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Implication Of Race And Gender In The Identities And The Society Of Africa In The Project Of Colonialism

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I Introduction

Global history indicates that humans continue to repeat the same patterns including repeated examples of Colonialism. Colonialism is defined by a foreign power gaining dominance over a country through state power. A prime example of this is Britain’s control of Nigeria during the period between 1900 and 1960. A key objective of colonialism on the part of the dominating country is the exploration of the chosen land, as evident during the occupation of Africa. The catalyst for the beginning of Colonialisms spread can be traced to the Industrial Revolution, and thus the desire for further resources. The effect colonialism has on the people of the colonised country is great, regarding both race and gender. The occurrences in Africa during this time established the dehumanisation of the indigenous citizens, particularly the woman. The relationship between both parties established during this time still shows weight in modern social interactions for both race and gender. This essay will explore with careful reference to both race and gender, the project of colonisation has had on the African society.

The essay will first begin by discussing gender as a whole and present the impacts on both identities, before assessing the identities of women in Africa and how the project of colonisation has shaped their how their identities continue to manifest in the modern society. Within the conclusion, this essay will make a minor recommendation to the reader as to how these situations can be improved. This will allow the reader to base their opinion on their understanding and the teachings of the essay, as opposed to forcing an opinion upon them.

This essay is written through the perspective of a middle-eastern, female, raised in western society and student studying at the University of Technology Sydney, with an understanding of the bias contained within texts discussing colonisation. As such this essay incorporates several texts to ensure all arguments are explored.

II Gender And Colonisation

Though colonialism in Africa didn’t technically begin until the 1900s, Europeans were arriving on African shore in search of commodities such as gold and ivory along with taking the people as slaves, during the early 1400s. The segmenting of territories between the European nations during a conference in Berlin during the years 1884–1885 was the ‘beginning’ of colonialism in Africa. Conflict predictably increased during this time, with the Europeans attempting to take political control of the African peoples, often succeeding too. The African people resisted the intrusion from the beginning, fighting for their independence throughout the colonialization. Many of the nations gained independence during the 1950s and 1960s. Woman lost economic independence and power during the colonial period, especially when considering their exclusion from the global market. Men benefited from this, because of the use of woman labour, without payment for their work. Due to the induction of cash crops, the agricultural work across Africa altered the control of the African people over their land. Men often worked to produce crops for sale, including commodities such as tea and cotton, while the woman was likely to grow the family food. It was also common at this time for men to work in gold, diamond, and copper mines. Woman did attempt to move to a more urban area to find paid work. Various texts attempt to provide an analysis of the legal system during colonialism. The texts present the idea that African women were at a general disadvantage, in marriage, work and economic laws, as the system was geared towards men, as many older legal systems are.

III Women And Colonisation

The 1980s saw a rise in women’s rights movements throughout Africa, causing change in the political and socio-economic landscape for women. The introduction of a democratic political regime pullback of the state-enforced policies and change in the economic climate, women’s rights began to transform. During this time international aid and the industries pulled away from government associations and the women’s movements gained momentum with the help of the UN International Decade for Women promoting women’s rights around the world. A myriad of groups to embolden women in professional, financial and general women’s issues were established. These groups strived to change laws regarding land, reproduction, and other legislations unjust for women as well as pushing for better living conditions in general. Women’s movements are not a recent occurrence; the push for not only women’s rights but the rights of all African people have been present in both pre-colonial and colonial periods.

The texts overall present an idea which supports the notion that local, national and global economics do not remain unbiased to gender. While providing some opportunities for women, there are a multitude of obstacles put in place for women, in particular, African women. These texts seek to analyse the struggles of African women in the social, economic and political national and global landscapes; exploring how they affect the how the women’s movement is conducted, and the movement has enacted change. The 1970s-90s saw numerous women’s rights movements, including one in Pollsmoor Prison, protesting the treatment of women in the prison under apartheid; identifying racial, class, and gender discrimination. There was an increase in the number of political prisoners fighting for women’s rights, starting from the 1980s. Thus, igniting other female prisoners to fight for their civil and political rights. Women’s movements in Africa are often included in the fight for more than their rights alone. The Senegalese women against ‘illegal’ boat migration allows for the protest against marital rights and obligations of the husband. Rural and urban protest groups who border on being ‘anti-capitalistic’ groups, stating that material assistance is political explore other issues as well. Morocco and Burundi women’s land movements explore issues of social justice and gender discrimination using the human rights rhetoric. Contrastingly, Amanda Gouws presents another opinion against gender-based violence (GBV), by criticising Jacobs Zuma’s legitimacy and the politics of the African National Congress (ANC). On the same token, issues that concern primarily political issues also investigate problems with the distribution of resources and other concerns.

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Societal constructed gender attributes produce particular identities, either assisting to ignite or dampen the mobilisation of women's’ groups. Motherhood forms the image of caregiver, thus allowing for movements such as the oil insurgency in Nigeria as it provided a foundation for their involvement. In a case such as this, there are two possible outcomes; either it promotes established gender roles or brings the collective together assisting a victory. Gender discrimination is resilient, as are most forms of discrimination. In Nigeria, the women who did involve themselves in warfare were seen as breaking gender norms and masculine. They became further marginalised from society. In response to the debate founded from motherhood, the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) have refrained from pledging support on the campaign challenging the GBV. This proves that gender norms can either aid or hinder, depending on the circumstance.

The difference between genders around the world, but particularly in these communities can be seen through their activist experiences, their motivations to act as well as how they act. The women of Nigeria explained that their motivation to enter into the warfare was to create a safe environment and future for their families, and their children’s children, showing the dynamic of these families. Even though they did join in the fights, they always had a male superior. The women’s motivation is in contrast to the men’s, as the men’s motivations often were about personal freedom, establishing a more political set of motivations. The men in these situations did express that women’s involvement was linked to their role as caregivers and nurturers.

IV Colonisation And Race

In colonised land, the resources, including labour and material commodities, as well as the markets are primarily controlled by the colonial power. It is also common for the colonial power to impose aspects of their culture onto the people of the colonised land. This can include religion, socio culture and language, as they believe that their culture is superior to that of the indigenous people. They use this belief of superiority to overtake the culture on the colonised territory, at times completely extinguishing the culture. Not unlike its parent branch imperialism, colonialism is fundamentally the sovereignty of one culture over another. Such a situation often comes with the oppression of the indigenous people. Colonialism has a multifaceted effect on all aspects of the indigenous people, meaning that race becomes a discerning factor of the territory. Race is a descriptor giving a group of people and identifier which separates them from other groups of people.

The European scramble for control of African territories was motivated by economic growth, discovery its ethnocentric nature. The economic growth for the European countries came from commodities such as trade facilitation, exploitation of the native community and low-cost source removal. The desire to explore the world, in particular, the ‘Dark Continent’ as Africa was referred to. The last being their ethnocentric nature, the belief that they were superior to all other cultures, which lead to the colonisation of many nations, including but not limited to Africa. An outcome of this was the desire to assimilate the African community into the culture of the Europeans, Colonialism can claim its foundation in the European desire for expansion. In 1884–1885 the European powers held a conference to divide African territories between themselves, thus claiming the resources for each country and legitimising those claims. This was done without any regard for the indigenous people of Africa or their culture. It was an attempt to avoid warfare amongst the Europeans powers following the Great War or World War I. The end of World War II caused the beginning of decolonization, with many of the colonised territories fight back against the colonial powers for independence.

African States attained their liberation in the 1950s and 1960s, hopefully looking to a better future. The cultural disruptions caused by colonialism meant that this future was not so easily achieved. Due to the changes in the economic, social and political landscape of Africa made by the European countries, causing the abandonment of many fundamental cultural aspects of the African people, returning to pre-colonial life was not possible. Colonialism brought Western civilisation infiltration and culture, while also relegating African culture, pushing it to the background. The policies put in place by the colonial power stopped African people from performing cultural activities and events. There were many cases where the colonial power forced assimilation on to the people, diluting their traditions and causing the retardation of many aspects of African culture. Not all traditions were lost, but many have remained are not as they used to be.

V Conclusion

This essay examined how race and gender have been implicated in the identities and the society of Africa in the project of colonialism. It revealed that not only have race and gender been implicated, but colonisation has had an influence on the overall African culture. It revealed how colonialism as the medium of implications on both gender and race influenced the indigenous African culture and changed it to be what we see today. Several texts presented the opinion that European powers worked overall to distort indigenous African culture a future that disallowed it from later experiencing culture continuity, success, and growth. This view provides an understanding of why some Africans may be of the opinion that western culture is more superior than their own. Individuals instead view their own culture are inferior and primitive in comparison to cultures within the modern world. In terms of gender and race, it can be argued that conflicts over time may now see Africans confused about their institutional norms, morals, and practices. This was shown specifically regarding African women, who have been implicated through the project of colonisation as it continues to shape how their identities continue to manifest in modern society. Furthermore, the solutions to this situation are endless and up to one's understanding of the situation, though good governance, harmonisation and sustainable development are recommendations that I believe can assist the modern African society.

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Implication Of Race And Gender In The Identities And The Society Of Africa In The Project Of Colonialism. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
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