1.) Modern social practices have brought with them effects on African marriages. African marriages are subject to certain rules and customs that govern the roles of both the husband and wife. These customs also govern the behaviors of the married couples. For instance, men are supposed to provide for their families; hence, they are expected to engage in economic activities. Women, on the other hand, are responsible for taking care of families, with their work being to raise children and perform house chores.
The intensity of these roles differs with the region and the religion. For instance, the Muslim religion prohibits women from engaging in economic activities. In Muslim communities, in Northern Nigeria, women are secluded as a means of preservation of one’s dignity and that of the husband. They are only allowed to leave the house with due cause such as seeking medical assistance. However, with an increment in costs of household needs and the inability of their men to cater to all the financial needs, women in these areas have been forced to participate in secret trade. This has reduced the control that men have over their wives. The reduced control affects the marriages, as men feel threatened.
In other African regions, advancement in trade and education has led to divergence from previous traditional norms of men owning property. Women have pursued education and careers just as men. This has brought about a change in ownership of land and property that was previously only owned by men. This has affected the previous notion of men being domineering over women in the marriages. Currently women have acquired a say in family matters.
Kin also play a crucial role in African families. Elder relatives are involved in making major decisions in the family unit. The control of the kin has however, reduced over time for urban couples. Monetization of efforts has also caused a rift between kin and one’s immediate family. In the current times, people expect monetary rewards. For instance, once a man moves into urban centers to work, he is expected to send some money home and take care of the extended family since they raised him. In most cases, the wages that the man gets are low. As such, sending money home to his kin creates problems with his nuclear family as they feel that they should be given the first priority.
2.) In the African tradition, gender roles are clearly defined. A man is the head of the house and the sole breadwinner. A woman, on the other hand, is a housekeeper and a homemaker. This results in men being afforded education opportunities while the women are left out. This is identified in Dangarembga’s novel where Tambu, who is the female narrator, has to stay home while her brother is taken to school. The tragic event of her brother dying was what resulted in her getting a chance to be educated. Women’s economic contribution in their homes is disregarded, as is the case with Maiguru in ‘Nervous Conditions’. Men always have the ultimate say and women are supposed to obey and do what the man orders, failure to which they are punished. The elder man in a home has the responsibility of making decisions for the entire family, as is seen with Babamukuru. The Dobe Ju/’hoansi community, however, observes gender equality in its practices. Women are allowed to learn trades such as being traditional doctors, which in other communities are reserved for men.
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