Today I ran into a good friend of mine from Uganda. We had met last summer when I was in Kampala and she was very helpful and friendly and I was very glad to see her again. After catching up with her about her family and things in Uganda she mentioned that her boss had gone with her to a conference and after a couple days abandoned her to do all the work while he was out in cafes during the day and drinking scotch late into the night. She was, as always, very good natured about it but then she went off on a illustrative tangent about the differences between African men and American men.
She started off by saying that American women dont know how good they have it with American men. The American man will open a door for his woman, call her "baby" and other pet names, and even cook her dinner. American men will even clean the house and take care of the kids so their women can do things. She, my Uganda friend, on the other hand had to open the door for the African man, do all the work, cook her African man dinner, then kneel before him to serve him.
African women have a hard life. Some have it worse than others depending on where they live, what culture they are in, marital status, employment (if they are allowed to work), and even if they have provided a male heir. Sometimes they are treated the same as cattle and are bought, sold, and trafficked. Often they are victims of violence, abuses, and rape. In some places men are expected to beat their wives and if they aren't beaten sometimes the wives feel neglected. In some cultures female genital mutilation (FGM) is still normal and expected.
In Uganda last summer a Ugandan friend of mine died in a motorcycle accident and left behind a widow and three daughters. Since she did not produce a male heir she was not seen as a member of the family and had no rights to her husbands property. Soon his relatives came to take away everything they could, including the fridge, tv, and deed to the house. The relatives took the death gratuity payment and threw a party and took as much as they could and then abandoned her and the children. Fortunately her western friends hid the deed and a couple other things or else she would have been left out on the street with her kids.
My meandering thoughts on this blog can't fix anything, and even to suggest that things aren't right can draw accusations of racism or culturalism. I am glad, however, that I am in Africa and can help my friends when they ask for help. I hope that what I am doing in Africa is helping others, improving their lives, and is mutually beneficial. My experiences in Africa have definitely changed my perspective.