Sweeping, cooking, washing…confined to the kitchen. That’s the stereotype. That is the African woman that more than half of the continent expects to see. The remainder may have been lucky enough to gain exposure to other ways that African women can live through education, travel, or from the media.
But these knowledgeable people are still in the minority. The majority still believes that women “belong in the kitchen” and in some homes, women should only be “seen and not heard”. The African woman that I write about today is the woman that has been stripped of a great deal of her individuality. Who, upon marriage, has become the property of her spouse.
In some parts of Southern Nigeria, a woman who gets married to a man beyond the borders of her tribe becomes exiled. She is no longer welcome to the home that she lived in for her whole pre-marital life; her marriage is seen as a betrayal to the tribe, which many see to be unforgivable.
The average African girl has had countless lectures and references to her future “Husband’s house” right from her pre-teens. Let me stop for a moment to expatiate that phrase.
“Your husband’s house.”
Many African girls from as early as ten years old are all but brainwashed that the be-all and end-all is in marriage. When they are being taught how to do domestic activities it is regularly rung in their ears that the reason why they must learn these things is for their husband’s house. Any mistakes made, say, not seasoning the chicken adequately would earn them remarks such as “is this how you will cook for your husband?” some mothers can go as far as to instill fear by rendering statements such as “this is the kind of chicken that will lead to your husband having wandering eyes”.
Referring to the African girl’s future home as the sole property of her husband, also aids in her acceptance as his ‘property’ and thus, the often devaluation of her self-worth.
It isn’t all negative and dark rain clouds however, as the African woman tends to view her husband as her protector and provider. He adopts the roles of her husband and father, and when the man in question truly takes this role seriously, it most often leads to a peaceful home, as everyone knows their role and what is expected of them. The African woman provides self-sacrificially for her family’s well being, she trains her children aright and is the glue that holds the family together.
The African woman is strong, resilient and self-denying. This doesn’t excuse the undue pressure that young African girls face at home, but that’s a story for another day.
The African woman is worthy of praise.
Cover Photo by Joyce Peters (Instagram: @_joycepeters_ )