African Feminism: Toward a New Politics of Representation

Gwendolyn Mikell. Feminist Studies. Volume 21, Issue 2. Summer 1995.

I am convinced that I am observing the birth of feminism on the African continent—a feminism that is political, pragmatic, reflexive, and group oriented. These observations have grown out of my work in various parts of West Africa, in the 1970s and 1980s, and in South Africa, in 1992; out of my dialogues with women from Kenya and other parts of the continent; and most recently out of workshops on women and legal change that I conducted in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria during May 1994. My research and involvement with Africa goes back to the early 1970s, when the charismatic energy of nationalist leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere had faded, the disillusionment with modernization and the capitalist economy was strong, and a rash of military coups marked the emergence of a new crisis orientation. In the nationalist phase, women had played crucial roles, but their importance in politics had waned by 1971 when I began research on cocoa farmers in Ghana and visited many West African countries. I have watched the episodic rise of women’s movements during the United Nations Decade of Women (1975-1985) and during the difficult economic crises and structural adjustment program experiments of the 1980s, but I see the peaking of a new feminism now as African states reinvent themselves in the 1990s.

This recognition of an emerging African feminism has been met with unanticipated enthusiasm by some of my Japanese, female, African studies colleagues who pursue autonomy within their own unique cultural environment, with ambivalence by some colleagues who work in Africa, and with amused tolerance on the part of many Western feminists who saw it as a moot point which I had (fortunately) resolved in the affirmative. There were relatively few African women who used the term “feminism” prior to the 1990s, and those who do so now are explicit in acknowledging the breadth that appears within it. For me, the recognition of a new African feminism represents a gargantuan change, because previously I was unwilling, for several reasons, to apply the feminist label to the African women’s movement.

First, there was the recurring issue of hegemony. To a large extent I responded to the anger many African women have felt toward what they perceived as attempts by Western academics and activists to co-opt them into a movement defined by extreme individualism, by militant opposition to patriarchy, and, ultimately, by a hostility to males. This has been reflected most cogently in the reaction of African women writers, such as Buchi Emecheta, to the persistent questions from Western audiences about why they refused to call themselves feminists. Certainly, the writings of sociologist/novelist Buchi Emecheta (such as The Bride Price) portray both traditional and modern African women searching for fulfillment while attempting to overcome oppression by familial and patriarchal elements within their own cultures. In Emecheta’s book Head above Water, we see that her own life also reflects such struggles. However, when asked about the feminist label in 1994, Emecheta’s heated response was: “I have never called myself a feminist. Now if you choose to call me a feminist, that is your business; but I don’t subscribe to the feminist idea that all men are brutal and repressive and we must reject them. Some of these men are my brothers and fathers and sons. Am I to reject them too?”

Second, I was exercising caution born of my knowledge that what we called the African women’s “movement” actually consisted of a broad continuum. The Nigerian researcher and writer Nina Mba, in her Nigerian Women Mobilized (1982), has shown that separate-gender, “dual-sex” organizing has generated the emergence of a broad spectrum of women’s associations. This continuum includes women’s associations with largely traditional frames of reference, the organizations and activities of educated women who were often engaged in overtly political or advocacy work, as well as the activities of urban women whose realities straddle these cultural worlds. Neither end of the African continuum aligns with the Western feminist continuum, but it does reflect African realities, as Florence Abena Dolphyne, the Ghanaian linguist and women’s development organizer, points out in her 1991 book, The Emancipation of Women: An African Perspective.

Third, I was resisting the projection of a dichotomy on to this continuum, with educated and elite women seen as ideo-logically far more advanced (and therefore feminist) and rural/ordinary African women seen as parochial and prefeminist. Class differences do exist in the positions that African women have taken, as well as in their degrees of radicalism and types of activism, but collaboration between classes still occurs. It has been my position that an ideological dichotomy is largely negated by African cultural traditions which legitimate female organizations and collective actions by women in the interest of women,an awareness shared by women at all points along the continuum. This continuum appears to be grounded in African communal, historical, symbolic, and experiential constructs, rather than in cultural constructs based on Western individualism and competition.

The strategic consensus that I see emerging among African women in many parts of the continent is an impressive one. The consensus, which many label “feminist” given the new meanings with which they are endowing the term, is reflected in Filomina Steady’s description of African feminism as “dealing with multiple oppressions” and as dealing with women first and foremost as human, rather than sexual beings. However, I point out that as new subtleties in African women’s realities surface, politics is becoming the central point around which a new feminist consensus is emerging. I believe that the pragmatics of women’s political representation in the 1990s are shaping the emerging African women’s movement.

In the early part of this century, women’s declining political status was directly related to the oppressive control of the colonial regime. African women took strength from the fact that their participation was essential if their countries were to end the colonial experience and achieve independence. However, after independence, male suppression of African women’s political autonomy increased, despite the contributions women had made to nationalist politics and despite state claims to equitable approaches in education, policies, and laws. Given this, much scholarly discussion has been focused on understanding why African women eschewed an explicitly woman-oriented politics, while being victimized by military regimes and oppressed by males in both public and private life.

The results of such questioning have been greater insights into state and gender interactions, but we have little information on women’s ideological and practical configurations. I have for some time observed women’s groups in West Africa (Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria), where women’s organizations and associations have a long history, and I have followed the interactions of African women with the courts, constitutional issues, and new family laws. I have been disturbed by the obstacles that formerly prevented the construction of national woman-oriented social agendas under whatever label. Now women are striving to overcome these obstacles. The growth of active women in development legal programs, of assertive women’s movements in a number of countries, especially in Kenya prior to the 1992 elections, and of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League’s demands for greater female political representation in South Africa are positive signs of this feminist emergence.

I suspect that the greater willingness of African women to embrace feminist politics and gender representation in the 1990s is traceable to the current national crises and political transitions  which have been occurring throughout the continent over the past fifteen decades. Political transitions (whether in the traditional or the modern system) are always fraught with tensions because they represent points at which there is a change in the persona of the sovereign, the renewal or revision of a preexisting political compact, or the possibilities of potential challenges to the actual sovereignty of the polity. It is to these societally specific compacts and experiences that we must look to understand the ideological assumptions that shape the “culture of feminine politics” which influenced women’s behavior in the past and still exerts influences on African women’s behavior today. But it is at these crisis/transition points that the disjuncture between the existing sociocultural compacts and modern political realities becomes most visible, and the audible discourse about gender roles alerts us to the subterranean conflicts that are occurring within the society. The heightening of contradictions and gender discourse may actually open up space for the emergence of a new configuration in the various African women’s movements.

The 1990s post-cold war environment provides the first chance that most Africans—in particular, women of different ethnic and religious communities—have had to participate in a serious way in deciding the legal and constitutional rights of people in their own countries and the desired forms of government. During the past two decades, the crisis-initiated space expanded, but African women were sometimes hesitant to move into it because they did not want self-interests to take precedence over state interests, they recognized the existence of increasingly complicated “identity politics” (to use Valentine M. Moghadam’s term) occurring around them, and they were primarily concerned with resisting what many saw as Western hegemony in the guise of international feminist support. In addition, those market women’s groups or elite women’s groups, which were the first to attempt to move into this political space, were in many cases ruthlessly crushed by the government or military forces.

But the harsh pressures exerted by contemporary national economic crises and political failures have removed some of women’s fears and much of their reluctance to seek public office. African women’s psychic involvement with these national and local processes is more clearly visible, as is their desire for equitable change. They appear strengthened in their beliefs that women’s performance can be no worse than those of earlier male politicians, and is likely to be considerably better. Many women are saying that more assertive female actions are necessary to ensure gender-balanced approaches in the aftermath of the 1980s’ economic collapses, military coups, civil wars, refugee crises, feminization of poverty, and structural adjustment programs.

Women appear aware that the present climate of political experimentation and “democratization,” whether resulting from Western pressures or internal shifts within cultural/religious communities, offers them unique political opportunities to alter their sociopolitical positions. Even in the Muslim communities of Nigeria and Sudan, some women are making use of the new political spaces that national crises and elections have created in order to mobilize women to achieve increased status in many areas of life. They, like women in many other areas, are analyzing the ways in which the lack of legal and policy supports may have affected their ability to play roles in development and politics. In addition, it has not escaped their attention that in 1995, the year of the long-anticipated UN Fourth World Conference on Women (the Beijing Conference), women may have a unique opportunity to formulate a feminist agenda which will be seriously discussed.

I often refer to these crisis-generated political spaces as “dialogue opportunities.” In referring to the implicit potential to alter colonial and more recent legal inequities and to sketch the outlines of new relationships, I often describe it as “an invitation to gender dialogue.” This amuses some of my African women friends who understand that the invitation is often forced and seldom purely voluntary on the part of any state. Nor is this an easy invitation for African women to accept, because it often means taking a critical view of traditional/ethnic norms which may have structured gender relations in the past, and it sometimes means traversing a dangerous obstacle course between women’s groups, the party, the military/government, and the courts. But as an anthropologist I recognize the existence of different types of normative systems which regulate gender relations and that legal notions readjust and change as emerging social relationships require. In the process of constructing law, we create symbols for the new set of relationships we are seeking to institutionalize in a particular society, although this is never done in isolation from the “forces of the larger world by which [law] is surrounded.” The questions that now guide my inquiries concern whether African women perceive and pursue the possibilities of altering their structural position, the extent to which they are willing to work for changes in laws and other political structures which affect women, and the extent to which African women see this as part of their essential “feminist agenda.”

Now, almost two decades after the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Women, the discourse of African women’s activism displays considerable maturation because it contains more explicit gender-political critiques. It is more woman-action and national/global issue oriented. Still, it has retained some of the earlier focus on rectifying inequities in conjugality and domestic relations, particularly in defining women’s rights within marriage. There have always been a few self-proclaimed feminists like the Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo, who assigns some of the responsibility for women’s plight to Western hegemony and an embattled African political economy. However, most women activists still hesitate to use the term “feminism,” although they are more willing to seek legal change, promote gender equity, and to label their persistent grievances as “human rights” ones. It has become clear that today, even more than in the 1980s, African women are searching for a new deal, and are more willing to work for the eradication of discrimination against women in customary norms, modern law, and social conventions.

Because of time and space considerations, I shall describe only a small part of the plethora of feminist activities in which I observed African women’s involvement in 1994. The backdrop for these observations was my earlier experience observing and documenting the activities of women’s groups in Ghana, particularly the National Council of Women and Development (1975-86); rural women’s cooperatives and women’s economic groups; the 31 December movement headed by Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, wife of Ghana’s head of state (1984 to present); and the operations of Ghanaian women’s church groups during the 1992 presidential elections. I have also observed and analyzed women in family-related court cases in Ghana (1986-90) to assess women’s position relative to laws and their implementation. In 1992 I had talked with ANC women involved in the Gender Advisory Committee of the CODESA II talks  during my preliminary research stay in Durban in South Africa. Such research experience had allowed me to debate which factors led women to mobilize, organize, and make political demands; to question whether first ladies were ideal leaders for such organizations; and to assess the appropriate organizational and ideological structures for presenting these demands. However, my comments here are more specific, focusing on women’s politicolegal activities which are becoming more visible. I believe that these new activities mark the will-ingness of African women to engage in actions and dialogue with the goal of mediating gender differences and restoring women to valued roles and statuses through constitutional and legal means.

In May 1994 my workshops on sociolegal change in Monrovia (Liberia), Freetown (Sierra Leone), and in various parts of Nigeria offered me an opportunity to have a dialogue with women from a wide variety of groups—craftswomen, churchwomen, teachers, clerks, nongovernmental (NGO) representatives, professors, businesswomen, lawyers, judges, ministers, and first ladies. This allowed me to assess whether they stated narrow social and economic goals or broader ones and to assess where they stood along the “feminist” continuum. I agreed to go to two areas in which I had not worked previously, in order to facilitate discussions among African women, as well as to deepen my understanding of gender dynamics in areas involved in some intense political crises such as civil war (Liberia), and governmental fragmentation/rebel actions (Sierra Leone). The venues varied from informal meetings in the evening at the women’s craft center, to formal workshops at the American Cultural Center, or the state house, depending on the composition of the groups and their sizes.

In these workshops, I aimed to present a researcher’s overview of some paramount sociolegal issues confronting African women across the continent, to encourage dialogue on the interaction between social and legal rights, and to elicit women’s feelings about the correct approaches to the problems of gender and law. Perhaps not surprisingly, the African women I met were intrinsically pronatal, operating from shared assumptions that African women value marriage and motherhood. The major areas that women articulated as problematic were domestic relations (problems of marriage and spousal relationships given polygyny and lineage systems, as well as the monitoring of male responsibilities in the maintenance/custody of children), women’s rights of access to property and other resources, and that controversial category called “privacy” rights (which includes many sexual and reproductive issues, as well as violence against women).

One might have predicted that many women were interested in the status of American women’s legal rights in these categories, but this time these topics occupied far less of our conversation than they have in the past. Instead, women were anxious to discuss the heightening of the above problems in direct correlation to the economic collapse, structural adjustment, constitutional/democratic stalemates, and war which had engulfed the African state. And they stressed that they would never be able to address them directly unless they stepped up to the challenge of direct self-representation and involvement in the political realm.

The word “feminism” was scarcely used, although some men jokingly called us feminists and other men angrily pinned the label on these workshops; in addition, the newspapers occasionally referred to the “feminist talks” taking place. However, the content of the women’s discourse made it clear that they wanted change and were searching for ideas and strategies through which they could achieve it. The manner in which they discussed women’s problems indicated their awareness of the decreased capacity of traditional systems to respond to their complaints and the absolute necessity for women’s assertive actions in support of specific legal initiatives. In some cases, they reminded each other that modern laws which address their situation were on the books, although the social environment did not encourage use of legal remedies; and they discussed how such contradictions could be eliminated.

In Liberia, the ongoing civil war in the countryside and the trauma of displacement, torture, and starvation appeared to have defused many earlier distinctions and inequities among women and radicalized and mobilized women. Although we think in terms of ethnic/religious differences (Americo-Liberians versus indigenous peoples) and class differences as separating Liberians, women sought to coalesce in ways that bypassed the ethnic rivalries implicit in the civil war. During 1994, Monrovia, the capital city, was protected by the military operations group of the Economic Community of West African States, as well as by the United Nations Interim Military forces in Liberia. So, it had been possible for women to set up shelters and job-training programs for women, such as My Sister’s Place, as well as crafts and agricultural training projects, all of which tended to lessen the socioeconomic class distinctions between women who were involved. In addition to Concerned Women of Liberia, which was headed by Mrs. Vulate Tate (a former member of the Interim Legislative Assembly), there were other politically involved groups. The Liberian Women’s Initiative, a woman’s action network, had encouraged the warring parties and the interim government to go to the bargaining table, and the women had coordinated public demonstrations when it had appeared that agreements were not being kept. It would have been idealistic to expect that such a network could have resolved the civil war and the stalled negotiations, but the women intended that when peace was reached that there would be a national organization capable of assembling women to create a “national women’s agenda” and to participate in elections and constitutional talks. In fact, the National Organization of Women Lawyers of Liberia was inaugurated two days prior to my arrival and was a likely group to play such an organizing role.

As Liberian women talked about rape of women by troops of all sides, and about the climate in which male violence against women was tolerated, they voiced something I was to hear repeated in each place: “Until the government makes an explicit commitment to the enforcement of basic human rights for women, our existing legal rights are irrelevant because men know that they do not need to respect them.” Thus, women intended that one of the anticipated fruits of peace was also to be mechanisms that would protect them as they brought charges against assaulters, regardless of whether they were soldiers or husbands.

The challenges of competition within the women’s movement were visible in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where the country struggled under a military government composed of relatively young, dissatisfied soldiers. Sierra Leone shared Liberia’s history of Black settlers who provided for the elite, but this creole group (Krio) was much smaller in size than Liberia’s. Here, feminism was struggling to coalesce but could not do so easily because of divided class and ethnic interests. Educated women were concerned about the political fragmentation and rebel actions which existed throughout the country, a reality which dominated even their organizational meetings and contributed to a sense of helplessness. Rural women, on the other hand, were concerned about violence and the absence of economic stability, both of which were decimating community life. However, thinking holistically in terms of what was good for Sierra Leonean women as a whole was difficult for women in Freetown because of the real social and class divides that were only being erased by the current political chaos. Elite women were open to some change in their legal status, but they were uncertain about whether it was desirable if such change challenged their status as married women by also benefiting men’s rural polygynous wives and their “illegitimate” children.

Nevertheless, in a striking example of the new gender initiatives, the young wife of Sierra Leone’s military head of state (Captain Valentine Strasser), pushed by an urban coterie of ministers’ wives, had formed an embryonic women’s movement called SILWODMO (Sierra Leonean Women’s Development Movement), which was designed as a national NGO. Although they patterned it after the 31st December Organization, led by Ghana’s first lady, their desire to have it gain greater legitimacy among women led them to organize a private meeting for me with first lady Gloria Strasser and SILWODMO officers, so that they could have a critical appraisal of their efforts and goals. It was clear to me that in the face of an emerging feminism, smart state and military leaders may attempt to co-opt or redirect women’s movements, perhaps avoiding confrontations on legal, political, and economic issues where leaders anticipate a divide between gender rights, human rights, and national power. The role of first ladies in the emerging feminist politics is still being debated by African women across the continent.

Some of my most fruitful experiences took place in Nigeria, a formerly oil-rich country, the largest in West Africa, which has had a succession of military coups interspersed with short-lived electoral politics in the years since independence. Increasingly, political instability accompanied by economic restructuring and continued conflict with the United States over corruption and drugs has made Nigerians cynical about achieving democracy within African state structures. Within Nigeria, my most exciting discussions occurred in a workshop at the Lakoja State House, in an area bordering Kaduna, where more than fifty women (rural and urban, educated and illiterate, Muslim and Christian) discussed specific problems of concern. Nigeria has a tradition of diverse public and private roles for women, a history of women’s activism in the south, and a growing involvement of women in public organizations in Muslim areas of the north, as Ayesha Imam indicates. However, the sheer multicultural nature of the group forced greater clarity in how women defined and thought about the problems faced by different groups of Nigerian women, and it reinforced the important role of culture in advancing or retarding women’s progress. Large numbers of Muslim women attended the workshop, and some confided that they were unwilling to speak in public because of their lack of fluency in English or because their support for “feminist causes” might be reported to husbands. But they vigorously nodded their heads in agreement with certain interpretations of women’s problems, leaving no confusion about where they stood. A fascinating discussion ensued about how women’s activism need not constitute a rejection of religion or culture (although women wanted to see gender equity introduced into particular aspects of community life and national life) and about how material or legal rights for women could influence the culture in more equitable ways.

Nigerian women repeated the comments I had heard voiced in Monrovia about the priority of explicit state recognition of human rights for women. They wanted to see Nigeria publicize its acceptance of the International Convention on Human Rights, its support for women’s rights within the 1979 Lagos Plan of Action, and a national recognition of women’s rights under law and constitution, which they think will reinforce other rights within the domestic, economic, and privacy categories outlined above. Then, they challenged each other to think of both legal and extralegal methods of addressing concerns such as forced child-marriages, vestico-vaginal fistulas among teenage mothers, and women’s rights to decision making about work and other economic activities. For northern Nigerian women, more than for any other group of women I encountered, gender liberation was symbolized in a woman’s right to operate in public space—to determine for herself whether she would enter the work force or run for public office. They clearly stated that the economic decline had crystallized for them the fact that work outside the home could be a route out of poverty and that male refusal to allow wives to work was an attempt to oppress women.

But national politics was the minor theme to which these women kept returning and the backdrop against which these workshops occurred. Women were angry with Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president, for annulling the results of the 1993 elections and halting the return to a civilian government. They were cynical about the intentions of the military government of Sani Abatcha, who replaced Babangida. Therefore, many women scoffed at the upcoming Constitutional Conference in Nigeria (May 1994), because they wondered whether only hand-picked progovernment representatives would attend and whether support for government positions and prolonged military government rule was a foregone conclusion. In Lagos, most women—whether appointees to government commissions, students, journalists, teachers, businesswomen, clerks, or traders—wanted a return to electoral politics. However, there was no illusion that with elections women would simply vote their female representatives into power and inaugurate a feminist agenda. In fact, given the multiplicity of women’s groups and would-be-leaders, the identity politics of the Muslim communities and the anger in southern communities, and government inroads into some women’s groups, Nigerian women were skeptical that they would be able to agree on a “Nigerian women’s agenda” to be presented at the Beijing Conference in 1995.The emerging African feminism is intensely prodemocratic and supportive of some sort of rapprochement between the pure market economics and “justice economics.” They, like their menfolk, believe that there is a link (implicit or explicit) between structural adjustment and stalemated democratization and that recent verbalization of gender-equity goals might be another tool for internal control. Many male policymakers have been prone to criticize these “conditionalities” as the latest colonialism, and some are hostile to women’s groups which pursue a “feminist” agenda. However, African women have increasingly mixed responses to this twin restructuring. Many Liberian, Nigerian, and Sierra Leonean women are beginning to believe that now may be the time to utilize the expanding political space to correct legal inequities related to the control of resources, which made them the paramount victims of the economic crises of the 1980s. Most African women are concerned that their governments see the link between support for women’s rights and economic stability for women and the family.

Seen in this light, I understood that my presence created a number of less sensitive political spaces in which women’s varying perceptions of their sociolegal realities could be aired, agreements or disagreements could be discussed, alternative strategies outlined, and potential alliances between leaders and groups could be acknowledged and perhaps later acted upon. By responding to invitations to discuss innocuous-sounding women’s issues, rather than “politics,” urban women could temporarily circumvent the political restrictions put in place by the military government.

It does not require the presence of an outsider to make nascent African feminist developments coalesce, but that presence does allow space for the ongoing discourse to be amplified. I found this to be true not just for feminist issues but also for issues of concern to cocoa farmers, when I worked among them in Brong-Ahafo, Ghana. However, during 1994, there had been a number of women’s conferences and a workshop on women’s issues in northern Nigeria. In fact, several organizations working on women’s legal issues put copies of their publications into my hands during this latest visit. But these events have not received attention from the government or the media, so women across the country and abroad often do not know of them. To a large extent, much of the emerging feminist consciousness and the current movement toward feminist agendas in each country remains hidden—hidden first because the chaotic economic and political conditions there causes primary emphasis to be placed on survival issues. But they also remain hidden because governments allow political and economic events to monopolize national public media space and foreign attention, thus downplaying the cultural and gender developments which they sometimes find troublesome.

Overt and public feminism has its price, but women now seem willing to pay it. When African women’s movements seize the space and command attention, they face ostracism and often severe reprisals. Kenyan women provide the most outstanding examples. Wangari Mathai’s Green Belt movement began with issues of urban ecology and gradually taught women that they could become shapers of their own agroeconomic destinies. Led by Mathai, this was a grassroots movement among women to reclaim their environment, restore “green spaces” in which they could produce food, and revive women’s agrarian strategies which had been of benefit to them and their communities. The movement helped to produce a large woman-oriented constituency for later politicians, but Mathai herself faced imprisonment, harassment, and victimization even as the movement grew. Other issues, such as the privileging of traditional law over modern law as a regulator of women’s rights, have emerged in Kenya with the Wambui Otieno case. However, with President Arap Moi’s announcement of elections for December 29, 1992, the National Committee on the Status of Women (NCSW) became the beneficiary of Mathai’s consciousness raising among women and helped women elect forty-five female civic leaders and six parliamentarians. Despite the fact that women who stood for election faced ostracism and in some cases were raped as punishment, the successful NCSW is involved in planning systematic women’s agendas for education, local government, and legal reform.

My point is that the emergence of African feminism has been in accordance with its own internal clock, evolving in dialogue with the cultural contexts from which it has sprung and only cautiously acknowledging individualism. After many years of observing, it is gratifying to see that an internally driven and aggressively democratic politics appears to be characteristic of the African feminism which is emerging across the continent. As one example, the Women’s League of the African National Congress abandoned its former principle of “liberation before feminism,” and through the protest activities of women it managed to extract from the ANC a promise of the appointment of women to 30 percent of political offices after the 1994 elections.

The ANC, as well as Black women, will have to work hard to bring such promises to fruition. However, Mamphela Ramphele has alerted us to some of the unique characteristics of this new Black feminism. In the same vein, when I spoke with the newly elected Black parliamentarian Mavivi Manzini this past September, she proudly stated her feminist commitment to using democratic structures to bring about equity for South African women.

In the search for gender equity, this African feminism has the ability to subject indigenous cultural norms, received legal notions, and new state laws to new scrutiny as it assesses whether they are in women’s interest. Such behavior has led me to believe that in charting an African course, this will not be a feminism which will fixate on the female “body,” champion woman’s autonomy from man the “victimizer,” or question the value of marriage and motherhood. Admittedly, the implications for female-male relationships remain to be seen. But feminism is to be judged by women’s actions, so there seems little doubt that the emerging African feminism will generate positive changes in African political structures and contribute to greater gender equality before the law on the African continent.