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Africanwomenculture: Gender and Theology - ENEMIES OF WOMEN


Africanwomenculture: Gender and Theology - ENEMIES OF WOMEN
"Women are their own worst enemies"
They say so, who want to stay so.
"It is women who vote for men"
Why so? No one asks.
Never were people taught that women could lead.
Often were women taught that they were not capable.
When the eye of the mind saw that only men led,
The brain dictated "Vote for men only"
To walk the way of the past
Is it not self-hatred?
Open the eye of the mind.
Self-preservation so dictates
The worst enemies of women are those who say
"Women are their own worst enemies"
They say so who want to stay so.

It is women who put pepper into other women's eyes".
Why so? No one asks.
Never were people taught that
Women are also simply human.
When the eye of the mind sees that 'human' reads 'men'.
The brain dictates, "Creativity belongs to men only".
To walk the way of the past is not self-hatred,
To walk the way of past is to
Keep up a false sense of security for all.
To hold on to the past.
Is to imprison imagination.
"Women are their own worst enemies".
They say so who want to stay so.

So
Stop the say Sos
Stop the enemies of women.
See!
The New is in the AIR.
Catch it!

Feminism was named an American white middle class phenomenon but is showed is itself as broader than that and feminist were described as all who honour the humanity of women and include women's agency in human endeavours.

Africanwomenculture: THEOLOGY


Africanwomenculture: THEOLOGY
As the analysis of phenomenon of women's quest for liberation developed, it became clear that religion was one of the main sources of the denigration and marginalization of women from the exercise of power and of autonomy. Stanton's women's Bible resurfaced and the cry went up among churches that women are rewriting the Bible. Women from other faith communities re-read their scriptures and commented in writing. On the Christian theological scene. Mary Daly's, The Church and the Second Sex shook the ramparts of church and theology. She followed it with Beyond God the Father in which she argued that if God is made then the male must be God and since this has to be resisted, the male language about God has to go. My response was, God is male does not make the human male God. Maybe it comes out of my orientation toward non-gender specific pronouns and the Creator God as a woman in some parts of Africa.

Many more women wrote, Caucasian, Christian, Jewish and Moslem. Soon there was the generic name Feminist Theology, later to be diversified with the rise of Womanist and Mujerista Theologies. Asian women produced their theologies and so did African women and Latin American women. First this was done in the mode of a general theology of liberation within the Ecumenical Association of Theologians until the Association too proved to be non-gender sensitive. Women realized that if they do not say, "we are here" the men will continue to act if women were absent.

In Africa gender became a theological issue when the Circle asserted that the gender parameter in African culture and African religions have crucial effects on women's lives and on how womanhood is viewed by Africans. They researched the names given to baby boys and baby girls, rites related to the birth of boys and that of girls and all other rites of passage. They examined everyday language and especially proverbs, myths and legends and found them seeped in a gender ideology.

They examined daily relationships in marriage, inheritance laws and women's leadership and roles in the wider society as in the church. Gender as the power, priority and preference of biological male over the biological female was evident everywhere. The women pointed out that it is not only biblical hermeneutics that needed attention but most immediately cultural hermeneutics as Africans are in crisis about their relationships to the inherent ways of doing and thinking. Especially when it is in conflict with modernization and against the notion that culture is dynamic and an open circuit. Gender in biblical studies took the form of re-reading, and the hermeneutics of suspicion and resistance prevailed.

Africanwomenculture: ISSUES OF GENDER


Africanwomenculture: ISSUES OF GENDER

The feminist highlighting of the maleness of God took back seat but African women still saw through the power that men derived by associating masculinity with God. It was necessary to exhibit the feminine face of God and to distance God from the violence against women that has become endemic in man-woman relations in Africa. God had to be placed beyond gender. Contrary to what Daly says, Oduyoye insists "God is male does not make the male God" no human being has a right to play God in another's life except as agent of love, compassion justice and empowerment as demanded by God. Gender is a human, social construct and should not be made to apply to God. Men must not continue to co-opt God into this hierarchy of being by reading into the scripture an order of male over female as ordained by God. African women took refuge in the existence in versions of African Traditional Religion in which the creator is imaged as a woman.

The gendered nature of theology is exhibited not only in the male image of God but in the doctrine concerning the nature of the human being traditionally designated as "the doctrine of man" in English. Women have to sing "Stand up O men of God". Here too African languages assuaged the fears of women that they have become invisible as most African languages have words that mean humanity and no-gender specific pronouns. This however did not prevent the church from being operated as a gendered Institution with men as owners and women as the clients.

The Church's order and liturgy came under scrutiny and the issue of participation as in the Pauline theology of koinonia was lifted up by women. In the Bible study that convoked African women theologians in 1989 Teresa Okure comments on the healing of Jairus daughter as follows "Today, we are not to be satisfied simply with being healed. We are to join the discipled in being healers, proclaiming, the reign of God has come, that we have touched that reign, become part of it, and have been empowered by God to become its heralds (Oduyoye & Kanyoro 1990).

Musimbi Kanyoro the first co-ordinator of the Circle writing on "God calls to Ministry: An Inclusive Hospitably" used the Theological constructs of Koinonia, our common baptism and the Pentecost experience. (Kanyoro & Njoroge 1996). The two articles (Okure & Musimbi) were selected by Sr. Mary John Mananzan as presenting what African women theologians say on the subject of "To be fully human". The Circle followed Accra with studies on the reign of God and out of efforts in West Africa. Elizabeth Amoah edited the Circle book Where God Reigns.

In Talitha qumi (1990) one finds the gender constraint evident and critiqued in all the contributions. The introductory article "The search for a two-winged theology" sets the agenda and the tone of participated. Power is to be jointly utilized according to charisma and not directed by biological determinism. The Bible studies in this book demonstrate the need to pay attention to context and to culture as well as the need to become sensitive to gender when dealing with religion and culture and by extension to theological construction. The papers and the poems all highlight the role of gender in theology as traditionally curbing women's initiative. The women give indicators of how to find scriptural resources to resist this dehumanization of women.

Seven years later the Circle met in Nairobi as mentioned above. One of the books that came out of the papers delivered is Talitha Cum! Theologies of African Women edited by Naymbura J. Njoroge and Musa W. Dube (Cluster 2001), Again "Little Girl, Get Up" was used as introduction and Njoroge in the Preface writes "Together we will soil our hands in our efforts to achieve the goal of dignity, liberation and fullness of life in Africa". 

Nyambura highlights in addition to Talitha Cum! "Eph'phatha" "Be opened (Mark 7:31-35). Silence is no longer an option where women theologians are concerned. Women's 'silence' was not voiceless their lives spoke volumes but now their voices are heard and as Nyambura says "they are calling churches to listen and engage in conversation with African women. (It is interesting to note that neither Nyambura nor Dube were at Accra. Though the former was at Ibadan, they represent the widening of the Circle and study increase of women with doctorates in the theological field in its membership). Theology in Africa calls for acknowledging the role of gender in theology and for eliminating its debilitating effects so that the church might be the church. Between Talitha (1990) and Talitha (2001) several researches have highlighted issues of gendered theological reflections have been written on them, hospitality, violence, HIV/AIDS, spirituality of resistance and transformation and a deepening of the hermeneutics of culture as well as biblical hermeneutics. That women are absent from the pages of our tunes on the history of Christianity is evident. This denial of women's agency has to be corrected and a beginning has been made in Her Stories.

Unravelling the gender component of Christian theology began with studies of life situations and of 'story' telling it was, if you like a phenomenological approach. Lately the analyzing and theolozing from the stories have led to tentative steps towards theorizing an example is what Musimbi describe as "engendered communal theology". The dilemma posed by culture and religion, structures that are both positive and negative in their utilization of gender is an open field for study. Discussing "Gender as a concept in theological analysis" Musimbi has this to say, "Theological engagement with gender issues seeks to expose harm and injustices that are in society and are extended to scripture and the teachings and practices of church culture".

Gender in theology faces the web of oppression as noted above and is not limited to power relations between women and men. She highlights women's emphasis on anthropology with special reference to the establishment of the full humanity of women. Gender in theology critiques the dualistic thinking that opposes body to soul material to spiritual and assigns whatever in the pair is deemed inferior to be feminine. In African women's theology, theological analysis is linked to cultural hermeneutics. A concept that has come from the identification by African women of gender as operating in both culture and theology.

Africanwomenculture: African Culture Can Be Harsh On Women


African Culture Can Be Harsh On Women

Satou Diallo and her daughters have already been traveling for more than an hour.  They have been on a bus, a subway train, and are about to board another bus near Washington to reach their destination a half hour away.  It is the final meeting with their lawyer to prepare for their asylum hearing.  Their journey began in the West African country of Guinea two years ago. But the momentum for their departure had begun to build about three decades ago when the parents of Isatou first approached her about an arranged marriage.

“During my youth I studied, but when I reached 13 or 14 years, the family wanted me to marry. But I was able to convince my parents to let me study, and when I got my degree I would accept their wishes,” says Ms Diallo.

In the meantime, she met someone special. “We went to school together. I was at the medical faculty and he was in accounting.  But my parents, despite all that I did – school they could accept – but they wouldn’t accept that I chose my husband myself,” says Ms Diallo.

In developing countries, arranged marriages are one way for families to ensure financial security for their daughters.  The man chosen for Isatou was considered a good catch – a wealthy diamond merchant who already had two wives.  Polygamy is widespread in Africa. Isatou refused the marriage, saying she wanted to continue her education. But there was no backing out.  The dowry had already been accepted, the ceremonial cola nuts broken to seal the matrimony.  However, one more thing needed to be done to prepare 17-year-old Ms Diallo for marriage.  She says she had to undergo female genital excision.

“The day that they did the excision they said, 'Come see your aunt.'  I entered and they made me go into a small room behind the toilet. When I entered, I didn’t see anyone, but they blindfolded me and four people came in and they held me to the ground. I cried and screamed. I cried and screamed.”  There was no anesthetic.  During the struggle, Ms Diallo says the cutting instrument slipped and sliced open the length of her inner thigh.

There are varying degrees of female genital excision. In its most common form, the clitoris is removed to prevent women from having sexual pleasure.  It is believed that this helps maintain a woman’s virginity prior to marriage and keeps her chaste.  The practice of excision began more than 2-thousand years ago. Contrary to popular African myth, it is not a tradition of Islam.

Eventually, Ms Diallo’s physical wounds healed, but she says she remained emotionally scarred by the ritual.  She married the man chosen by her family and got a job in a lab. She found pleasure in her children and friends.  As in much of Africa, her community was like an extended family.  That is partly why the tragedy of a neighbor hit Ms Diallo so hard.

“There was a woman and she had three children – only one of them was a daughter. They circumcised her. The girl hemorrhaged and died … She didn’t bear any more children. She was the only girl – a pretty girl. I said, me, I don’t want that to happen to my children,” says Ms Diallo.

So she took action. She says she became part of a women’s group, which she refers to as “the movement,” that went door to door to educate the local population about the dangers of female genital excision. They told villagers about the risk of infection and hemorrhage, as well as the risk of transmission of HIV / AIDS through the use of shared cutting instruments. The women also told them about gynecological problems that women who underwent excision could suffer for the rest of their lives.

“Some people accepted us, but when you go to some places in Fulani or Muslim families, they don’t have the time to receive us to listen to us. They say we make people rebel against their customs,” says Ms Diallo.  But the resistance that she faced on the village doorsteps at that time was nothing compared to what she was about to confront in her own home.

Listen also to Cindy Shiner’s second reporting which we hear how Isatou Diallo fought to protect her daughters from the practice of female genital excision. You can read the series and learn more about African gender issues online at www.voanews.com. At the request of those interviewed for this story, the names have been changed.

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