The African women are the salt of the African earth. As the Africans move forward towards building their nations, women will play an important role in rebuilding and reshaping Africa. It is noted that women are always involved in building the nation. In 2003 during the International Women's Day Celebration in New York, Kofi Annan noted the important role of women in the family, “study after study has shown that there is no effective strategy in which women do not play a central role. When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately; families are healthier and better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment, go up. And what is true of families is also true of communities and, in the long run, of whole countries”(Annan, 2003). This shows how African leaders need women’s support for development. African division of roles was as a rule based on gender.
Women are depicted as the most influential people in the society as they have an important mission to help their husbands when planning to make a decision in the family or during the meetings of the elderly, although women were not allowed to make decisions (Berns, 1993). Even though, women were devoid of making the decisions, they could give their husbands good advice to help men carry out their roles in the society without misleading them. This is proved when Sundiata’s father almost dies, and the wife helps in making the decision by persuading Sundiata that he would like him to inherit the kingship from the father (Jiagge, 1975).
African women are depicted as the most caring and loving mothers (Berns, 1993). The women are always there making sure that their children are well taken care of, and all their basic needs are satisfied. African women work hard to make sure that their sons and daughters acquire as good education as those from the other families to make them competent in the society. When they cannot afford education they will work very hard to make sure their children get profound education. This shows how African women care for their children regardless of their status (Berns, 1993).
Traditional women’s role in African society was to give birth; the African community figured women as a tool for production of wealth as they valued children as a source of wealth (Jiagge, 1975). Children were valued as a source of security and family which did not have children was forced for early marriage, in order to give birth to children who will provide security for the family (Jiagge, 1975).
Women are educators in the society; the education does not only involve teaching cultural values, but as educators and mothers women teach their siblings the ways to achieve success and good life (Savane, 1975). The education involves shaping of the girl child by getting the example from the parent who is the educator (Jiagge, 1975). In African society mothers are the first teachers as they show the way for children. These explain what an African woman can do to sustain a family and avoid disruption by other families in the society (Berns, 1993). They do everything to meet the family needs.
Economic role of women in the family is crucial too. In Africa women are known for their participation in the development of the family and community (Jiagge, 1975). Women always participated in agricultural activity and marketing of farm production. African society was based on gender division of labor system. When men were involved in strenuous activity such as hunting, going to war, iron smelting and other activities which are effortful, women participated in food production and processing (Berns, 1993) since the family needs could not just involve farm produce alone, surplus was needed for exchange of the items. Women were involved in all manner of trade (Berns, 1993).
Women were responsible for cooking for the head of the house that was the husband and took care of all chores and around-the-house activities in the household (Koenig, 1997). They were responsible for the cleanliness of the house, and it was believed that women’s place was in the kitchen. It was believed that women’s work and service was mainly in the kitchen and not in any field of professionalism hence not involving women in development activities (Jiagge, 1975). Women were not allowed to enjoy the same rights as men; women did not have a chance to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the community. Men believed that women did not know anything apart from cooking (Jiagge, 1975). They were considered as strangers in the community, and they could reveal community secrets to the enemies. This suggested that they were not allowed to make decisions in the family (Berns, 1993).
Women in Africa were supposed to build the house; when men went for hunting women were left behind for building (Jiagge, 1975). That was the reason why women’s roles could not be changed and women could not work out of the household. Though, in some African communities, women do not construct the house it is the role of men (Berns, 2002).
According to the African society, women were viewed as the property of the community (Jiagge, 1975). They provided brides to the family as a form of compensation of the loss of the productive community member (Jiagge, 1975). Women were treated as a community product because of their hard work and their role of multitasking in all sectors of the society and their significance could be felt by the community members (Jiagge, 1975).
Women in recent years have been able to overcome all the traditional beliefs and have been included in the development of the country (Koenig, 1997). In the past years women were not allowed to participate in any political activity as they were not allowed to make decisions. Recently African women have been the forefront in building of their countries. They are allowed to decision making process and also being provided a chance in politics (Koenig, 1997). African women need to be empowered and involved in conflict resolution (Berns, 2003). African women have proved that they can protect life, and they need a chance to showcase what they can add to the development of the country.