• Gender and Generations: exploring gender at the frontiers of the colony

      Griffiths, Claire H.; University of Chester (Chronica Mundi, 2018)
      Abstract: This essay addresses two unanswered questions on gender justice in postcolonial Francophone Africa. It asks why countries of Francophone Africa invariably occupy the lowest ranks in global gender equity tables, and why this underperformance continues to map onto the colonial geography of the continent three generations after the end of colonial rule. Existing sociological methodologies aimed at evaluating gender equity are failing to identify why gender inequalities in countries of the former French African empires remain more pronounced than in any other part of the world. Drawing from fieldwork and research conducted in countries across Francophone Africa, it is argued that the creation and persistence of such inequalities are better understood if evaluated in the context of the cultural histories of the regions in which they persist. As the cultural histories of the former colonies are still being written, the discussion incorporates new and emerging historical research on earlier studies of African women led by female researchers during the 1930s. These include the reports and correspondence of a substantial colonial tour commissioned by the French Socialist government of 1936 to record the social impact of colonisation on African women living in seven colonies of French West Africa. In addition, analysis of the records of two pioneering French researchers, the first women to conduct anthropological fieldwork in French Africa, is helping illuminate how gender has been perceived by colonisers in this part of the world, and combined with contemporary fieldwork and policy analysis, contributing to our growing understanding of why inequality persists in certain geographical contexts that share a colonial history, and why in the former colonies of French Africa, the path gender equity has been following differs from those observed in all other postcolonial developing areas to the point where the situation in Francophone Africa is historically unique.