Then get back to business.
If you didn’t know that was a Beyoncé reference and I could not help myself.
Africa and America have two different ideas of what it means to be a woman in the workplace. But regardless of how they go about addressing this specific group of people one thing is for sure this is nothing new.
Women have been made to fit into a mold of inferiority to men for many, many years. Everything comes in two’s including the standards that are held for women in the workplace as opposed to the standards that men are held to in the workplace. More so than just professionally women do not get the credit that they deserve when it comes to their contributions to other facets of life, with the exception of the near complete control that women have over the family dynamic, especially African women. Women are routinely discriminated against and the justification isn’t even just covert prejudice, sometimes the reasons are overt and unashamedly broadcasted.
When considering the role that gender plays in the development of nations and societies one must understand that inequality is the thread that holds the fabric together. Patriarchy, or plainly put male dominance ( white male more often than not), is the root of forms of unequal situations. The equality of ALL people has been an uphill battle for centuries, especially in the United States. When you look at the documentation on which our nation stands equality and freedom are always conditional. From the heart of the struggle for equality the idea of feminism is one that sprouted and it spans across the globe. It it is a bold phenomenon that empowers women to get up and fight for their rights, while different demographics of women take different approached the desired outcome is nonetheless the same.
Before you know the types of feminism, you must first define what feminism is.
Feminism can be loosely defined as a theory and practice that analyzes the positions/ situations of women in society in an attempt to advocate for their political, social, and economic right to be equal to men.
7 Types of feminism:
- Traditional – developed in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. It was a movement that sought for women to be treated as equal to men.
- Radical – is a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts. Radical feminists seek to abolish patriarchy by challenging existing social norms and institutions, rather than through a purely political process.
- Social – is a branch of feminism that focuses upon both the public and private spheres of a woman’s life and argues that liberation can only be achieved by working to end both the economic and cultural sources of women’s oppression.
- 3rd World – Deals with the equalities and rights of women in third world countires, Because of this specific plight feminists in this strand find themselves facing and having to discuss taboo issues that no one will talk about but everyone needs to hear about.
- African – I found an article that sums up what African feminism is.
- Womanism – In the words of Alice Walker: “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” I can’t give you a better definition since she is the one that coined the term. Basically womanism includes other groups of oppressed people. It’s a movement from black women that all-in-all includes black men in the fight for equality.
- Liberal – is a particular approach to achieving equality between men and women that emphasizes the power of an individual person to alter discriminatory practices against women.
Men rule the world, and this is no different in Ghana. Abuse and mistreatment are most times practiced like a second nature. Gender relations, or lack thereof, has a defining role in the work place. Work that men oversaw while women executed the tasks is what is considered women’s work. Since men have access to all sectors of the work force this can create a decline in access to working opportunity for women.
We visited several business in Ghana that have a sole purpose of using work and the knowledge of the business to empower women and provide as many women with the opportunity to learn a trade as possible. We visited a few of these establishments ranging from leather making, a sewing school/shop, and a Shea Butter plant.
Here we met a woman who started off as a shoe shiner and now owns her own leather shoe making business. She talked to the group about how she saw her mother spend years selling water on the road to make a living for her family, and while she was appreciative she vowed to herself that that would not be her destiny. Now she defines the norm of women being in subordinate roles and is the teacher of young men who have a desire to learn the business.
This seamstress start her own business where she teaches orphans from a local orphanage how to sew, and also makes money by selling the things that are created in her shop. Most of the individuals working at the shop were young girls full of promise and potential. She spoke of the growth of her business and how her family was very supportive of her dream and helped her in any way that they could. Including the buindling that we were standing in. She had it because of her father.
The Shea Butter plant was to me the most in depth look at women working we got while in Ghana. In America Shea butter is a luxury for the African-American community. It is a commodity that we so effortless go to the store to purchase and do not for one second stop to think about all of the time, and physical energy that was put into the process of making it. These women here were working mothers raising our next generation while providing an essential for the current one. It’s a wonder how they do it.
Cynthia walked us step by step through the shea butter making process that takes about 4 days start to finish.
Shea is a fruit, after you eat the fruit you crack the shell of the entity on the inside to reveal the nut. The nuts are then washed with water, and put on cement platform to dry. They are then brought to the production center where they are put only machine on the whole plant and are ground into a powder form. The nut goes through another roasting process. From there everything move quickly, I will insert pictures to help you visualize.
This plant gives work to about 60 women, a formal education is not required you just must possess the skillset needed to carry out the job. Just watching these women work blew my mind. The literally were working with children on their backs, there is no maternity leave. The time period between having a child and getting back to work is a small window.
Women’s empowerment is key. They hold up entire households and work daily to provide for their families. The current social construction makes it near impossible to provide women the recognition that they deserve. Even female goats in Africa are valued at less than male goats. Which is odd to me. When are both productive AND reproductive. Their womb carries future generations and their backs hold up current ones. We live in a society where males benefit from women’s subordination and we must ask ourselves why.
As one of the few males that actually acknowledges that women are an essential in today’s society and we should treat them as such, James Brown said it best:
This is a man’s world. But it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.
“Perception is reality, and reality is in my world there is no black and white, only shades of K…”