621-640 of 655 Results


Women in Postcolonial Africa  

Selina Makana

As scholars of Africa continue to challenge the place and role of Africa in world history, shedding light on women as valid historical actors in postcolonial Africa within the last three decades remains an ongoing and much-needed endeavor. African women in the past and the present have used their position as breadwinners, mothers, and community leaders to influence their social, economic, and political worlds and to assert their power. In the 21st century, they have become known especially for their success as formidable politicians and peace activists. Even in the age of cyberactivism, women in postcolonial Africa have demonstrated their ability to mobilize across ethno-linguistic lines to effect change in their societies. It is important to move beyond the male-centric perspectives on Africa by highlighting not only the diverse experiences of women in the post-independence era but to also underscore the fundamental roles they continue to play in defining and redefining the postcolonial political economies, and their place in them.


Women in Post-Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction in Africa  

Helen Scanlon

Women’s experiences of conflict have been the subject of increased international attention since the end of the Cold War and this has been accompanied by a concomitant growth in attention to the role of women in peace and security initiatives in Africa. Alongside the rise of humanitarian interventions, new trends have emerged in the realms of conflict resolution, accountability, and post-conflict transformation. As a result, post-conflict experiences in Africa in the 21st century have revealed numerous opportunities for the advancement of gender justice. Experiences from countries emerging from conflict on the continent provide some important examples of promoting women’s rights through accountability mechanisms, furthering access to government, producing gender-sensitive reform, challenging discriminatory laws, and advancing economic opportunities. However, while women’s needs and rights have been increasingly recognized through international and national commitments, women continue to face widespread gender-based violence as well as socioeconomic challenges in the aftermath of conflict. Thus, understanding intersectional experiences of conflict and the role of enduring gender power relations are critical to revisiting how transitions might be transformative.


Women in Precolonial Africa  

Christine Saidi

In precolonial Africa, relations between women and men were varied, changing, and culturally specific, yet there were some common themes. Most African societies attempted to attain forms of heterarchy, which meant they often created several centers of authority and aspired to establish communities where gender relations between women and men were equitable. Additionally, throughout history most Africans determined status by the amount of labor a group or individual could control, and in a historically underpopulated continent, this meant that motherhood and giving birth to children was very important. The result is that women, as both biological and social mothers and as grandmothers, were highly respected throughout the history of the continent. The earliest ancestors of modern humans originated in Africa, and so the history of women starts earlier in Africa than anywhere else, probably around 200,000 bce. Anthropologists of early humanity have proposed that the most successful human families in the earliest eras were based on family units that situated grandmothers at the center, a family structure found in many parts of Africa in the early 21st century. Around 5,500 years ago, a small group of Bantu-speaking people migrated from West Africa and over time populated large portions of Africa below the Sahara Desert. Heterarchy and gender equity were features of most Bantu-speaking societies. Their worldviews were manifested in the matrilineal social structure that most Bantu societies preferred until recent history. Even the earliest empires in Africa, Nubia and Egypt, were organized matrilineally. The West African Sahel empires from 700 ce were also matrilineal, and there is a long history of Muslim African female rulers. However, with the creation of empires and more centralized societies, hierarchy among some societies replaced heterarchy. This change motivated a shift in gender relations: Women from elite lineages maintained their status, while other women tended to lose their traditional positions of authority as mothers and elders within their clans. Overall, the Atlantic slave trade severely challenged heterarchical social relations and threatened women’s authority and status in West Africa. Another element of this period is the transference of African gender relations to the Americas. During the 19th century, as Europeans arrived in greater numbers, they imposed new gender ideologies as they began to structure how the rest of the world viewed Africans. From the so-called White Man’s Burden to Social Darwinism, new definitions of the Other placed African women at the bottom of this new social order. While women played key roles in the long term history of Africa, the Western analysis of African gender dynamics began to inform colonial policies, dominate world opinion, and shape academic research.


Women in Rwanda  

Sarah E. Watkins, Erin Jessee, and Emma Brunton

While understudied compared to men, women in Rwanda have played critical roles in economic, social, religious, and political activities. From the earliest Stone Age settlements, women likely acted as spiritual mediums, laborers, caretakers, and links between kinship groups. These roles evolved with the rise of the Nyiginya kingdom and neighboring polities, as women became more visibly involved with agricultural, spiritual, and political leadership. Women’s access to power arguably declined, however, with Rwanda’s colonization by the Germans (1895–1916) and Belgians (1916–1895), and the accompanying spread of Christianity. With the nation’s independence in 1962, women continued to be marginalized. However, in the twenty-first century, women have claimed new roles in an increasingly globalized society, as entrepreneurs, teachers, health care professionals, and intellectuals. Historically, women’s roles in Rwandan society have differed based on many factors, including region, proximity to central state authority, socioeconomic status, age, and in modern times, ethnicity. This final designation has earned the most scholarly attention, because of the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu Power extremists and their supporters murdered Tutsi civilians, as well as political moderates of different ethnicities. The extremists also specifically targeted Tutsi women with sexual violence. Since then, Rwanda has become the world leader in promoting gender equality in politics: its post-genocide constitution mandated women’s equal representation in government. Although women’s experiences in the genocide and its aftermath have gained the most attention, they merit deeper analysis throughout the nation’s rich history for their many significant contributions.


Women in São Tomé and Príncipe  

Gerhard Seibert

With a population of 225,000 (2021) and an area of 1,001 km², the twin-island republic of São Tomé and Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea is the second smallest country in Africa. Following the decline of the once prosperous plantation economy after independence from Portugal in 1975, the country has largely become dependent on foreign aid. More than half of the population lives in poverty, especially women, children, and people in rural areas. After fifteen years of socialist one-party rule, a multiparty democracy was adopted in 1990. The local Creole population, called forros, is descended from white colonists and African slaves who settled the hitherto uninhabited islands from the late 15th century. The minority of descendants of African plantation workers from the first half of the 20th century tends to assimilate into Creole culture, while the angolares, descendants of a maroon community from the 16th century, constitute a distinct sociocultural group. According to 2012 census data, 80 percent of the population is Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic, while 20 percent is nonreligious. African beliefs in witchcraft and other occult forces frequently coexist with Christianity. The kinship system is bilateral where descent and inheritance are passed through both father and mother. Infant baptism is an important ritual, whereas initiation ceremonies for adolescents, including male and female circumcision, are non-existent. The dominant conjugal union is the customary union, while the formal marriage is a rare exception and only practiced by the educated elite. Polygamy is a common practice, but a man’s different wives never live together in the same residence. Local society considers polygyny and male dominance as a natural condition of men. Despite their subordinated role in family and society, individual well-off or educated women have always achieved considerable prestige and recognition. During the socialist regime, legal equality between the sexes was guaranteed and the emancipation of women was promoted, at least officially. Since the 1990s, several externally conceived campaigns, government programs, and new legislation have combated gender inequality and discrimination against women.


Women in Senegal  

Donna Patterson

Senegal’s history has been most influenced by its identity as a West African, Muslim-majority country with roots dating back to precolonial African empires. Senegalese women have long contributed to Senegal’s history and culture from ancient times to the present. While aspects of women’s lives have changed over the centuries, they have remained active in politics, as laborers, as entrepreneurs, and in different types of educational opportunities and training. Since independence in 1960, the country’s relative stability and economic growth have allowed women to expand their participation, especially in government and business.


Women in Seychelles  

Penda Choppy

Seychellois society is generally perceived to be matrifocal. This is because women’s influence is considered all pervasive, from the family unit to church and political activities and public service institutions. Since its social revolution in the last quarter of the 20th century, Seychelles has been considered very avant-garde in its promotion of women in responsible positions. It is important to note, however, that though this promotion of women has not specifically targeted any social class, it is working-class women who have benefited the most from it. In the first place, the working class in Seychelles has always been a much larger majority. The landowning and merchant class have, since the early settlement period and throughout colonial history, been restricted to a few but very influential people. Thus, though women in these classes have also benefited from social reform and emancipation, it has not been the norm to assess changes within their ranks simply because their numbers are negligible compared to the working class. Second, social reform in Seychelles was led by a socialist government, which emphasized a classless society, with the intention of leveling the field for working-class people. Thus, women’s emancipation has almost always been seen from a working-class perspective. If there is an economic middle class in 21st-century Seychelles, it has emerged from the working class. Thus, this article tends to focus on the working class. It is also important to note that a result of women’s emancipation and accession to prominent positions in government and middle management has been the perceived tendency to emphasize the failures of the male population. With no less than ten women’s associations in existence and the current global push for promoting women’s causes, Seychellois men have begun to feel marginalized and have formed their own associations to promote their cause and image. However, the matrifocal nature of Seychellois society might indeed be just a perception. In effect, men still hold the top positions in key domains of power such as the Cabinet and Parliament. Women ministers are often perceived as having been promoted through the benevolence of a male presidency. In fact, there is a certain amount of gender power conflict in Seychelles, which might result from (a) the clashing of patriarchal and matriarchal systems imposed by colonialism, (b) male subjugation and female exploitation during and after slavery, and (c) female emancipation during the socialist era.


Women in Sierra Leone  

Sylvia Macauley

Located on the Atlantic coast of Africa, Sierra Leone is one of the smaller countries on the African continent but with a significance to the history of Africa and the New World that truly belies its size. Its population largely consists of two indigenous groups—the Temne and the Mende—as well as a mixture of other settlers based in the Western Area. Starting in the late 18th century, these settlers were repatriated from Britain, America, and Jamaica with the goal of creating a “Province of Freedom.” West Africans liberated from outbound slave ships on the Atlantic also settled on the coast. The settlers and liberated Africans ultimately developed a new culture and became known as the Krio. Culturally, the indigenous groups had a lot more in common with each other than with the Krio, whose ways were more Western-oriented. From the time the Sierra Leone Company was created in 1790—to administer the new settlement of Freetown as a charter—through the change to Crown colony rule in 1808, the leaders of the surrounding indigenous groups were recognized as neighbors and interacted with the British colony of Freetown as trading partners. It was not until 1896, when the British annexed the areas surrounding the colony and declared them a Protectorate that the relationship between the former neighbors changed. That colonial relationship lasted until 1961, when Sierra Leone declared its independence. Altogether there are about sixteen ethnolinguistic groups in the country, with the largest—the Temne—dominating the northern half, followed closely by the second largest—the Mende—dominating the southern half of the country. The smallest group—the Krio—are largely limited to the Western Peninsula. Information about the lives of women in Sierra Leone from the era of Company rule until independence, have been difficult to come by, and women have mostly been left out of the history of the country. The early documented entries were about European women in Sierra Leone, then settler Krio women, and eventually Mende women. Despite the numerical superiority of the Temne, it is only in recent years—largely due to the adoption of new methodologies like oral histories and comparative ethnographies—that Temne women have started attracting the attention of scholars. As a result, Sierra Leone can now move beyond references to only Krio and Mende women, like Cummings-John and Madam Yoko, and add references to a few more powerful and influential women, like Sukainatu Bangura, Mariatu Koroma, Kadi Sesay, and Zainab Bangura, from the largest ethnic group—the Temne—who have also positively impacted the history of the country in diverse ways.


Women in Somalia  

Safia Aidid

Although Somali women have played a dynamic and important role in the making of Somalia’s history, their histories have been obscured by archival limitations and androcentric scholarship. Women in traditional Somali society—pastoralists, agriculturalists, and urbanites alike—were central to their communities for their reproductive and productive labor. They embodied social capital, as the practice of exogamous marriage that brought them to other communities also created important reciprocal relations between different kinship groups. Although a deeply patriarchal culture defined their life roles primarily as wives and mothers, Somali women used that very culture and the indigenous resources available to them to exercise agency, negotiate their positions, and carve out their own spaces. The advent of colonial rule, which partitioned the Somali peninsula between Britain, France, Italy, and the Ethiopian empire, drastically altered women’s lives. It fused traditional patriarchal relations with European ones, codified tradition and flexible communal identities, treated women as dependents of their male relatives, and created opportunities for men in education and employment that were not available to women. Though Somali women were at the forefront of the anticolonial struggle, the male elite who inherited the state after independence excluded women from the political sphere. Women’s rights took on a prominent role in the military dictatorship of General Mohamed Siad Barre, yet the repression and state violence that characterized his rule affected women acutely. The civil war that followed the disintegration of the Somali state has similarly affected women intimately. In addition to the gendered experience of violence, the increasingly conservative nature of Somali society has resulted in the loss of many gains made for women’s rights after independence. From precolonial society to colonial rule, dictatorship, and civil war, Somali women have exhibited the resilience, agency, and fortitude to make the most of their circumstances.


Women in South Africa  

Jill E. Kelly

Gendered processes produced and sustained families and labor in southern Africa from the first hunter-gatherers through the present, but these processes were never static or uncontested. Archaeological, oral, and ethnographic sources suggest that southern Africa’s first hunter-gatherers experienced tense contestations of social and sexual roles and that the division of labor was more fluid than is normally assumed. Some 2,000 years ago new ways of life—pastoralism and agriculture—organized societies according to gender and generation, with young persons under the control of adults, and older women able to wield control over children-in-law as well as political and spiritual power. For agriculturalists, the home was a political space. During the centralization of states in the region, leaders tightened control of women, coming-of-age practices, and marriage as well as militarized age sets. After the onset of colonialism, gendered violence and contested social relations shaped and maintained a gendered and racialized capitalist society. Enslaved, dependent, and free African women’s labor unfolded in the service of white settlers along European ideas of women’s work, and a consensus emerged among officials, missionaries, and African Christian converts over the centrality of educated women converts to the making of Christian African families. Authorities enacted legislation to govern sex and marriage and to differentiate by race and culture. The developing system of migrant labor relied upon women’s agricultural work in the reserves. The apartheid state, too, intervened in social relations to control labor and produce not only racialized but also ethnicized persons in the service of separate development. Across the 20th century women shaped nationalisms, often using their association with social reproduction, and mobilized both within larger nationalism movements and specifically as women. Their political and social activism continues in the post-apartheid era.


Women in Southern African History  

Heike Becker

Women have played complex roles in the history of Southern Africa, a vast region that comprises diverse local histories as well as social and cultural forms. The diversity of the region has been both integrated and fragmented through historical connections, which have centered on South Africa as a subimperial power. Prior to colonial conquest and the impact of Christian missions and European trade, gender relations varied, partly due to an array of social and kinship systems. Overall, however, the position of women in southern African societies deteriorated after colonization. Economic, political, and cultural dynamics impacted on gender relations through the interaction of European and indigenous patriarchy, colonial rule, and capitalist modes of production, which reinforced and transformed one another, evolving into new structures and forms of domination. The paradox of similarities due to settler colonialism and differences in respect of timing and pathways to decolonization impacted upon the trajectories of postcolonial gender politics and the representation of women in the postcolonial political structures of southern Africa. Despite initial differences regarding legal gender equality, everywhere that liberation movements in power established themselves in the region, discourses of “African culture and tradition” became pertinent. Colonial customary laws and powers given to traditional leaders remain at the heart of contemporary battles over gender equality and social justice.


Women in South Sudan  

Christopher Tounsel

Since the late 19th-century, Southern Sudanese have experienced Anglo-Egyptian colonialism (1899–1956), national independence with Northern Sudan (1956), two civil wars that resulted in South Sudanese independence (1955–1972, 1983–2005), a civil war within the new nation (2013–2018), and the conclusion of that conflict (2018). Southern Sudanese women’s experiences within, and contributions to, this stream of cataclysmic events has been harrowing and significant. This tumultuous history is rife with harsh realities. Women and girls have consistently had unequal access to education compared to their male counterparts, been subjected to sexual violence, marginalized from the political sphere, and faced a multitude of socioeconomic constraints and hardships. Many social scientists, furthermore, have argued that women’s vulnerabilities have increased as the result of lengthy militarized violence. However, in the midst of these realities, women have found ways to make important contributions not only as mothers, wives, and daughters but also as soldiers, teachers, activists, agriculturalists, and in various other positions during each of the postcolonial liberation wars. While women’s political participation has been encouraged since South Sudan’s 2011 independence, war, sexual violence, and socioeconomic inequalities have kept the female population in a vulnerable position.


Women in Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar)  

Marjorie Mbilinyi

Women’s history in Tanzania is intertwined with the different ways in which gender relations were constructed over time and space and how they intersected with class and race or ethnicity. Both women and men have been actively involved in sustaining as well as changing dominant patriarchal gender relations at the household and community levels. At the same time, the colonial and postcolonial governments sought to “manage” gender relations that perpetuated their power and control at different levels of society and ensured reproduction and cheap labor. Women have exhibited agency, individually and collectively, in promoting their own interests and those of their children, families, and communities in the economic, social, and political spheres. They were actively involved in anticolonial struggles on the mainland and Zanzibar. They took advantage of institutions such as Christian missions, schools, corporate-owned mines and plantations, and townships to run away from unwanted husbands or forced betrothals and to advance themselves. Women organized themselves separately or with men to enhance their welfare in response to the new opportunities that arose after independence. During the ujamaa period of socialism and self-reliance, women established cooperative shops in both urban and rural areas to access scarce commodities, and joined block farms in ujamaa villages where they had independent ownership and control over land, farm input, equipment, and produce. They intensified their labor to earn income to support their families during economic crises and after the Structural Adjustment policies in the 1980s led to low incomes and unemployment for men. Education was another terrain of struggle and advancement for girls and women before and after independence in Zanzibar and the mainland. Women educators acted individually and collectively to advance opportunities for girls and women.


Women in the Central African Republic  

Juan Fandos-Rius

Throughout history, women in the Central African Republic (CAR) have never escaped from the control of men. For women the daily routine of life was for the most part highly demanding and full of worries and frustrations and alleviation of any of these was rarely a priority among any ethno-cultural communities in the country. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the CAR was drawn into the world economy and traditional societies succumbed to the pressure of European colonization. The acculturation process to European-dominant norms also affected Central African women in all domains (work, social, familial, religious, economic, political, and concerning way of life.) Only in the 1960s were the first women able to take responsibility for their own lives, but real women’s equality and inclusion at all levels came much later, where it has done so at all. Since the mid-1990s recurrent political crises and social distress has resulted in a nearly complete reversal of the achievements made by prior generations of women in the CAR.


Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo  

Amandine Lauro

Since the turn of the 21st century, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has frequently been portrayed in international media as “the worst place in the world to be a woman.” The moral and political economy of gender relations in the largest country of sub-Saharan Africa has nevertheless been shaped by a long history of women’s multiple experiences of agency and disempowerment and competition and solidarity, whose complexity cannot be captured through victimizing narratives. While political boundaries of DR Congo result from late-19th-century colonialism, the territories encompassed in the country have a rich longue durée history. In precolonial times, women’s status and access to resources and power varied greatly across different cultural and political formations. From the 16th century, the intensification of the slave and ivory trade, in the footsteps of European expansion, affected normative and effective patterns of gender relations. The creation of the Congo Free State (1885–1908), which marked the debut of Belgian colonialism in Central Africa, created a regime of forceful extraction of resources and labor that had a severe impact on women. The distinctive features of the Belgian Congo regime (1908–1960) also influenced the status and experiences of women. The central role of the Roman Catholic Church and the maternalist visions of Belgian authorities generated a specific lens through which Congolese women were targeted by colonial policies. Despite limited room for maneuvering, Congolese women never restricted themselves to the roles imposed on them, neither during the colonial nor the postcolonial period. During the Mobutu regime (1965–1997) and beyond, transgressions of gender norms, as well as strategies of emancipation, has generated specific—even if ambiguous—paths of mobilization.


Women in the Gambia  

Catherine Cymone Fourshey

A predominantly rural territory with few urban centers historically, the Gambia holds little in the way of well-known luxury resources commonly discussed in studies of western Africa. People of the region, in particular women, have exploited both riverine and oceanic food and material resources. The limited scholarship available on Gambian women reveals they have been essential to those endeavors contributing to economy, politics, society, and family institutions. Often by pursuing seemingly less-lucrative endeavors, women have been prominent actors innovating production and acquisition techniques as well as product uses in this mixed agricultural and aquatic economy, from precolonial to contemporary times. Despite few raw materials or luxury resources, and in certain contexts great limits on their authority, women of the Gambia River region were central to economic life historically, developing household food production and trading their surplus agricultural, aquatic, and manufactured goods. In different eras and contexts, Gambian women have been agricultural innovators and technologists; catchers, processors, and traders of aquatic resources; merchants of manufactured and crafted items; and educators. In essence, they created intellectual, economic, and artisanal opportunities for themselves and others in their communities. These activities allowed women to influence and propel economic and political agendas over time. In particular, women have been credited with critical developments in rice production technologies going back at least to the 16th century, though women’s expertise in this realm likely has much deeper historical roots. This knowledge and set of skills related to rice agriculture made Mandinka women of the Gambia River region critical to West Africa’s Upper Guinea coast and also to life in the Americas as enslaved producers. Mandinka women and men became a large demographic represented in southeastern US plantations and communities because of their well-developed techniques in rice cultivation. Gambian women significantly influenced the eastern and western Atlantic worlds. The modern-day nation of The Gambia, which achieved independence in 1965, is a relatively small territory hugging the banks of Gambia River for a narrow fifteen miles from the north and south banks. Starting 300 miles inland to the east (upriver), the river flows west into the Atlantic Ocean (downriver). Looking back in time at this region bordering the river, it is important to consider Gambian women’s lives over time in the context of both centralized and non-centralized political units. In the orbit of centralized states such as Ghana (4th–13th centuries), Takrur (9th–14th centuries), Mali (13th–15th centuries), and Jolof (14th–16th centuries), women (and men) negotiated shifting expectations over time. Certainly Gambian women have been born into, circulated among, or married within several local cultural and linguistic traditions that include Aku, Bambara, Fula, Jola, Mandinka, Manjago, Serahulle, Serer, and Wollof. However, scholars have written more about women and gender for these groups in neighboring countries. Non-centralized political and social affiliations typically provided women a great deal of authority and autonomy. However, most positions and statuses women were privy to historically were reshaped and often greatly diminished from the 19th century onward due to processes of the slave trade, Islamization, and European colonialization. With the rise of Atlantic-world trade small numbers of coastal Gambian River women expanded their spheres of influence and wealth by forming both marital and economic alliances with Portuguese, French, Dutch, and British men. By the 20th century a number of women pursued various forms and levels of education in efforts to increase their opportunities in the social, political, and economic arenas. In essence, in each historical era women of the Gambia River have sought out knowledge, expertise, and skills in order to achieve their ambitions regardless of the political, religious, or social order dominant at the time.


Women in Togo  

Adovi Michel Goeh-Akue and Soalinane Tchintchan

Throughout Togo, male hegemony was and remains the norm. Colonization did not produce any palpable change in favor of women. Rather, colonial authorities confined women to their roles of wife and housekeeper by excluding them from European economic and political activities. And yet, the reality is that women played a crucial role in the country’s social, economic, and political transformations. They stood alongside nationalists during the struggle for independence (1946–1960) and as members of the National Women’s League of Togo (l’Union nationale des femmes du Togo, or UNFT). They provided significant support for the national party (1969–1991) and had an equally strong presence in the opposition movement as the country began democratizing in 1990. Above all, they are known for their dynamism in business. As store owners and stall keepers, they run wholesale and retail operations alike. Meanwhile, efforts are being made to improve their status and condition. Family and individual law gives them certain rights, and positive steps have been taken regarding women’s education. Political authorities also increasingly promote women. Since 2010, the massive market fires in Lomé and Kara in January 2013 have proven to be the biggest blow to both the image of Togolese women and their economic ascension.


Women in Tunisia  

Boutheina Ben Hassine

This article is a review of the dynamics of the evolution of feminist movements in Tunisia starting in the third decade of the 20th century. These movements took advantage of the influence of the Nahda movement in the 19th century, which prompted the Arab world to modernize education and to involve women mainly in vocational education. The executives of the patriarchal society encouraged polygamy, while the French Protectorate and the Catholic Church targeted Tunisian women as a means of spreading French culture. In the 1920s, the national focus was on the education of women and encouraging their presence in the public space. When journalist Tahar Haddad wrote in favor of abandoning the veil, many nationalists (including President Habib Bourguiba) refused his idea, as the veil was seen as a symbol of Tunisian cultural identity, one transmitted specifically by women. This controversy over the veil is considered the beginning of Tunisian nationalism. By the 1930s, Tunisian women were no longer a central object of polemics and political discussion. They created new feminist associations: The Muslim Women’s Union of Tunisia (1936–1955), the Union of Tunisian Women (1944–1963), and the Union of Tunisian Girls (1945–1963). These associations worked within Tunisian society to help women overcome poverty, economic doldrums, and war, and they participated in Tunisia’s war of independence. Meanwhile, President Bourguiba focused on women in the struggle to modernize the country following independence. The achievement of personal status on August 13, 1956, was a revolutionary event in Africa. The National Union of Women of Tunisia became the machine of President Bourguiba, the “supreme fighter,” to educate women, control birth rates, and build the image of the Tunisian nation. Several women, including Radhia Haddad and Fathia Mzali, were involved in implementing this Bourguibian policy. But this policy led to difficulties—essentially, Bourguiba’s eventual return to a conservative and patriarchal model. The economic crisis of the 1970s deeply affected women, especially female workers in the textile industry. Intellectuals created the Tahar Haddad Club as a response to the hardening of the political regime and the Islamization of society. University women mobilized to create the Association of Tunisian Academic Women for Research and Development (TAWRD), with the motto of equal opportunities for men and women. After Zine El Abidine Ben Ali demolished the Bourguibian regime, he instituted a feminist policy to gain political legitimacy. He encouraged women ministers to promote women’s rights in the Ministry of Social Affairs. Ben Ali’s policy also redefined the prerogatives of the Ministry of Women, Family, and Children. His quest for legitimacy over his predecessor led him to undertake a major reform of the Code of Personal Status (CPS). The Ministry of Women, Family, and Children put more attention into studies and research on women by creating the CREDIF (Center for Research, Documentation, and Information on Women). But all these measures did not prevent Ben Ali’s regime from being fascist. The 2011 Revolution has been of great benefit for women’s rights, despite the rise of religious conservatism and radicalism, because it allowed parity in electoral lists and criminalized violence against women. Feminist associations doubled in number and multiplied actions for equality. More recently, from 2014–2019, the president of the republic, Beji Caid Essebssi, created a committee to enact laws on equality in matters of succession.


Women in Uganda  

Alicia C. Decker

Women in Uganda have had a complex relationship with the state. During the precolonial period, there were two main types of political organization: kingdom states and “nonstate” segmentary societies. Most women in kingdom states were left out of the patron–client relationship system and accessed resources through their husbands, brothers, and sons. A small number of royal women, particularly within Buganda, had significant political power. Less is known about women in precolonial segmentary societies because of the relative lack of sources. In the mid-19th century, long-distance traders arrived in Buganda, bringing Islam and a heightened demand for slaves. The state treated enslaved women as commodities that could be sold or traded at any time. When European explorers and missionaries arrived shortly thereafter, they brought Christianity, as well as their own ideas about gender, many of which limited women’s power. After the British declared a protectorate over Uganda in 1894, missionaries worked closely with the new colonial government to educate women for domesticity. Daughters of the elite learned to become helpmates to their future husbands, who, in turn, were the functionaries of indirect rule. The colonial period also saw the advent of the club movement, which trained women to be good wives and mothers. After World War II, women’s clubs became increasingly political. Through the Uganda Council of Women, members learned to influence public opinion and government policies. However, very few women participated in formal politics at this time. After Uganda gained independence in 1962, women’s issues became increasingly central to the state. Nonetheless, activists struggled for autonomy in a political landscape that was chaotic and increasingly authoritarian. The militarization of the state, coupled with frequent and unpredictable regime changes, made women’s lives more difficult. Although more women have been elected to office and appointed to cabinet-level positions in the early 21st century, civil war and political instability have presented numerous challenges to women and their livelihoods.


Women in Ugandan Politics and History: Collective Biography  

Aili Mari Tripp

In the precolonial era, certain women played key governance roles, for example, the queen’s sister and the king’s mother in Buganda, the largest of Uganda’s four kingdoms. At one time they had as much power as the king in Buganda. However, women’s authority declined in Buganda in the 1700s and 1800s with the rise of the hereditary chiefs (batongole) and the demise of the influence of the clans. The coming of the British further undermined their roles. While on the one hand, British colonial engagement with local authorities privileged men, colonial education gave rise to Ugandan women’s leadership in local and national organizations, which provided women with a venue for political mobilization. The first women were appointed to the legislature at the end of British rule in 1954; all of them were British. As a result of pressure from women’s organizations, African women were soon thereafter appointed to the legislature starting in 1956. The number of women in political office remained low until the takeover of President Yoweri Museveni in 1986, when Uganda became a leader in Africa in advancing women in positions in the legislature and executive. The Museveni government’s adoption of reserved seats for women at all levels from local councils to the parliament in 1989 ensured that at least one-third of seats were held by women. The increase in numbers of women in parliament had some impact on the adoption of women’s rights legislation; however, ultimately women remained constrained by patronage and the undemocratic nature of the political system in Uganda.