Cuture, Gender, Work in Africa: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – by Regina Amadi-Njoku

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Regina Amadi-Njoku has addressed issues relating to culture, gender and work on just about all available platforms, big and small. She has addressed small family groups, kindred meetings, town unions, nations’ parliaments, global symposiums, and spoken from huge platforms provided by the United Nations. The wonder of her messages, which span across decades, is that they could be read today and you would not suspect that some of them were first presented in 1986, thirty-five long years ago!

And therein lies the conundrum. Why would almost every sentence in a speech or paper prepared thirty-five years ago still ring true? It is either that the author enumerated some timeless truths, or she possesses incredible foresight, or the world remained static and nothing changed in those three decades. It appears to be all these and more.

You see, Regina tackles extremely controversial development issues that seem to have defied remediation efforts simply because the efforts do not recognize how interwoven these issues are and how futile it is to treat each in isolation. These efforts equally failed to take into cognizance the fact that the very essence, soul, and primal instincts of a people must be harnessed and incorporated into any plans before they can work. One size has never fitted all!

Regina’s works and speeches consistently point out the undeniable truth that trees grow and stabilize via their roots, and this truism has been ignored when technology and development plans are imported and adopted wholesale without modifications that will let them be effectively grafted into the existing mindset. She was speaking about this long before some African countries started realizing the ineffectiveness of wholesale imposition of alien technology, concepts, and mindsets. Yes, the world has not changed that much. We are still repeating our mistakes and literally moving in circles.

She clearly shows that it all takes off from culture. Everything else happening in a society is colored by the culture of the people, which contains positive and negative factors. Gender relations, human capital formulation and utilization, job creation, wealth creation, security, sanitation, and even health issues are often deeply affected by cultural mindsets. She wonders why unemployment that was not a major issue in the past is now destabilizing most regions of the world. What happened to geo-productivity mapping and efficient utilization of resources? What about the time-tested African practice of development and transference of intergenerational skills and indigenous knowledge? Was there a substantial deviation from the mindsets that ensured security of lives and property in the not-too-dim past? What was the place of women in pre-colonial society, and the nature of their partnership with the men? Was that a better arrangement? Can we draw from that arrangement to address the burning issues arising from the dissatisfaction with the current gender relations and power dynamic situation?

This diplomat never implies that the past was El Dorado. No! She is fully aware that nothing thrives by being static and that applies to culture, too. She only says that the past should not be jettisoned wholesale. There are many valuable lessons to be learned from the past; there are institutions from the past that will still be very relevant today; the past can form the foundation for the new building, she maintains. The problem arises when attempts are made, for any reason, to totally dismantle, destroy, reframe (in bad light) and sweep away everything, both good and bad, in an era of civilization.

Regina specifically speaks to Africa. She asks if it was really the dark continent? Is there nothing to salvage from the past to build today? What happened to the pre-colonial dual-sex mode of governance that encouraged strong partnerships between men and women? What became of the Africa where women’s views were respected and where certain courts wholly presided over by women were the courts of last jurisdiction?

Welcome to Regina’s world and thoughts where every paper addresses pressing issues in the society. This is a compilation of some of the top diplomat’s papers across the years. They are evergreen. They inform, entertain, provoke, and above all, point to hope for the future. The book makes interesting reading for scholars in development studies, governance systems, gender studies, sociology, labor relations, and anthropology. It will provide deep insight for seekers of knowledge, development planners, and anyone willing to be provoked into thinking deeper into the intricate bond holding culture, gender, and work together.

─ Cordelia Onu

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