Last week’s section introduced the four waves of feminism. Today’s section will entirely focus on the first wave of feminism, how beneficial it has been, and how we are benefitting from it now.
Each wave denotes a generational difference, thus in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of feminism, we must take into account the movement this wave represents as a unique product of its society and period. Although each movement shares the same purpose of enhancing feminist ideals, each does so with different rhetorical methods and premises in mind. The advocacy for women rights during this first timeframe meant women in that era were fighting hard for women to get better working conditions if granted an opportunity to work. This meant that, instead of a woman being subjected to working under harsh conditions such as in the scorching sun as a field worker, the active women fought for lunch breaks or times where women were allowed to rest. This might seem like an effort not worthy of celebrating, but in the olden days, getting a lunch break meant more than becoming a wife.
This wave also focused on advocating for better working conditions and educational rights for women and girls. In addition, it dealt with the opposition of chattel marriages, voting rights, as well as property rights for women. This reminds me of a book I once read, where the wife was not allowed to own property, even though she was the one paying for it. It is rather sad that women are not deemed worthy of owning property, yet they must buy it.
Fighting for this specific right was necessary because we now have women who are in the career of estate agents and or have properties to their names. The fight for the opposition of chattel marriages has yielded good results, because women can now take men to court and have them pay maintenance for as long as the child may need it. In the same breath, women also have the right to fight for custody should a marriage end in divorce.
When Ngugi wa Thiongo was interviewed in 1982 about his novels Devil on the Cross and Detained, he described women as the most exploited and oppressed section of the entire working class: exploited as workers, at home, and by the backward elements in the culture (Boyce-Davies et al 1986: 11). However, in our time, women are free and have been in spaces that offer them voting rights, spaces where they are getting promoted and have a choice regarding what they want to do with their careers and time.
Women of the 21st century no longer have the silence patriarchy subjected to them. In Namibia, the first wave of feminism is seen manifesting through the space women take up. These include, but not limited to, women in theatre and practising medicine, as well as running for the presidency. Arguably, this could be an element of African feminism being shaped by African women’s resistance to western hegemony and its legacy within the African culture.
• Frieda Mukufa’s lifestyle section concentrates on women-related issues and parenting every Friday in the New Era newspaper.
2020-03-20 14:32:42 | 9 days ago