The Effects of British Colonization on Zimbabwe Women
The British began their colonization of Zimbabwe in 1890 as part of their project of capitalist expansion and world domination. Colonial expansion was a means of complete control of territories and furthered the expansion of their capitalist political economy. Africa provided the British with slaves, minerals, and raw materials to help them in their capitalist development. To help support capitalist expansion, the British asserted colonial discourse of power and superiority over the colonized. This discourse, or a system of representation, provided a way for the British to produce a position that the West was a superior civilization. In such a discourse the British were able to impose their cultural beliefs, particularly beliefs about gender, on the people they colonized. The imposition of colonial discourse, therefore, greatly affected colonized women.
In her somewhat autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga shows us how the women in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, were affected by this colonization by the British. Through different female characters, she shows us how colonization alienated women physically and psychologically through the lack of education, poverty, and relegation to the private sphere. Her novel not only tells about the effects of colonization but also emphasizes that women, despite restrictive gender roles, can develop the critical awareness, determination and strength to fight against their alienation and emancipate themselves from the restrictions of colonial discourse.
Before the British came to Zimbabwe, the family worked together as a tribe to help provide for everyone in that family and keep each other above high water. Every member of the family had to think of the whole rather than the individual. Also, at that time, Zimbabwe was "gender-free," class relations were not spoken of in terms of men and women. There were of course differences, but men and women were not looked upon as unequal. Through colonization, "capitalism [and patriarchy] violently intervened in the existing order." The British assaulted the African communal way of production and took their fertile lands from them and imposed their discourse and rules on Africans. This meant that the family had to come up with a new way to provide and keep ahead in order to stay together. The only way to do this would be to give in to the colonizers and their "new system" in which the home (private sphere) and work place (public sphere) were separated. Men would now go to work for the British and work for either the state or the industry. The women would stay home and tend to the children and the cultivation of the farm. This was the beginning of what Tsitsi Dangarembga says is the "entrapment" of womanhood due to colonization.
The women in Zimbabwe were "entrapped" and alienated by the British due to colonialism’s power relationships, in which the woman is forced into subordinate positions....