Sankara on the Oppression of Women

“Woman’s fate is bound up with that of the exploited male. This is a fact. However, this solidarity, arising from the exploitation that both men and women suffer and that binds them together historically, must not cause us to lose sight of the specific reality of the woman’s situation. The conditions of her life are determined by more than economic factors, and they show that she is a victim of a specific oppression. The specific character of this oppression cannot be explained away by setting up an equal sign or by falling into easy and childish simplifications.

It is true that both she and the male worker are condemned to silence by their exploitation. But under the current economic system, the worker’s wife is also condemned to silence by her worker-husband. In other words, in addition to the class exploitation common to both of them, women must confront a particular set of relations that exist between them and men, relations of conflict and violence that use as their pretext physical differences. It is clear that the difference between the sexes is a feature of human society. This difference characterises particular relations that immediately prevent us from viewing women, even in production, as simply female workers. The existence of relations of privilege, of relations that spell danger for the woman, all this means that women’s reality constitutes an ongoing problem for us.”

– Thomas Sankara

Via Wikipedia:

Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (French pronunciation: ​[tɔma sɑ̃kaʁa]; 21 December 1949 – 15 October 1987) was a Burkinabé revolutionary and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. A Marxist and pan-Africanist, he was viewed by supporters as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, and is sometimes referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara“.

A group of revolutionaries seized power on behalf of Sankara (who was under house arrest at the time) in a popularly-supported coup in 1983. Aged 33, Sankara became the President of the Upper Volta. He immediately launched programmes for social, ecological, and economic change, and renamed the country from the French colonial Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (“Land of Upright Man”). His foreign policies were centred on anti-imperialism, with his government eschewing all foreign aid, pushing for odious debt reduction, nationalising all land and mineral wealth and averting the power and influence of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. His domestic policies were focused on preventing famine with agrarian self-sufficiency and land reform, prioritising education with a nationwide literacy campaign and promoting public health by vaccinating 2,500,000 children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles.

Other components of his national agenda included planting over 10,000,000 trees to combat the growing desertification of the Sahel, redistributing land from feudal landlords to peasants, suspending rural poll taxes and domestic rents and establishing a road and railway construction programme. On the localised level, Sankara called on every village to build a medical dispensary, and had over 350 communities build schools with their own labour. Moreover, he outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy, as well as appointing women to high governmental positions and encouraging them to work outside the home and stay in school, even if pregnant.

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