The political maturity of the African masses may to some extent be traced to economic and social patterns of traditional times. Under communalism, for example, all land and means of production belonged to the community, there was people\'s ownership and labor was the need and habit of all. Humanity lived in communalism for at least 90% of the time it has been on earth. During communalism women played a leading role in the society. There was a division of labor where the men hunted and women gathered in order to provide food for the collective.
\"History teaches us that the class or social group that plays the principal role in social production and performs the main functions in production must, in the course of time, inevitably take control of that production. There was a time, under the matriarchal, when women were regarded as the controllers of production. Why was this? Because under the kind of production then prevailing, primitive agriculture, women played the principal role in production, they performed the main functions, while the men roamed the forests in quest of game. Then came the time, under the patriarchal, when the predominant position in production passed to men. Why did this change take place? Because under the kind of production prevailing at that time, stock-breeding, in which the principal instruments of production were the spear, the lasso, and the bow and arrow, the principal role was played by men.\"
It was from the gathering that women learnt plants could heal certain illnesses and thus women became the first doctors. They also discovered Agriculture. They found out that you could put seeds in the ground and from that process grow crops. Women figured out the relationship between having sex and a baby being produced some nine months later. Women were the first and primary teachers of both the boys and girls in the society. Women were responsible for organizing the collective.
It was when private property emerged, and as communalism gave way to slavery and feudalism, that the exploitation of humanity and women began. The overthrow of mother-right was the historical world defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home. The woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children.
Individualism and tendencies to private ownership grew while communalism disintegrated and the collective spirit declined. The increase of production in all branches-cattle raising, agriculture, domestic handicrafts-gave human labor-power the capacity to produce a larger product than was necessary for its maintenance. It was now desirable to bring in new labor forces. War provided them with prisoners who were turned into slaves. With its increase of the productivity of labor, and therefore of wealth, and its extension of the field of production, came the first great social division. From the first great social division of labor arose the first great cleavage of society into two classes; masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited.
This is what happened among our own people thousands of years before we came in contact with other races of people. It was this contradiction among ourselves that weakened us so that we could be taken advantage of by other people. It is important to go over this history because one of women’s greatest weaknesses to this day is the oppression of African women by African men.
If we look at our organizations today, we find that African women are not recognized as playing a leadership role; even though women have played a key role in every significant struggle that we have ever had. This is a clear manifestation of the oppression of women. The exception to this rule has been when women have formed women\'s organizations, and just like there is a hatred of women; there is a hatred of women\'s organizations.
Don\'t get confused. We are in no way against our men. True Women\'s Emancipation can only be attained in the struggle of the whole people against exploitation of any kind. A liberation struggle cannot be afraid to talk about the weaknesses among the people. Our brother Amilcar Cabral used to tell us, \"Tell no lies, and claim no easy victories\".
One of the biggest crimes related to oppression and exploitation is that it has a negative effect on the consciousness of the person that is being oppressed and exploited. Women are the primary educators of both the boys and girls of our nation. What bigger crime as a nation can we commit against ourselves than to exploit the primary educators of our nation and affect her consciousness in a negative way hence affecting the whole nation\'s consciousness.
Everyone who loves Africa and African people must demand and insist that our sisters be recognized for the leadership they have always displayed. Every organization that has a future will have women leaders and those that insist on our sisters not playing a key leadership role will fade away and die. In traditional Africa, women represented life. As Africans we know that anything that is anti-woman represents backwardness, evil, and death.
We are building an African Women\'s Movement for the sole purpose of the liberation of our people and humanity. We know the difference between what is dominant and fading away versus what is small and coming into being. The organizations that have women and youth as leaders in them are small but coming into being while those without women and youth as leaders are dying no matter how dominant they may seem now.
African Women and youth movements represent life, forward thinking, and love of the people. Those who come to be the most conscious and most grateful will acknowledge that it was women who were their primary educators, and leaders. Women will develop as leaders in the women and youth movements and use their skills to organize the bigger liberation struggle. It’s in these movements that women and youth leadership will not only be welcomed but also insisted on because these movements must represent the most conscious people.
We choose women because we choose life. We choose women because we know our history and, we know the positive history that we had was when women were clearly in leadership positions. The African women\'s movement will be dynamic women\'s leadership will not be fought against but to the contrary fought for. We ask our women to be full of confidence and come to understand our history because if you know the true history of women, then you will be full of confidence.
Charity begins at home for African women and women of African descent
From Africa Women Forum