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It has been long since the concept of feminism began spreading throughout the world. Even though the entire movement has not been completely successful, the steps it has already made up to nowadays are invaluable. The feminist movement has encountered numerous challenges that hampered the effective achievement of its goals. Not one but many challenges have been faced by most women, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, Arab countries, and parts of Asia. All these problems contributed to the slow growth and development of feminism across the world. Some of the challenges are giving someone hostile names, religion, economic disempowerment, political frustrations, and lack of support from other women as well as gender biased laws and policies on property ownership.
A hostile name, which in this case was ‘Westernized mind’, was given to anyone who had been seen going against cultural norms, even discriminating ones. For instance, some researchers argued that colonialism eroded African culture; therefore, anyone, advocating what the so-called elders proposed or were used to, would be considered a brainwashed person (Kandiyoti,1988). Societies in Africa, Arab countries, Asian countries, and, to some extent, parts of Western countries have opposed the notion of women being equal to men. Therefore, it would be so difficult for feminists to break a solid wall of male resistance. However, education has been able to change the way people think.
Education expands one’s reasoning capacity and gives them many opportunities to be creative and innovative, thus enabling them to deal with any hardships. In many patriarchal societies, men are the only ones who have unfettered access to it. Moreover, they consider that education would empower women to leave their traditional chores unattended. Consequently, in such societies, women who come to empower their girls academically are and will always be called ‘colonized minds’. The result of this tagging is that such women would be avoided by the majority of society, which prevents them from reaching out to other women freely. Once a feminist has been given a discriminatory name, society would see her as a trouble-maker, and the repercussions could be damaging.
Discriminatory Religious Teachings and Economic Disempowerment
Religion has often been used to dictate the superiority of one gender to the other. Thus, in both Christianity and Islam, women are considered lesser beings than men, and this idea has been extensively employed to their detriment. Religion has commanded women to be submissive to men, and anyone who goes against the rules, which are set by men, would be seen as a sinner, an infidel, and a threat to their religion. Consequently, religion has been one of the many hurdles, hampering the progress of feminist movement. Additionally, Hanger and Moris (1973) argue that in many societies, women have no economic empowerment, which causes their dependence on their husbands and often leads to them being deserted for non-providence. Therefore, the less empowered women are, the more difficult it becomes for them to achieve their goals.
Many men work and fail to support their families financially, while women have no work at all. Even if they are lucky to be involved in some little trade in foodstuffs, their proceeds would cover food expenses and basic family needs. Eventually, the latter case scenario would leave a woman with nothing to save in case of emergency, especially when such women abandon trade to attend to their family needs. Consequently, she is definitely left with no source of income, which makes her weakened financially (Mies, 1982). Therefore, in such a societal setting, women, who seem to go against religion, experience discrimination. Further, those women who break barriers of prejudice and seek proper employment are seen as rebels, which leads to an even higher degree of their rejection from society.
Political/Power Frustrations, Leading to Continued Subjection to Traditional Chores
It seems that all these differences are the resultant effects of difference in power. Political power has been one of the main targets of female movements as it has been considered the best way to show their might over the male species. Consequently, it appears that their male counterparts know about this. Therefore, they have always prevented women’s participation in politics. Even in the countries where affirmative action is guaranteed under the Supreme Laws, the majority of legislators have been seen fighting gender rules. For instance, in Kenya, the 11th Parliament rejected the Gender Bill and voted overwhelmingly against it (Ayaga & Ng’etich, 2016). When asked for a comment, most MPs said that such laws would give women a direct entry into power instead of fighting politically just like male politicians did (Ayaga & Ng’etich, 2016). Such a rejection of the Bill was untimely, especially when the political field had not yet gained confidence in female politicians.
Lack of Support from Fellow Women
Women constitute the majority of population in almost every country in the 21st century. Yet, no impact is felt when it comes to women leadership. If all women together supported one of their own in her attempt to reach an important position, they would get achieve their goals successfully. Nevertheless, since they have no unity amongst themselves, this is always unlikely to happen. One of the reasons why women do not support their fellows in their push for better lives is because the majority of them do not believe in themselves as women.
Often, it is hard to miss one or more women saying that some job deserves to be handled by men. As a result, it becomes difficult for a woman to climb the career ladder. In many Islam countries, for example, older women tend to be conservative of religious teachings and they would not support other rather ambitious or visionary women. In many instances, as highlighted by Sa’ar (2001), one will be able to see a mother fighting her daughter by relentlessly asking her not to do contrary to what their religion teaches or what men think is right to do. As such, women, who need the help of their parents, particularly mothers, might be discouraged from achieving their targets in life eventually.
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In cases, where help may be best given by another woman, many of them even refuse to help them; instead, they choose to send these women in the need of help back to their oppressors. Consequently, mothers will never advise their daughters to pursue a life free from physical violence, perpetrated by their sons in law. Moreover, even sisters are not ready to help each other overcome the consequences of being mistreated by their husbands (Sa'ar, 2001). Thus, they are more the supporters of ills committed to them and their fellow women than the campaigners against the degradation of their gender.
Gender Biased Laws and Policies on Property Ownership
Lastly, another challenge faced by women is property ownership issues. However, this problem is more extensive than just the notion that property must be held only by men. Biased laws have been passed in most countries, especially in Africa, that bar women from owning property, especially immovable one. However, women’s property ownership has been slowly and reluctantly introduced into the pieces of recent legislations, allowing anyone of majority age to own, hold, and dispose of their property. For a long time, women’s inability to own property has left them at the mercy of men when it came to food production and commanding other factors of production such as land. As Kandiyoti (1988) argues, many women were denied land to grow their rice crop in several irrigation schemes in Africa. In such areas, women were forced to work as laborers on their husbands’ farms or satisfy their sexual demands in order to get a portion of land to cultivate. Thus, it is clear that challenges in acquiring property rights by women greatly affect their empowerment in general (Conti, 1979). Consequently, women with no access to property would always be frustrated, hence highly likely to abandon their ambitions and the desire to improve their lives.
Women encounter many problems when trying to break the gender barrier that they encounter in many aspects of their lives. They deal with discriminatory religious teachings. but they also encounter great opposition from fellow women who have been taught to be submissive regardless of the tortures, whether physical, mental or psychological, they are subjected to. Discriminatory laws that fail to recognize women rights to property ownership, giving insulting and hostile names to any woman who wishes to empower others, and many other challenges definitely make it hard for them to achieve total gender equality.