African Women And Colonialism

Women play an integral role in societies, both modern and ancient. They are responsible for the upkeep of the household, agriculture, reproduction and the rearing and discipline of the children. Therefore, women have consistently shaped the cultures and societies in which they live for hundreds, and even thousands, of years. To examine the effects of various cultural, religious and political movements on the women of the society provides a unique insight into the overall effectiveness or damage caused by such trends.

African women in the past (and even, to a significant extent, the present) were and are responsible for finding water, sowing seeds, tilling, harvesting, caring for the animals, keeping the home in order, feeding the family, caring for the children and so on.

When colonialists moved into the area from Europe, they claimed the land that had been cared for and cultivated by these women. The women were suddenly alienated from what had, for so long, defined them and their role in society. This had huge impacts on their economic situation as well as their access to food. However, more than this, it also made these women more dependent on the men in their society, which led to a sense of male supremacy and dominance (social, physical and emotional), and a loss of the female identity, to some extent.

The colonial control of the land meant a limited access to available terrain, which implied that women had less diversity in terms of the types of soils available and the crops that could be cultivated. The amount of land made available to them was drastically less than before, limiting their agricultural yield significantly.

Another major effect of colonialism on women was caused by the introduction of wage labour. This meant that the women (and children) of a village or community were forced to leave their daily duties in order to work for European farmers, particularly during the peak seasons. In addition to robbing these women of their established identity within their society, this forced labour was also often accompanied by physical and sexual abuse. Such abuse was inflicted, in part, by the Europeans, but also, in many cases, by their own husbands, who saw their renewed roles as an indication of their worthlessness, and resented them for neglecting their homely duties.

Although women were working hard for the colonisers, the men did not take over their domestic duties, which led to a massive decrease in their personal productivity. As they were no longer cultivating their own fields and caring for their own homes, their economic situation became critical, forcing them to become more and more dependent on the European colonialists for their very survival. The African males began to leave their homelands, going to the cities and towns in search of more formal employment. Migrant labour had its own added set of implications, many of which left wives, children and families in the unpleasant position of being left alone, worried about the men of their society. As men lived in cities and towns alone, they engaged in sexual relationships with other women. This weakened the genetic code of the children that resulted (as their fathers were unknown to them) and also introduced foreign diseases to the wives of the men, who awaited their return home.

Another major trend introduced by the colonialists was their rather closed-minded view of women and their position in everyday life. Victorian women were required to perform duties, but not to have much of a personality or presence. The African women soon felt their position and influence in society being snatched away from under them, despite their crucial role in establishing the homes and raising the children of their men.

There is no doubt that colonialism presented African women with a variety of challenges and negative effects. However, as a display of their resilience, these women responded, in many cases, by learning to protest and stand up for their rights. They adapted as they needed to, and were determined to preserve their identities. An example of taking such initiative to regain their ‘voice’ is the British West African Ladies Club, established in 1929 in Nigeria. This organisation was designed to encourage women to express themselves and to give them a platform upon which to do so. Such responses to colonialism demonstrate the resilience and determination that continues to identify African women.

Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.