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African Feminism

The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited by Gwendolyn Mikell

Publication Year: 1997

African feminism, this landmark volume demonstrates, differs radically from the Western forms of feminism with which we have become familiar since the 1960s. African feminists are not, by and large, concerned with issues such as female control over reproduction or variation and choice within human sexuality, nor with debates about essentialism, the female body, or the discourse of patriarchy. The feminism that is slowly emerging in Africa is distinctly heterosexual, pronatal, and concerned with "bread, butter, and power" issues.

Contributors present case studies of ten African states, demonstrating that—as they fight for access to land, for the right to own property, for control of food distribution, for living wages and safe working conditions, for health care, and for election reform—African women are creating a powerful and specifically African feminism.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii

It is a necessary and pleasant task to thank the legions of people who have assisted, encouraged, participated in, and created the atmosphere in which productive intellectual exchanges could occur in the preparation of this book. My initial interest in the topic of African women and crisis was...

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pp. 1-50

Contemporary African women sometimes think of themselves as walking a political/gender tightrope. On one hand, they are concerned about the sea of economic and political troubles facing their communities and their national "ships of state." On the other hand, they are grappling with...

Part I Legal Interactions in the Domestic Realm

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Chapter 1 Changing the Meaning of Marriage: Women and Family Law in Cote d'lvoire

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pp. 53-76

Women in the francophone country of Cote d'lvoire are attempting to mobilize their forces so that they can play a determining role in setting national laws that affect their status as wives. Only through increased mobilization...

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Chapter 2 Wives, Children, and Intestate Succession in Ghana

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pp. 77-95

The Intestate Succession Law of 1985 is part of legislation in Ghana which seeks to resolve some long-standing issues affecting the inheritance of property and the status and rights of wives and children. Together with other laws affecting marriage and divorce, and family...

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Chapter 3 Pleas for Domestic Relief: Akan Women and Family Courts

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pp. 96-124

Faced with increasing hardships among women and children during the troublesome 1980s, Ghana's Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), which assumed office in December 1981, moved forward with populist approaches to the country's socioeconomic problems, opting to institute new...

Part II Economic Change, Political Economy, and Women's Lives

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Chapter 4 Swazi Women Workers in Cottage Industries and Factories

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pp. 127-141

Increasingly, African women in Swaziland arc at the same time mothers and women who work for wages in the industrial sector. The existence of a category of black female industrial workers in peripheral areas such as Swaziland sometimes surprises outsiders because until recently there was...

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Chapter 5 Alcohol and Politics in Urban Zambia: The Intersection of Gender and Class

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pp. 142-158

A study of beer and alcohol production and consumption can tell us much about gender, class, and political life in urban Zambia under colonialism and during the first decade of Zambia's independence. In fact, between 1900 and the 1960s, alcohol was one of the most salient issues defining...

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Chapter 6 Women's Roles in Settlement and Resettlement in Mali

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pp. 159-181

Women in resettlement communities in Mali have demonstrated flexible economic roles in their response to the nation's multiple crises. Throughout the Sahel (the southern fringe of the Sahara) in the 1970s, countries had to deal with the dual shocks of serious drought and increasing...

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Chapter 7 Ethiopian Rural Women and the State

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pp. 182-205

This chapter documents changes in the relationship between the Ethiopian state and rural women's work over time; particular emphasis is placed on experiences under the revolutionary government (1974-91) and during the transitional period that followed. Of concern here is the way rural...

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Chapter 8 Women and Grassroots Politics in Abidjan, Cote d'lvoire

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pp. 206-231

Experience tells us that as the political process is being transformed and "decentralized" in Cote d'lvoire (Ivory Coast) and many other African countries, we can look forward to a new recognition of the important roles that women will play in this process. During the 1970s and 1980s, the...

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Chapter 9 Kenyan Women in Politics and Public Decision Making

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pp. 232-254

Achieving men's and women's equality in the political realm is a goal toward which Kenyan women have moved with considerable difficulty over the past few decades (Nzomo 1989:9-17; Midamba 1990), but women made measurable strides in that direction through their political organizing during...

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Part III Surviving Crisis in the Community

This chapter examines the networks used by women to make health-care decisions in a rural community called Tshunyane, which is located in the northwest province formerly known as the Tswana "independent homeland" of Bophuthatswana in South Africa. It was impossible to examine the...

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Chapter 10 "Our Women Keep Our Skies from Falling": Women's Networks and Survival Imperatives in Tshunyane, South Africa

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pp. 257-275

This chapter examines the networks used by women to make health-care decisions in a rural community called Tshunyane, which is located in the northwest province formerly known as the Tswana "independent homeland" of Bophuthatswana in South Africa. It was impossible to examine...

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Chapter 11 Technology and the Fuel Crisis: Adjustment among Women in Northern Nigeria

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pp. 276-297

The issue of women and fuel usage in developing countries has become significant in the wake of the world fuel crisis of the 1970s and 1980s. Because of its plentiful oil supplies, Nigeria became highly dependent upon revenues from oil exports, and this created social transformations within...

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Chapter 12 Swazi Traditional Healers, Role Transformation, and Gender

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pp. 298-309

Women, who constitute a significant segment of the group of traditional healers in Swaziland, are increasingly exposed to the economic and social forces of the global system. Because of the combination of global, national, and local influences, traditional healers are no longer able to perform...

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Chapter 13 AIDS, Gender, and Sexuality during Africa's Economic Crisis

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pp. 310-332

AIDS has spread rapidly across the globe, with cases reported in 162 countries, including 47 in Africa. Twelve million Africans are estimated to have been infected since the start of the pandemic through 1994.1 That number may double by the year 2000 as infection continues to spread. The human...

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Conclusions: Theorizing and Strategizing about African Women and State Crisis

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pp. 333-346

Our case studies demonstrate that within transitional and crisis-ridden polities such as African states, women's roles often display numerous contradictions, partially reflecting the disjuncture with other political, economic, and social processes.1 Because of the pressures that African women experience,...


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pp. 347-348


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pp. 349-352


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pp. 353-354

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200775
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812215809

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 1997

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women in development -- Africa, Sub-Saharan.
  • Feminism -- Africa, Sub-Saharan.
  • Women -- Africa, Sub-Saharan -- Social conditions.
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