Once upon a time, when physical strength was more important than intelligence, a patriarchal society was the solution to the existence of a thriving society; men fought among themselves to achieve dominance, and they were the better option for providing for the family.
Although this original way of life is still occuring in some parts of the world, this is not necessarily the case for many family structures today.
As a result of exposure and awareness, more and more women are becoming aware of their rights and fair positions in society.
For centuries, the emancipation of women has been a long fought struggle in several areas, some of which include, law, religion, sexual abuse and gender equality. Even though women have come a long way, they still face difficulties in these areas.
African societies have maintained the fundamentals of a patriarchal hierarchy, many of which are fixed on culture and traditions. We see a classic example of this with Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, who married for the fifth time early this year, and supposedly has another fiancé in the wings!
Many men maintain patriarchal views that don’t support woman emancipation. however, more and more African countries are beginning to develop and enforce rights in the favour of women, as well as appreciating them for their abilities.
The empowerment of women has lead to a movement in the social, economic, and political roles of women, we see this particularly in the Rwandan parliament, where over 50% of the parliamentarians are women, and in democratic South Africa, where the government has shown its commitment to developing a non-sexist country!
So is women emancipation overrated or underrated? Woman liberation has been a hard fought achievement but has come with a high cost, which is the family unit.
At a point in time, men were the bread winners and women stayed at home to handle domestic chores and raise the children. However, traditional roles are altering drastically.
Although men are still expected to be the head of the home, mothers are increasingly becoming more powerful in the workplace. Unfortunately as this happens, the more difficult it becomes for mothers to strike a healthy balance between fulfilling their domestic duties and their demanding job.
Consequently some high-earning women don’t feel a sense of inner contentment, but rather feel guilty for not being able to play an active parental role.
Several women leave home as their children are leaving for school, and return home at late hours only to find their children already asleep. This is a harsh reality that families face today.
On the flip side of this argument, it will be unjust and unfair to ride off all the efforts and achievements that have been brought about from the persistence, riots, and consistent determination of women right activists who strived for a better and more humane world. Women today can learn from their experiences.
They refused to give up despite the ridicule and persecution they suffered believing that a fair and moral cause cannot be suppressed forever.
Gradually these activists gained victory through support and admiration as they achieved many of their goals. Because of them, many women today are reaping the benefits, some of which include, the opportunity to vote, maternity leave, laws against domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The first of these benefits is education, and it was the key to the emancipation of women, which opened up many opportunities, while eliminating ignorance and silent suffering. For a long time in history, women were not given the opportunity to obtain an education.
It was common for parents to use the little money they had to educate their sons rather than their daughters, in the belief that the girl had no business in school but rather in the house fulfilling domestic duties.
Even though some people, particularly in remote areas think this way, governments around the world have given girls the right they deserve to education. As a result, as they develop into women understanding that their position in society is equal to that of the men.
Women emancipation should not be underrated and taken lightly, because today we have benefited from the struggles of this emancipation movement.
However, women continue to face levels of oppression, some more severe than others and therefore we should not become complacent with the success which has been achieved.
I was shocked to discover that a large number of American women soldiers serving in Iraq are being sexually abused by soldiers and commanding officers. What is even more disturbing is that women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.
At a Los Angeles Healthcare Center, statistics prove that 41% of female soldiers seen at the clinic say they were victims of sexual assault while in the military, and 29% report being raped during their military service. More than a third of the time, the chain of command took no action because of “insufficient evidence.”
The harsh reality is that this is just one example of the oppression women still face. Women need to continue to stand united, and raise our voices, which we raise in protest against unfair treatment.
In my opinion, one should not wait until women’s day to celebrate the lengths we have reached, and struggles that have been won by the numerous reformers in the favour of women emancipation.
On the contrary everyday should be women’s day in our, attitudes and mindsets. We should keep in mind the many women who lived before us and those living who didn’t get half the opportunities we now are getting.
Let us consider ourselves blessed by bringing empowerment to those who are still oppressed.