chapter  16
4 Pages

Women and Politics: Delay in Zaire

ByCatherine Coquery-Vidrovitch

Women of the deep Congo, in contrast to their sisters in West Africa, had a very hard time escaping the double oppression of their role as beasts of burden in traditional rural societies and the narrow conformism of the Belgian Catholic church. Tradition in effect denied them any opportunity for political participation. As everywhere, the enormous burdens that they carried finally led them to react but sometimes not until long after independence. This is what finally happened among the Temba women of Kivu, a relatively fertile province in eastern Zaire, when regional economic shifts gave peasant women the chance to try their hand at market work. Mulele, a young Maoist revolutionary, had very specific ideas about women's emancipation. He gave them classes to teach them equality. They were the first to find this ridiculous, because no woman dared to speak aloud in the presence of men.