37 Guild Prac. 23 (1980)
Family Problems in Africa

handle is hein.journals/guild37 and id is 33 raw text is: JEANNE MARTIN-CISSE

I will speak briefly about the family in Africa, and es-
pecially sub-Sahara Africa. Here, the family is the basic
unit of society, and the fundamental element is the woman.
Here the family has a much wider meaning. In addition to
father and mother, it also includes grandparents, uncles,
aunts, and all the extended family, all the family of the
huband and the wife, their ancestors, etc. Physically, in
talking about family problems, they are very different in
our countries from industrialized countries in Europe.
Traditional Marriage, Divorce, Child-rearing
Fertility and motherhood have always been highly valued
in Africa: fertility of the earth and of living creatures
and of human beings in particular; the woman being the one
who gives and protects life.
So women were queens at home, but were not supposed to
get involved in public affairs except in indirect, very
discreet ways.
In certain societies, in addition to other daily, rou-
tine tasks, they had to cultivate their families' subsist-
ence crops.
Within the family, the women were responsible for edu-
cating the children, and especially the girls, who had to
be taught to do domestic tasks and to be prepared for their
future role as wives. From an early age they were incul-
cated with the idea that they were there primarily to serve
men, to whom they owed total obedience: obedience to their
husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles.
In contrast, the most important event in a boy's educa-
tion, the initiation rites, was the responsibility not of
the mother but of the society as a whole. Generally, the
initiation rites developed the boys' sense of honor and
patriotism, cultivated their sense of nobility and of su-
periority over girls. ...
Thus the children's education was a way of alienating
women and of subordinating them to men. This explains the
fact that African women were considered for a long time per-
Jeanne Martin-Cisse is Minister of Social Affairs, Republic of Guinea.  23

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