chapter  6
14 Pages

Rural Women and Colonialism

ByCatherine Coquery-Vidrovitch

Generally, the colonial administration ignored women, and for a long time development "experts," African and foreign, did as well. In the patrilineal society, men had land rights. In western Africa, the regression of women's condition is even more noticeable in the light of the remarkable autonomy they had once enjoyed. Work on plantations was fairly well shared between men and women until the early 1930s, when women farmers clearly outnumbered men, who were being swallowed up by the city in increasing numbers. The native authorities themselves, incited by the colonial powers but also by small growers who wanted to pass the fruit of their labors on to their descendants, ratified the idea of a shift from matrilineal to patrilineal transmission of wealth. The social status and economic function of rural women have tended to be devalued since the turn of the century. Hausa women live cloistered, and Islam teaches them that men should satisfy their needs.