From time immemorial, life has not always been favourable for dark-skinned women. Women all over the world have faced and still face challenges but it is undeniable that there are challenges which are pre-dominant and peculiar to African women. Even outside our continent, she is a victim of racial discrimination, so life elsewhere is not always funny for her, although this is altogether a different story. A good percentage of Africa’s population is made up of women. The problem facing African women is enormous; much of these problems are as a result of cultural and religious belief.
In a world were education should be at the door-steps of every girl child, some African girls are denied access to education. Some African parents still see the education of the girl child as irrelevant. So as the girl child becomes a woman, she gets married without education. This condition has relegated the African woman to the background. We say education is key, considering that women are greater in number than the men, and the most uneducated in number, it can be said that Africa has fewer keys than other continents.
The plight of the African woman has attracted the attention of world bodies like UNICEF, and non-governmental organizations who express their care about the welfare of women. Nevertheless as efforts are being made to liberate and empower women, new crops of problems arise. The commonest and most worrisome problem facing African women today is insecurity. There is war in Congo, war in Burundi, war in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and crises in many other countries of Africa. In these conditions women are at the receiving end. When the husband has been conscripted into the army, all the responsibilities of the family shifts to the woman. Most times, their husbands who were conscripted into the army come back maimed, amputated or with terminal injury. In case of these insecurities, women are sexually abused and have to already bear in mind that the chances of her oppressor being oppressed was slim because ratified laws that guides women’s rights are completely disregarded by some officials and security personnels.
A few women who are educated are allowed little or no opportunity to participate in politics. In most African countries, men still dominate the political scene. The few women who manage to get opportunities to contest for political seats are discouraged by the number of votes they receive, the case of Nigeria’s Sarah Jubril who got few votes in the presidential primary election is an example. Due to gender inequality, African women are usually given little or no rights of inheritance. Despite the fact that some African women and men alike have joined forces in the fight against gender inequality, some people especially power brokers have not come to realize that the world is moving towards the equality of men and women.
In some cultures of Africa, women are still subjected to certain traditional rituals which the world consider today as obnoxious. Take for instance the case of female genital mutilation is still been fought inspite of the strong campaign mounted by World Health Organization (WHO) and others. Even when it has been proved that it can cause dangerous disease in women, some cultures still hold strongly to it. The state of health care in Africa is poor. This has affected African women as quality health care services cannot be accessed by every woman. There is serious lack of adequate health care facilities, medical supplies and trained staffs. Apart from this, widows in African countries are still denied access to their late husband’s properties after the death of the man. Those who consider themselves the kinsmen of the late husband often gather to share the man’s wealth. Even when the woman wishes to contest the matter in court, she has no access to law because of how much it will cost her to get justice. So, most women die in silence because of poverty. The worst experience of widows in most African countries is the question of re-marrying after the husband’s death. In most cultures in Africa it is almost that she re-marries but the bone of contention is not the re-marriage. It is that she must marry a relation of her late husband.
Although the overall environment for African woman is particularly challenging, it is imperative that attention be paid to the African woman. The State and Federal Government should provide quality and accessible education for the girl child. The African woman should be empowered in order for her to be self reliant and she should be provided with good health care. The African woman needs protection and security. Security here includes social, economic and political security. She needs awareness through education because that is the only means through which she can emancipate from male dominance. To achieve this, government should fashion out strategies that will create a level ground for women to have access to good education, good health care and so on. Government can do this through giving scholarship to the girl child, through making health care free for expectant mothers and lactating mothers. Education should be made compulsory for the girl child and early marriages should not be encouraged. In politics, chances should be created exclusively for women. Conferences and workshops should always be organized to sensitize the African woman on the best strategy to adopt to achieve their emancipation and development. Certain cultures which are not in agreement with modern life should be rooted out. People who abuse and sexually harass girls’ and women should face the law.
With the above, we would have begun to seriously look into the welfare of African women.