprising that it was not until 1967 that the first woman, Elisabeth Boyi Mudimbe, graduated from a university located within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mudimbe earned her doctorate in Literature at Lovanium University (Université Lovanium), where she began her studies with two other young Congolese women—Philomème Makolo, who completed her degree in social sciences in the United States, and Marie-Luoise Kabangi, who continued in political science at Université Lovanium. Two Congolese women had previously earned degrees abroad—Iana Disengomoka, who went to medical school at the Free University in Brussels (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Belgium, and Madeleine-Sophie Kanza, who graduated in economics from the University of Geneva (l’Université de Genève) in Switzerland in 1965.40 The first Congolese woman university graduate was Madeleine-Sophie Kanza, who earned her degree outside the DRC. Disengomoka and Kanza were able to attend university following major changes in the system of colonial education brought about by the 1948 reform, which made it possible for girls to pursue higher education. These women pioneers in education were each daughters of a Congolese évolué, as were Gnali in Congo Brazzaville and Samba in the Cameroon.41

Girls’ education has progressed continually since the 1960s in Central Africa. Despite improvements in the educational situation, the dropout rate of Central African students is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. At the elementary level, more than one child out of four (31 percent of all girls compared to 21 percent of all boys) was not in school between 2000 and 2012.42 Inequalities in gender parity persist because girls’ enrollment rates are always lower than those of boys. At the upper secondary level, the gender disparity rate of six girls for every ten boys in Central Africa is higher than that in any other sub-Saharan African region.43 The reasons underlying the high dropout rates could vary due to economic situation or poverty; factors contributing to girls’ low enrollment rates include social exclusion, ethical or religious values, marriage, and early pregnancy.44

In the early 21st century, sub-Saharan African girls continue to reflect upon their desire to marry or pursue education. The prevalence of child marriage, which averaged 30 percent in 2000, continues to be high, with the highest rate—46 percent—occurring in West and Central Africa.45 The highest rates of child marriage occur in two Central African countries that have undergone armed conflict—Central African Republic (CAR) with 60 percent and Chad with 69 percent. Both are among the ten countries having the highest rates of child marriage in the world.46 The proportion of African girls married before they were 18 rose from 34 percent to 44 percent between 1990 and 2001. By curbing girls’ schooling, early marriage destroys their opportunity to be educated and, thus, their potential to contribute effectively to their country’s economic, political, and social development.47

Women in the Informal Sector: A Path to Economic Empowerment

One consequence of the fact that women are generally less educated than men is that they have fewer possibilities with respect to accessing jobs in the modern economic sector. This fact has been compounded by economic crises in the Central African states and deepened by implementation of structural adjustment programs the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund imposed in the middle of 1980s.48 These neoliberal policies have had a disproportionately greater negative impact on women’s well-being than on men’s, contributing since the 1990s to the feminization of poverty in all class segments.49 In addition to eliminating subsidies in agriculture, education, and health, their imposition has resulted in massive cuts in public administration, one of the largest employers in the Central African states. Many civil servants in Congo Brazzaville, where women represented 33 percent of all workers in public administration in 2003, lost their jobs as a consequence of the implementation of structural adjustment policies.50 The job loss of husbands who had been employed as civil servants impacted their wives negatively since the men could no longer provide for their families.

To counter their lack of income, urban and rural women turned to informal sector activities to earn money to provide for their families. Many urban women cultivated market gardens and engaged in petty trade; rural women became massively engaged in agricultural activities for commercial purposes.51 In 1984 and later years, informal agricultural activities in rural as well as urban areas in Congo Brazzaville represented 74 percent of jobs, compared to 26 percent of non-agricultural jobs, in the informal sector.52

Women in Central African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 2. Women farmer in Central African Republic.

(Photo by A. Masciarelli. ©FAO)

Since women do the least profitable activities in terms of money earned in the informal sector, the swelling of their participation in the informal economy has contributed to the feminization of poverty. A striking example of this has occurred in the Cameroon, where rapid formal sector growth in information and communication technology has been accompanied by development and expansion of women’s engagement in call-box activities, one of the most risky and unprofitable information and communication technology activities in the informal sector. Women who mastered the technical knowledge that underlies this telecommunication credit recharge niche monopolize this sector.53 Possessing an education equal to or higher than the secondary level, the majority of them (71 percent) are not married.54

Many women are able to launch and/or continue their informal sector business activities on the basis of money they can raise from participation in tontines, or mutual-aid associations. Tontines, which bloomed during the economic crisis that followed political instability in 1979 in Chad, facilitated women’s economic autonomy, especially women engaged in petty trade who were sole providers for their family.55 Because they could rely on tontines to help them amass a small amount of capital to start their businesses, Chadian women who migrated to Yaoundé in the aftermath of the 1990s conflict found a way to survive by engaging in petty trade, selling bil-bil, liquor, peanuts, onion, and fruit on the roadside.56 As an expression of women’s mutual support, the existence of tontines illustrate continuity in a form of women’s organization that dates back to the colonial period when women in Brazzaville and Léopoldville formed mutual-aid associations.

In 1982, women in the Buloho collectivity of the Eastern DRC protested against taxes being levied on cassava they produced for market trade. As an expression of women’s resistance to state authorities, their protest mirrored women’s revolts against the head tax in the colonial era. The income Buloho women earned by marketing cassava on a weekly or a monthly basis enabled them to provide for their families. Levying such a tax during the economic decline that began in 1974, which resulted in lowering the market price of cassava, would have been detrimental to women producers. Following their protest, the market taxes were abolished.57

Women and Politics: From Marginalization to the Establishment

By 1960, women had gained the right to vote in most Central Africa countries. They timidly began to enter the political arena in the postcolonial period of the late 1960s; in the 1970s, before the proclamation of the UN decade for women, they asserted themselves to a greater extent.

In 1962, three women were elected to the legislature in Chad—Kaltouma Guelmbang, Bourkou Louise, and Hadje Halime. Later that year, single-party rule was established by Francois Tombalbaye, the first president of Chad after independence.58

Elizabeth Domitien became the first woman to lead a Central African government when, in 1974, President Jean Bedal Bokassa of the Central Africa Republic appointed her prime minister. Domitien received a Christian colonial education as a girl, which trained her to sew; she did not master reading and writing in French. As a militant in the independence movement in the 1950s, Domitien held meetings at which her inflamed discourses in the Sangho language were effective in mobilizing women to join the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa (Movement pour l’évolution Sociale de l’Afrique Noire, le MESAN).59 She became vice president of the MESAN in 1972. Following Domitien’s criticism of President Bokassa’s ambition to become emperor in 1976, he revoked her appointment as prime minister. She was imprisoned in 1980.60 Ejected from the political arena, upon being released from prison Domitien returned to activities she had been engaged in prior to becoming prime minister—producing coffee and marketing agricultural produce and textiles. She died in 2005.

In the DRC, women were excluded from politics during the first five years of independence. Mobutu reversed that situation when he took power in 1965; promoting women’s political participation was one way Mobutu could erase the effects of colonialism and postcolonialism. In 1966, he nominated the first woman to his cabinet, Mrs Lihau-Kanza, as Minister of Social Affairs (Commissaire d’Etat). Shortly thereafter, in 1967, women were granted the right to vote.61 The first woman to hold ministerial office in the DRC was Ekila Liyonda, whom Mobutu nominated to the key Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1987.62

From 1965, the year Mobutu assumed the presidency of the DRC, to 1992, the only legal political party in the nation was the single state ruling party. Combatants (militants), including women, who opposed the Mobutu regime by participating in various clandestine actions risked personal retaliation. In 1982, following creation of an illegal party opposed to Mobutu’s policies—the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (l’Union pour la Democratie et le Progress Social, UDPS)—the ruling regime arrested, jailed, and tortured the UDPS’s founding “fathers.” A few days later, two women militants, Godeliève Meta Mudiayi and Magambu Fuamba Julienne, who had attended a UDPS meeting at the post office and telecommunications public square in Lubumbashi on March 10, 1982, were also arrested and jailed.63

The winds of democratization of the 1990s brought an end to the single ruling state party as well as the proliferation of political parties in the DRC and elsewhere in Central Africa. Citizens seized this opportunity to become massively integrated into political parties and demonstrate their political activism.

Two women were elected to serve as president. Rose Francine Etomba Rogombé, former president of the senate, was elected to act as interim president of Gabon from June to October 2009 after President Bongo passed away.64 To oversee the transition to a new government in CAR following the election of 2016, Catherine Samba was elected president in 2014.65

Women in Central African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 3. Catherine Samba-Panza after her election as president of Central African Republic in 2014.

(Photo by Bagassi Koura, VOA Afrique, public domain)

It was in Republic of Cameroon in 2004, however, that Marie Louise Eteki Otabela and Rameline Kamagain became the first women in Central Africa to run as candidates in a presidential election.66 Maria das Neves Ceita Batiste served as prime minister of Sao Tomé and principe from 2002 to 2003.67 Four women candidates ran in the presidential election in the DRC in 2006—Catherine Nzuzi wa Mbombo, Justine Mpoyo Kasa-Vumbu Mpoyo, Wivine N’Landu Kavila, and Marie Thérèse NLandu Mpolo Nene.68 In contrast to these women presidential candidates, who created their own political parties outside the country, Marguerite Lusamba was the first women to create a political party within the DRC, the Assembly of Conciliatory Democrats (Rassamblement des Démocrates Concilliants).

Armed Conflict and Women

Armed conflict has affected women’s lives profoundly in three of the nine Central African countries—Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Chad. DRC is recognized as experiencing the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II. The magnitude of sexual violence inflicted upon women in that country, where the situation is unusual and exceptional, has resulted in the DRC’s reputation as the rape capital of the world.69 The war that began in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997 ended officially in 2003, but armed conflict in this part of the DRC has, in fact, not ended; it continued in 2018. The conflict in the eastern part of the DRC is rooted in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Through Operation Turquoise, facilitated by the Mobutu regime, an estimated 2 million mostly Hutu refugees fled into the DRC to escape the newly installed Tutsi-controlled government in Rwanda. Among these refugees were Rwandan Hutu militia groups—the Interhamwe. Refugee camps in the DRC became bases from which the Interhamwe launched attacks on Rwanda.70 In 1996, the Rwandan Patriotic Army decided to dismantle the Hutu militias in the refugee camps in the DRC. In 1997, with the participation of Uganda and Rwanda, Laurent Desire Kabila led the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaire, AFDL) to remove the dictator Mobutu from power. Laurent Kabila took power in 1997, and Mobutu fled into exile. Although Kabila changed the name of the country from Zaire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he soon realized that the DRC was controlled by his backers, Rwanda and Uganda, and that he was not really in power. In 1998, Kabila decided to send all foreign armies back to their countries of origin.71 When Laurent Kabila was murdered in 2001, his son Joseph Kabila was put in power. Officially, war took place in the eastern DRC from 1996 to 1997 and from 1998 to 2003. Since those official years, however, Eastern Congo has continued to experience intermittent armed conflict from rebel groups; peace has never been fully recovered. The country’s mineral wealth is the nerve underlying the continuing conflict. The DRC holds 80 percent of the world resources in coltan, zinc, silver, cobalt, diamonds, gold, copper, as well as many more minerals.

By the early 21st century, over 5 million people had died as consequence of the conflict; more than 500,000 women are estimated to have been raped.72 Countless women and girls, many of whom were victims of gang-rape by an average of three to four men, have been abducted and forced into marriage and sexual slavery; most have ended up with HIV/AIDS.73

In Central African Republic, conflict began in 2013 when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels attacked predominantly Christian anti-Balaka rebels. The conflict developed into civil war when the Seleka successfully seized control of several towns and overthrew President François Bozizé. Although not without tension, Muslims and Christians lived alongside one another for generations, yet the conflict appears to be between these two groups. Muslims are often viewed with suspicion by Christians because they were slave traders in the past and because the Muslim minority tends to be slightly wealthier today.

The conflict has resulted in displacement of about 1 million people. Since the conflict broke out, 467,800 primarily Muslim refugees have gone to neighboring countries while 384,300 have been internally displaced. As is the case of conflict elsewhere, militias in CAR have raped and abducted many women, who have been forced into sexual slavery in military camps. Several women have also been sexually exploited and abused by United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central Africa Republic (MINUSCA) peacekeepers. At least eight women and girls were sexually abused and exploited by MINUSCA peacekeepers between October and December 2015. The rape of a 14-year-old girl and gang-rape of an 18-year-old woman are documented.74

The devastating civil war Chad experienced from 2005 to 2010 was rooted in the country’s internal political situation and the socioeconomic consequences for its citizens. Under Hissène Habré’s regime, latent and deeply rooted tensions between north and south were reactivated, leading to violence in the context of the state’s abuse of power and the repression of political freedom. These abuses were prolonged under the presidency of Idriss Déby after Habré was ousted from power in 1990.75 Exacerbated by long-term social inequalities within the country, Déby’s decision to amend the constitution so that he could stay in power became a catalyst for the emergence of rebel groups.76 Some of these groups, which included individuals who had collaborated with Déby, found refuge in Darfur.77

The wars, which brought suffering to and the killing and displacement of thousands of people in Central Africa, deeply affected and threatened women’s and girl’s reproductive rights; many have been left with lasting trauma. Nevertheless, women came together in the search for peace, as they did during the 1993 war in Brazzaville, where they created an organization that contributed to ending the hostilities and establishing peace, the National Committee of Women for Peace (Comité National des femmes pour la paix).78 In 1998, the mamans chrétiennes of Central Africa held a peace conference in Brazzaville at which they discussed postwar recovery. Organized through the initiative of Josephine Songuemas-Mampoumba of Brazzaville and Cécile Mboyo Ekota-Nsombe of Kinshasa—president and vice president, respectively—the conference brought together Catholic women’s associations from dioceses throughout Central Africa; it ended with the creation of the Catholic Christian Mothers’ Peace Movement of Central Africa (Movement pour la Paix des Mamans Chrétiennes Catholiques de l’Afrique Centrale, MOPAX).79 Demanding that women be heard and included in the peace process, Ruth Sandro Perry and others in Central African Republic formed Women as Partners for Peace in Africa (WOPPA), an organization that played a key role promoting and negotiating a peace settlement between belligerent groups in CAR.80

United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 135 recognizes the importance of gender mainstreaming in peace support operations. Since its adoption by the international community in 2000, Resolution 135 has served as the basis for women in Central Africa and elsewhere to support their claim to participate in the peace process. Women who mobilized to be included in the process of transition to peace in CAR drew upon Resolution 135.81 Their initiative contributed to the election of Catherine Samba Panza as CAR’s president in 2014. Women in DRC similarly referred to Resolution 135 when they criticized the exclusion of women from talks between belligerents and the signing of agreements such as the Gaborone Peace Agreement, in which only 6 women compared to 68 men participated; the Sun City Peace agreement of 2002, in which 47 women compared to 360 men participated; and the Nairobi agreement, concluded with the participation of only 52 women compared to 320 men.82

Numerous women’s organizations in the DRC aim to promote peace. Among them are the Permanent Consulting Group of Congolese Women (Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la femme Congolaise, CAFCO), whose mission is to advocate for women’s participation in the peace process, and the Federation of Congolese Women for Peace and Development (Féderation de femmes congolaises pour la paix et le développement, FEPADE), which focuses on educating women and men about the importance of peace and works to achieve intercommunity reconciliation.83

Central African Women Shaping Their Own Lives

While some elements of the past persist, the events that transformed Central Africa from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries have brought about conditions that have substantially reshaped women’s lives. Women have shown resilience and demonstrated agency in overcoming the many obstacles posed by colonial rule, various cultural traditions, and the postcolonial state; they have found ways to mobilize resources in challenging environments from which they have often been excluded. When threatened, women overburdened by agriculture production revolted to protect their rights. Women in colonial cities managed to negotiate new forms of gender relations. The significant progress women made in education in the late 20th and early 21st centuries varied in relation to their urban or rural spatial location and their religious, class, and ethnic identity. Women emerged from the marginalization they experienced under colonial rule to invade the political arena, asserting their rights and demanding to participate. Nonetheless, the lives of women in Central Africa at the dawn of the 21st century continue to be marked by traditions which, especially those accentuated by war, facilitate the expansion of child marriages, particularly in rural areas, and strongly threaten women’s and girl’s reproductive rights. Through their local organizations, women are on the frontline fighting for women’s rights as human rights.

Discussion of the Literature

The situation of African women was initially broadly studied by androcentric ethnologists, whose documentation of women’s roles in production as well as in the reproduction of the lineage lead them to view women as victims of tradition and custom.84 The analyses later scholars produced using the lens of modernization focused on the dichotomy between tradition and modernization, which tends to present an image of African women overburdened by work and oppressed by tradition and custom.85 The view emerging from these studies is that colonization improved women’s lives because it created more opportunities for them and freed them from traditional constraints.86 Still later analyses, in contrast, showed how modernization disadvantaged women, emphasizing the fact that colonization brought about a deterioration of women’s situation by eroding the economic autonomy women enjoyed prior to colonization.87 Studies that support this reasoning argue that women lost their power and their economic autonomy as a result of the introduction of cash crop production and the modernization of the economy.88 Under the umbrella of the women in development (WID) approach, these studies focused mainly on the sphere of production, examining how to take women’s work into account to increase their productivity as well as to promote greater economic efficiency.89 Scholars who produced these studies have been associated with the WID approach, which was critiqued because it failed to point to the structures at the core of the women marginalisation.90 The gender and development (GAD) approach emerged as an alternative analysis, focusing on gender as a useful tool that highlights the social construction of inequalities between men and women.91

Pioneering work produced by an increasing number of contemporary scholars—the “new” women’s history—is characterized by a more nuanced focus on gender analysis, which sheds light on the changing situation of African women from the precolonial era to the contemporary period.92 In documenting how colonization affected women, these scholars’ work presents the diversity of the situations of African women and emphasizes women’s agency. In conjunction with this line of thought, scholars have documented how African women resisted colonial rule and the imposition of European customs. Focusing on mutations occurring in the contemporary environment, many researchers show how women are engaged in the search for changes to improve their lives.93

French is the official language of most Central African countries, yet it is in the English language that publications on the history of African women have proliferated since the mid-1970s and the first UN decade of women. Literature focusing specifically on the history of women in Central Africa remains scarce. The considerable gap between the number of scholarly works on African women’s history published in English and French reflects English language hegemony in academia and internationally as well as the location of scholarly work in English at the cutting edge of the discipline.

Primary Sources

The Royal Museum for Central Africa located in Tervuren in Brussels, Belgium, houses an impressive documentation on the Central Africa. This documentation is accessible at the library in Tervuren as well as on searchable online MRCA. While there is no specific entry related directly to women in Central Africa, books and documents can be found under MRCA Publications.

RMCA, section of human science under culture and society databases in social anthropology. See also RMCA Social Sciences and Humanities Documentation Centre. Rubric Périodiques consultés gives a list of collections.

RMCA, central library.

RMCA, library collection and online catalogue Libis.

RMCA, central reading room.

Persée is another very well-documented online resource that provides direct entry searching with key words such as:

Further Reading

Baaz, Maria Eriksson, and Maria Stern. Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond. London: Zed Books, 2013.Find this resource:

Berger, Iris. Women in Twentieth Century Africa: New Approaches to African History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Berger, Iris, and E. Frances White. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: Restoring Women to History. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Bouwer, Karen. Gender and Decolonization in the Congo: The Legacy of Patrice Lumumb. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.Find this resource:

Braeckman, Colette. L’homme qui répare les femmes. Violences sexuelles au Congo. Le combat du docteur Mukwege. Brussels: GRI, 2012.Find this resource:

Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. African Women: A Modern History. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997.Find this resource:

Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine, ed. Femmes d’Afrique. Clio, Histoire, Femmes et Sociétés, 6. Toulouse, France: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 1997.Find this resource:

Falola, Toyin, and Nana Akua Amponsah. Women’s Roles in Sub-Saharan Africa. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2012.Find this resource:

Gautier, Arlette. “Femmes et colonialisme.” In Le livre noir du Colonialisme, XVI-XXè siècle: de l’extermination à la repentance. Edited by M. Ferro, 569–607. Paris: éditions Robert Laffont, 2003.Find this resource:

Hewlett, Bonnie L. Listen, Here Is a Story: Ethnographic Life Narratives from Aka and Ngandu Women of the Congo Basin. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Hodgson, Dorothy L., and Sherry A. McCurdy, eds. “Wicked” Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001.Find this resource:

Hunt, Nancy Rose. A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Work, Medicalization,and Mobility in the Congo. Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Jean-Baptiste, Rachel. Conjugal Rights: Marriage, Sexuality, and Urban Life in Colonial Libreville, Gabon. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Martin, Phyllis M. Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville. Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Time. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Mianda, Gertrude. “Colonialism, Education, and Gender Relations in the Belgian Congo: The Evolué Case.” In Women in African Colonial Histories. Edited by Jean Allman, Susan Geiger, and Nakanyike Musisi, 144–161. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Robertson, Claire, and Iris Berger, eds. Women and Class in Africa. New York: African Publishing Company, 1986.Find this resource:

Shapiro, David, and B. Oleko Tambashe. Kinshasa in Transition: Women’s Education, Employment, and Fertility. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Sheldon, Kathleen. African Women: Early History to the 21st Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.Find this resource:


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(2.) These territories—Moyen-Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon) and Ubangi-Chari (The Central Africa Republic and the Chad)—were part of French Equatorial Africa from 1908 to 1958.

(3.) Phyllis M. Martin, Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville. Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 68; Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, African Women: A Modern History (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997) , 59–64; Wim Van Binsberg and Peter Geschiere, eds., Old Modes of Production (London, U.K.: Kegan Paul International, 1985); and Bogumil Jewsiewicki, “Rural Society and the Belgian Colonial Economy,” in History of Central Africa, ed. David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin (Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex, U.K.: Longman, 1966), 99.

(4.) Martin, Catholic Women, 68.

(5.) Coquery-Vidrovitch, African Women, 59–64.

(6.) Coquery-Vidrovitch, African Women, 59–64.

(7.) Coquery-Vidrovitch, African Women, 63; and Jane I. Guyer, “Female Farming in Anthropology and African History,” in Readings in Gender in Africa, ed. Andrea Cornwall (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 103–110.

(8.) Coquery-Vidrovitch, African Women, 63.

(9.) Van Binsbergen and Geschiere, Old Modes of Production, 102.

(10.) Van Binsbergen and Geschiere, Old Modes of Production, 102–105.

(11.) Coquery-Vidrovitch, African Women, 65.

(12.) Onana Joseph Tanga, “ ‘L’émotion fiscal’ des femmes Douala en 1931,” Syllabus Review 1 (2009): 117–139.

(13.) Martin, CatholicWomen, 76–77.

(14.) Martin, Catholic Women, 76.

(15.) Kelly Duke Bryant, “Colonial Education,” in The Palgrave Handbook of African Colonial and Postcolonial History, ed. Martin S. Shanguhyia and Toyin Falola (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 281–302.

(16.) Martin, Catholic Women, 76.

(17.) Serge Amani and Mathieu Talla, Les pionnières du Cameroun ou le grand livre des femmes, premières . . . du Cameroun, ed. Theophile Tatstsa (Collection Elle, Editions Cognito, 2008), 223.

(18.) Scholastique Dianzinga, “Parcours des femmes dans l’histoire du Congo (1892–1985),” Revue Cames 1, no. 5 (2015).

(20.) Gertrude Mianda, “Du Congo des évolués au Congo des Universitaires: La représentation du genre,” in L’Université dans le devenir de l’Afrique: Un demi-siècle de présence au Congo, ed. I. Ndaywel è Nziem (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007); and Mianda, “Colonialism, Education, and Gender,” 146.

(21.) Mianda, “Colonialism, Education, and Gender,” 146.

(22.) Edouardo de Sousa Fereira, Le colonialisme portugais en Afrique: la fin d’une ère. Les effets du colonialisme portugais sur l’éducation, la science, la culture et l’information (Paris: Les Presses de l’UNESCO, 1974), 11–13.

(23.) Fereira, Le colonialisme portugais; Thérèse Assié-Lumumba N’Dri, “Education des filles et des femmes en Afrique: Analyse conceptuelle et inégalité entre les sexes,” in Sexe, genre et société: Engendrer les Sciences sociales Africaine, ed. Ayesha Imam, Amina Mana, and Fatou Sow (Paris: Karthala/CODESRIA, 1997), 293–310.

(24.) Luise White, “Women in the Changing African Family,” in African Women South of Sahara, ed. Margaret Jean Hay and Sharon Stichter (London: Longman, 1984), 64–68; and Ch. Didier Gondola, “Popular Music, Urban Society, and Changing Gender Relations in Kinshasa, Zaire (1950–1990),” in Gender Encounters: Challenging Cultural Boundaries and Social Hierarchies in Africa, ed. Marie Grosz-Ngaté and Omari H. Kokole (New York: Routledge, 1996).

(25.) Gondola, “Popular Music,” 66.

(26.) Gertrude Mianda, Femmes africaines et pouvoir. Les maraicheres de Kinshasa (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996).

(27.) Phyllis M. Martin, Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 138.

(28.) Gondola, “Popular Music,” 69.

(30.) Jean-Baptiste, Conjugal Rights.

(31.) Gondola, “Popular Music,” 74–75.

(32.) Eugenie Le-Yotha Ngartebayem, La participation de la femme à la vie politique du Tchad: 1933–2003 (Mémoire, Camaroon: Université Catholique d’Afrique Centrale, 2004).

(34.) Henry Kam Kah, “Women’s Resistance in Cameroun’s Western Grassfields: The Power of Symbols, Organization, and Leadership, 1957–1961,” African Studies Quarterly 12, no. 3 (2011): 67–91; and Sheldon, African Women, 177–178.

(35.) Sheldon, African Women, 178

(36.) Kam Kah, “Women’s Resistance,” 75–82.

(37.) Sheldon, African Women, 178; and Kam Kah, “Women’s Resistance,” 65–89.

(38.) Dianzinga, “Parcours des femmes.”

(39.) Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, “Université Congolais: Souvenirs en ré-mineur,” in L’université dans le devenir de l’Afrique, ed. I. Ndaywel (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007), 63; and Mianda, ‟Du Congo des évolués,” 231.

(40.) Mianda, “Du Congo des évolués.”

(41.) UNESCO, Rapport d’évaluation de l’éducation pour tous. Afrique Sub-Saharienne (UNESCO, 2014), 21.

(42.) UNESCO, Rapport d’évaluation, 33.

(43.) UNESCO, Rapport d’évaluation, 46; and PNUD, Rapport sur le développement humain en Afrique (PNUD, 2016), 4.

(44.) UN Children’s Fund, Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects (New York: UNICEF, 2014).

(45.) UN Children’s Fund, Ending Child Marriage, 2.

(46.) For an examination of the relationship between women’s’ education, fertility, and employment in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, see David Shapiro with B. Oleko Tambashe, Kinshasa in Transition: Women’s Education, Employment, and Fertility (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

(47.) W. O. Maloba, African Women in Revolution (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2007), 186–194.

(48.) Maloba, African Women, 192.

(49.) Eric Mbalamona Mbalamona, Accès des femmes sur le marché du travail au Congo Brazzaville: contraintes et perspectives (Centre d’étude et de recherché sur les analyses et politiques et économiques—CERAPEC, 2011).

(51.) Mbalamona Mbalamona, Accès des femmes, 8.

(52.) Seydina M Diaye and Abbdoulaye Niang, Dynamique et rôles économique et social du secteur informel des TIC en Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre: Cas du Burkina Faso, du Cameroun et du Senegal, Serie rapport de recherché RAP.R. TIC INFOR 1.4, CRDI/IDRC, 8.

(53.) Diaye and Niang, Dynamique et rôles économique, 41.

(54.) Ngartebayem, La participation de la femme.

(55.) Raphael Todjimbe and Serge Sabine Ntsama, “Les Tchadiens et les activité informelles à Yaoundé,” Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporaine 4, no. 248 (2012): 75–76.

(56.) M. Catharine Newbury, “Ebutumwa Bw’Emiogo: The Tyranny of Cassava. A Women’s Tax Revolt in Eastern Zaire,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 18, no. 1 (1984): 35–54.

(57.) Nartebayem, La participation de la femme.

(59.) Sheldon, African Women, 278.

(60.) Mianda, “Dans l’ombre de la “démocratie” au Zaire: La remise en question de l’émancipation Mobutiste de la femme,” Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue canadienne des études africaines 29, no. 1 (1995): 59.

(61.) I. Ndaywel è Nziem, Histoire du Zaïre. De l’héritage ancien à l’âge contemporain (Leuven, Belgium: Duculot, 1997), 687.

(62.) Gertrude Mianda, “Tshisekedi and Women in Politics,” forthcoming.

(63.) Janis Ostsieme, Femmes de Pouvoir du Gabon (Mon Petit Editions, 2010).

(64.) Sheldon, African Women, 279.

(65.) Amani and Talla, Les pionnières, 122–133.

(66.) Sheldon, African Women, 79.

(67.) SADC, Rapport de la mission d’observation éléctorale du forum parlementaire de la SADC (SADC, 2006), 32.

(68.) Carly Brown, “Rape as Weapon of War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Torture 22, no. 1 (2012): 24–37.

(70.) Braeckman, L’homme qui répare, 69–88.

(71.) Brown, “Rape as Weapon”; L. Huening, “Explaining the Congo Wars,” African Historical Review 4 (2009): 120–159; and Braeckman, L’homme qui répare, 69–88.

(72.) Denis Mukwege, “Rape as a Strategy of War in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” International Health no. 2 (2010): 163–164.

(73.) M. E. Baaz, “Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC),” International Studies Quarterly 53 (2009): 495–518; M. E. Baaz and M. Stern, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Inscriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond (London: Zed Books, 2013); A. Maedl, “Rape as a Weapon of War in the Eastern DRC? The Victims’ Percspective,” Human Rights Quarterly 33 (2011): 128–147; and Brackman, L’homme qui répare, 88–89.

(74.) Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, Central African Republic. Events of 2016.

(75.) Claude Arditi, “Les violences ordinaries ont une histoire: le cas du Tchad,” Politique africaines 3, no. 91 (2003): 56–57.

(76.) Doual Mbainaissem, “Conflits au Tchad et au Darfour,” Outre-terre 4, no. 17 (2006): 363.

(77.) Mbainaissem, “Conflits au Tchad,” 362–363, 368.

(78.) Martin, Catholic Women, 177.

(79.) Martin, Catholic Women, 179.

(80.) Sheldon, African Women, 262.

(81.) The resolution urges member states to ensure increasing women representation at national, regional, and international levels in peace and security processes; see Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancements of Women (OSAGI), Landmark Resolution on Women, Peace and Security,” accessed May 12, 2018.

(82.) CEA (Economic Commission for Africa), Gender and Education for a Culture of Peace in Central Africa (CEA, 2013), 9.

(83.) CEA, Gender and Education, 12–13.

(84.) Claude Meillassoux, Femmes, greniers et capitaux (Paris: Maspero, 1975); and Georges Balandier, Sociologie des Brazzavilles Noires (Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1985).

(85.) Ester Boserup, Woman’s Role in Economic Development (London: Allen & Unwin, 1970); Yvonne Knibierhler and Régine Goutalier, La femme au temps des colonies (Paris: Stock, 1985); Denise Paulme, Women of Tropical Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963); Margaret Jean Hay and Sharon Stichter, eds., African Women South of Sahara (London, U.K.: Longman, 1984); and Deborah Faith Bryceson, Women Wielding the Hoe, Lessons from Rural Africa for Feminist Theory and Development Practice (Oxford, U.K.: Berg, 1995).

(86.) Knibierhler and Goutalier, La femme au temps des colonies.

(87.) Bryceson, Women Wielding the Hoe.

(88.) Barbara Rogers, The Domestication of Women: Discrimination in Developing Societies (London, U.K.: Tavistock, 1980); J. Bukh, The Village Woman in Ghana (Uppsala, Sweden: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1979); J. Sender and S. Smith, Poverty, Class and Gender in Rural Africa: A Tanzanian Case Study (London, U.K.: Routledge, 1990); and I. Tinker, Persisting Inequalities (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1990).

(89.) E. O’Kelly, Rural Women: Their Integration in Development Programmes and How Simple Intermediate Technologies Can Help Them (London, U.K.: E. O’Kelly, 1978); and E. M. Rathgeber, “WID, WAD, GAD: Trends in Research and Practice,” Journal of Developing Areas 24 (July 1990): 489–502.

(90.) Coined originally by a group of American liberal feminists that included Irene Thinker, the WID approach is rooted in early the early 1970s; see Tinker, Persisting Inequalities; Lourde Beneria and Gita Sen, “Accumulation, Reproduction and Women’s Role in Economic Development: Boserup Revisited,” Signs 7, no. 2 (1981): 279–298; For WID, WAD, and GAD approaches and critiques, see also E. M. Rathgeber, “WID, WAD, GAD: Trends in Research and Practice,” Journal of Developing Areas 24 (July 1990): 489–502; and S. Razavi and C. Miller, “From WID to GAD: Conceptual Shifts in the Women and Development Discourse,” Occasional Paper 1 (Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 1995).

(91.) Gita Sen and C. Grown, “Development, Crises, and Alternative Visions: Third World Women’s Perspectives” (Bangalore, India: Dawn Secretariat, 1985); and Caroline Moser, “Gender Planning in the Third World: Meeting Practical and Strategical Gender Needs,” World Development 17, no. 11 (1989): 1799–1825.

(93.) Berger, Women in Twentieth Century Africa; Sheldon, African Women; and Hodgson and McCurdy, “Wicked” Women.