Women and Social Change in Modern Africa

July 11, 2011

Course Description:

This course examines the lives of women in various parts of the African continent, taking into account social, economic, and political change.  Looking into women’s private as well as their public lives, the course considers gender relations and family, issues of power, and resistance.  Readings include women’s own life histories and novels, as well as the work of academic historians.

Course Objectives:

  1. To understand the great diversity in African women’s lives across time and space
  2. To understand gender roles and relations within the public and private spheres
  3. To understand the impact of social, economic, and political change on African women’s lives
  4. To understand the ways in which women resist oppression and create identities for themselves

By the end of the semester, students should have made progress toward achievement of the following Undergraduate Educational Aims of Loyola University Maryland:

  1. Intellectual Excellence: appreciation of intellectual endeavor and the life of the mind; excellence in a discipline; habits of intellectual curiosity.
  2. Critical Understanding (Thinking, Reading, and Analyzing): the ability to evaluate a claim based on documentation, plausibility, and logical coherence; the ability to find and assess data about a given topic using general repositories of information, both printed and electronic; the ability to use information technology in research and problem solving, with an appreciation of its advantages and limitations
  3. Eloquentia Perfecta: the ability to use speech and writing effectively, logically, gracefully, persuasively, and responsibly
  4. Leadership: a willingness to act as an agent for positive change, informed by a sense of responsibility to the larger community
  5. Promotion of Justice: an appreciation of the great moral issues of our time: poverty, racism, genocide, war and peace, the defense of human rights; commitment to promote justice for all, based on a respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life; commitment to and solidarity with persons who are materially poor or otherwise disadvantaged
  6. Diversity: recognition of the inherent value and dignity of each person, and therefore an awareness of, sensitivity toward, and respect for the differences of race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, culture, and religion; awareness of the global context of citizenship and an informed sensitivity to the experiences of peoples outside of the United States; awareness of the multiplicity of perspectives that bear on the human experience, and the importance of historical, global and cultural context in determining the way we see the world

Written assignments include  two 7 page papers and a final exam.  Paper assignments and exam questions will be handed out in class.  Extensions will be given only with a note confirming a medical or family emergency.  (Notes should be from a doctor, Student Health Services, or the Advising Office).  Unexcused late papers will be penalized one-third of a letter grade per class period late.  Papers should include a title page, page numbers, footnotes, and bibliographies–conforming to the stipulations of A Writer’s Reference with a Guide to Writing in All of the Disciplines at Loyola.  Please consult the Department of History’s entry and the section on the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).  Use the CMS format for footnotes and bibliography.

Service-Learning Option: In lieu of the first paper, you may opt to engage in a service-learning project that complements and enhances the course content. The service-learning option entails 20 hours of tutoring African refugee youth in the Baltimore community and a weekly journal of reflections on your experiences and their relationship to the course’s content.  Please see the professor immediately if you are interested in this option.  (See below for supplementary information on the Service-Learning Option.)

Academic Honesty: You have pledged to uphold the Loyola University Honor Code, which prohibits all forms of academic dishonesty.  Plagiarism or other forms of cheating will result in failure for the course.  This is History Department policy.  According to Black’s Law Dictionary (7th Edition), plagiarism is: “The act or an instance of copying or stealing another’s words or ideas and attributing them as one’s own.”

Grading: You are expended to attend all classes.  Absences will be excused only with official documentation from Athletics, Advising, Health Services, or a doctor.  You are expected to do all of the assigned readings and to be prepared to discuss them in class.  You must bring one readings-based discussion question to each class.  I will collect these at the beginning of the period and may call on students to present their questions for discussion.  The questions will be considered part of the “class participation” component of the grade.  If deemed necessary, unannounced quizzes, based on the readings, will be given.  Grades will be based on both written work and class attendance and participation.  Each of the following is worth 25% of the grade: 1) first paper/service learning option; 2) second paper; 3) final exam; 4) class attendance/participation.

Disability Accommodations: If you have a letter from Disability Support Services (DSS) indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please give it to me at the beginning of the semester so that appropriate arrangements can be made.  If you need academic accommodations due to a disability and have not registered with DSS, please contact the DSS office at (410) 617-2062.

Laptop Policy: Laptops may not be used in class unless recommended by DSS.  Proper documentation is required.

RESOURCES (library reserve and bookstore):

Achebe, Chinua.  Things Fall Apart.  Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1959.  ISBN 0-385-47454-7

Ba, Miriama.  So Long A Letter.  Heinemann, 1981.  ISBN 0-435-90555-4.

Darko, Amma .  Faceless.  U.S. Distributor: Michigan State University, 2003.  ISBN 9-988550-50-2 or 978-9-988550-9.

Emecheta, Buchi. The Joys of Motherhood.  Heinemann, 1979.  ISBN 0-435-90972-X.

Nthunya,Mpho ‘M’atsepo.  Singing Away the Hunger: The Autobiography of an African Woman, 1997.  ISBN 0-253-21162-X.

Shaarawi, Huda.  Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist.  Feminist Press at CUNY, 1986.  ISBN 0-935312-70-6.

Smith, Mary F.  Baba of Karo: A Woman of the Muslim Hausa.  Yale University Press, 1981.  ISBN 0-300-02741-9.   [This book is out of print.  Several copies are on reserve in the Loyola/Notre Dame Library.  Photocopied copies are available at the book store.  You may be able to find second hand copies through the internet.]

Wright, Marcia.  Strategies of Slaves and Women: Life-Stories from East/Central Africa. [Posted online under course documents.]

Evaluation of Papers

Follows instructions

Answers all questions posed in the assignment

Uses assigned sources

Includes appropriate outside research/sources

Conforms to proper page length

Includes title page and page numbers

Includes properly formatted footnotes (CMS style)—full and abbreviated styles

Includes properly formatted bibliography (CMS style)

Content and Organization

Clear Introductory paragraph(s)

Provides necessary background information

Introduces key issues/cases/actors

Explains what the paper will demonstrate

Includes strong, clear thesis statement

Substantiates claims with evidence; thoroughly researched, properly cited

Sustains argument throughout the paper; makes regular reference to argument

Cogent organization, logical progression of paragraphs

Sharply focused paragraphs, strong topic sentences, only one idea per paragraph

No extraneous information; each paragraph contributes to building the argument

Transitions between paragraphs linking one paragraph to the next

Strong concluding paragraph

Writing Style

Clear, grammatical sentences; proper word usage; variation in word choice

Proper spelling and punctuation (evidence of proofreading)

Class Schedule

Week 1

Mon. Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday (NO CLASSES)

Wed. Jan. 19, “Introduction”

Fri. Jan. 21, Refugee Youth Project Presentation

Week 2

Mon. Jan. 24, “Marginal Women: Slave Women on the Eve of ColonialConquest”Readings: Wright, pp. 47-57; 81-121.

Wed. Jan 26, “Gender Roles in the Precolonial Period”Readings: Achebe, pp. 3-109.

Fri. Jan. 28, “Continuity and Change in African Cultures”Readings: Achebe, pp. 110-209.

Week 3

Mon. Jan. 31, “Introduction: Women of the Muslim Hausa”Readings: Smith, pp. pp. 7-34.

Wed. Feb. 2, “Childhood”Readings: Smith, pp. 37-82.

Fri. Feb. 4, Video: “Becoming a Woman in Okrika” (VHS 2855)Readings: Smith, pp. 85-137.

Week 4

Mon. Feb. 7, “Marriage and Childbirth”Readings: Smith, pp. 138-173.

Wed. Feb. 9, “Polygamy, Friendship, and Adopted Kin”Readings: Smith, pp. 174-213.

Fri. Feb. 11,   Video: “Masai Women” (VHS 2473)“Widowhood, Prostitution, Adultery, and Divorce”Readings: Smith, pp. 217-254.

Week 5

Mon. Feb. 14, “An Upper-Class Egyptian Woman”Readings: Shaarawi, pp. 1-32.

Wed. Feb. 16, “Childhood in the Harem”Readings: Shaarawi, pp. 33-61.

Fri. Feb. 18, “Rebellion and Independence”Readings: Shaarawi, pp. 62-82.

Week 6

Mon. Feb. 21, Video: “Disappearing World: the Mende” (VHS 5764)FIRST PAPER DUE

Wed. Feb. 23, “Married Life in the Harem”Readings: Shaarawi, pp.83-111.

Fri. Feb. 25, “Political and Personal Protest”Readings: Shaarawi, pp. 112-137.

Week 7

Mon. Feb. 28, “Introduction to South Africa and Lesotho”Readings: Nthunya, ix-48.

Wed. March 2,  “Motherhood, In-Laws, and Love”Readings: Nthunya, 49-94.

Fri. March 4, Video: “Maids and Madams” (VHS 3953)

Week 8


Week 9

Mon. March 14, “Tragedy, Work, and the Hard Life”Readings: Nthunya, 95-132.

Wed. March 16, “Conclusion”Readings: Nthunya, 133-171.

Fri. March 18, Video: “You Have Struck a Rock” (VHS 3346)(Work on Paper topics.)

Week 10

Mon. March 21, Video: “Children of Apartheid” (VHS 3348)PAPER TOPICS DUE

Wed. March 23, Digital Instruction Session (Meet in Library.)

Fri. March 25,  “The Centrality of Motherhood”Readings: Emecheta, pp. 7-55.

Week 11

Mon. March 28, “Failure and Rebirth”Readings: Emecheta, pp. 56-100.

Wed. March 30, “Motherhood and Polygamy”Readings: Emecheta, pp. 101-150.

Fri. April 1, “A Woman’s Lot”Readings: Emecheta, pp. 151-197.

Week 12

Mon. April 4, “Honor and Shame”Readings: Emecheta, pp. 198-224.

Wed. April 6, Video: “With These Hands: How Women Feed Africa” (VHS 3948)(Work on your second paper.)

Fri. April 8, Video: “Faat Kine” (VHS 9796) Readings: Ba, (first half of book)

Week 13

Mon. April 11, “Polygamy, Resistance, and Abandonment”Readings: Ba, (second half of book)

Wed. April 13, “Street Children in Accra”Readings: Darko, 9-96.

Fri. April 15, “Family Traumas”Readings: Darko, 97-172.

Week 14

Mon. April 18, “Child Prostitution”Readings: Darko, 175-232.

Wed. April 20, Video: “Mama Benz: An African Market Woman” (VHS 8503)SECOND PAPER DUE

Fri. April 22, Easter (NO CLASSES)

Week 15

Mon. April 25, Easter (NO CLASSES)

Wed. April 27, Service-Learning Presentations

Fri. April 29, Service-Learning Presentations

Week 16

Mon. May 2, Video: “Asante Market Women” (VHS 7190)


Sec. 01 (MWF 12-12:50), Mon., May 9, 1:00-4:00 PM.

Sec. 02 (MWF 1-1:50), Fri., May 13, 9:00 AM-12:00 noon.

Service-Learning Option

What is Service-Learning?

“At Loyola College, service-learning refers to experiential learning within academic courses that is gained through structured reflection on community-based service….Essential components of service-learning include: learning and service which enhance one another, reciprocal partnership with the community, and meaningful, structured reflection.

“Service-learning courses at Loyola intentionally contribute to those Undergraduate Educational Aims which promote justice, diversity, leadership and social responsibility.  These values are central to the Jesuit educational mission of Loyola College and of all Jesuit colleges and universities.” [This definition of service-learning and related course criteria were approved by Loyola’s Council of Academic Deans on November 11, 2005.]

How does Service-Learning relate to this course?

Participation in Service-Learning will be especially useful in helping students to grasp Course Objective 2: understanding gender roles and relations within the public and private spheres; and Course Objective 3: understanding the impact of social, economic, and political change on African women’s lives.

How do I participate in the Service-Learning option?

HS 389D  service-learning participants will work with: Baltimore City Community College’s Refugee Youth Project (RYP), a tutoring program for elementary and middle school-age African refugees who have settled in Baltimore.   www.refugeeyouthproject.org Service-learning participants will tutor African students during a two-hour session once a week for approximately 8 weeks.  Over the course of the semester, service-learning participants will work a total of 20-21 hours, including 3-4 hours of training, 16 hours of tutoring, and a one hour Loyola-sponsored reflection session.  They will help the African students with English language skills, school assignments, and general acculturation.  Extra-curricular weekend activities, for additional service-learning hours, are also available.

Main Service-Learning Sites:

Refugee Youth Project (BCCC): Upton Community, (meets at the AME Zion Church, 1128 N. Pennsylvania Avenue (corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Dolphin St.), Baltimore, MD 21217.  The tutoring days are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 3:30-5:30 PM.

Refugee Youth Project (BCCC): Moravia Park Elementary School, 6201 Frankford Ave., Baltimore, MD 21206.  The tutoring days are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 3:45-5:45 PM.

A limited number of volunteers may be able to work with high school students if they prefer:

Refugee Youth Project High School Program, Patterson High School, Room 120 Transportation and Engineering Academy, 100 Kane Street, Baltimore, MD 21224.  The tutoring days are Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3:30-5:30 PM.

Finally, there are some opportunities to work with adults in BCCC’s adult literacy classes and Community ESL classes.  This option is limited to students who can only volunteer in the mornings, evenings, or on Friday afternoons.  Volunteers interested in assisting teachers with these classes should contact BCCC’s Refugee Program Manager.

Please inform the RYP site coordinator and Loyola’s student service coordinator which day works best for you.  Once you have committed to a particular tutoring session, you must stick with it–unless you make alternative arrangements with the site coordinator.  (E-mail  or call their cell phones, below, if you run into a last-minute problem.)  Your students are counting on you!

Before beginning the program, service-learning students must:

  1. Read and sign the service-learning handout.  (Return signature page to your professor by January 31.)
  2. Attend a mandatory volunteer training session.  (See details below.).
  3. Complete the form, “Loyola Acceptance of Risk for Community Service in a Service-Learning Course,” which will be distributed at the volunteer training session.  (Submit to Loyola’s student service coordinator.)
  4. Complete BCCC’s volunteer application–with three references–which will be distributed at the training session.  You may use me as one of your references.  (Submit to Loyola’s student service coordinator.)
  5. Obtain a criminal background check.  (See below.)

Criminal Background Check: As of January 1, 2009, all BCCC volunteers (including RYP ) will be required to obtain criminal background checks before they can begin their service.  Details will be provided at the volunteer training session.

The first volunteer training session will be on Saturday, January 29, from 9:00 AM-12 noon in Cohn 33.  RSVP Required!  The session will cover cultural sensitivity, cross-cultural communication, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teaching methods, refugee resettlement, behavior management, and general questions about the program.  If you cannot attend this session, please let me know, and I will help to make alternative arrangements.  In addition to the 3-hour volunteer training session, brief on-site training will be held during the first few weeks of the semester.  This will require going 15-20 minutes early and staying 15 minutes late during those weeks.

How can I get to my Service-Learning site?

If you have a valid driver’s license, three points or less on your license, and no outstanding tickets, you may apply for authorization to drive a Loyola-owned vehicle.  Car-pooling in a Loyola-owned vehicle is strongly encouraged! (Loyola insurance covers authorized drivers using Loyola-owned vehicles.  It does NOT cover members of the Loyola community who are using their own vehicles.  Moreover, Loyola vehicles come with a full tank of gas at the outset and a gas credit card for free gas, to be used as needed!)  (NB: You may not transport non-Loyola folks, including the children you are tutoring, in Loyola vehicles.)

The Service Coordinators with the Refugee Youth Project at the Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ) will help you to become an authorized driver, reserve Loyola vehicles, and arrange service-learning carpooling.

Instructions for becoming an authorized driver and reserving a vehicle, as well as the Driver Authorization Form can be found on the CCSJ website:  http://www.loyola.edu/ccsj/service_learning/students/index.html

If you plan to drive a Loyola vehicle, please begin the authorization process IMMEDIATELY.  It can take a few days for authorization to be approved, and vehicles cannot be reserved until the driver is authorized.  Driver authorization is good for three years.  If you are have been authorized previously, but are not sure of the date, contact the Motor Pool or the department through which you received authorization.

How can I contact my Service-Learning Community Partner and CCSJ’s Service Coordinator?

The CCSJ Service Coordinators are: [information deleted]

The coordinators for the tutoring programs are: [information deleted]

Besides tutoring once a week, what else does the Service-Learning option entail?

-Structured, continuous reflection is a critical component of service-learning.  After the volunteer training session, each of the eight tutoring sessions, and the Loyola reflection session, you will make an entry in your service-learning journal, reflecting on your experiences and their relationship to the course’s content.  At the end of the semester, you will have written 10 reflections.  Each entry should be one to two doubled-spaced pages in length. (I will provide specific questions for you to consider.  However, you are also free to make your own observations.)  The reflections should be e-mailed to me at the end of each week. The reflections should be in a typed, double-spaced Word document, with your name, service-learning site, and the date of service at the top of the first page.  I will respond to each reflection.  (Please read my responses!)  If you do not receive a response within a couple of days, please confirm that I have received it.

RYP and CCSJ staff are extremely interested in your reactions to the service-learning experience.  Therefore, I would like to share selected service-learning reflections with them.  Unless you personally indicate to me that you would prefer not to share your reflections, I will assume that silence indicates consent.

-Service-learning students are required to participate in one Loyola-sponsored reflection session during the semester.

-You will be asked to share your reflections with your classmates in a variety of ways.  Periodically, I will ask you to discuss your service-learning experiences with the class.  You will make a brief presentation to the class at the end of the semester.  (See class syllabus for specific dates.)

-As a service-learning participant, you will write one, instead of two, papers for this class.  In your paper, due on Monday, April 20, you might choose to investigate the history of women and gender relations in one of the African population groups with whom you are working.  (This is a variation on the second paper assignment that I will hand out in class, so please do not disregard that assignment.)  I will work with you to develop appropriate paper topics.

Service-Learning Reflection Questions

Although I expect you to submit service-learning reflections each week, the following questions will help you to reflect on Course Objective 2: “understanding gender roles and relations within the public and private spheres”; and Course Objective 3: “understanding the impact of social, economic, and political change on African women’s lives.”

NOTE: The following questions are suggestions only.  You may choose to reflect on other things or to answer these questions at different points in the semester.  Please use your own judgment as to whether or not it is appropriate to ask these questions at all.  In recent semesters, the RYP children have felt “interrogated” and resistant to talking about Africa, their native language, etc.  If you are sensing that this is the case, hold back on the questions and focus on observation only.  You might also ask your site coordinator to tell you from which countries the  children come.  Take some time to investigate those countries and their conflicts on the internet.  This will help to give you some idea of the situations that caused the children’s families to become refugees.

Week 3:  From what African countries do the students at your tutoring location come?  (Where were they born and in which countries have they lived?)  When did they leave Africa?  Which European countries conquered and colonized their homes?  What languages do they speak?  Ask the children to teach you a few words in their native language.  If they went to school before they came to the United States, what language did they speak at school?  Did their mothers go to school?  Their fathers?  Do their mothers and fathers speak English?

Week 5:  How many girls are there at your tutoring location?  How many boys?  Do boys and girls seem to have different attitudes and ways of learning?  Do they interact differently with the tutors?

Week 7: In conversing with the students you tutor, can you find out if they have brothers and sisters–and how many?  How do siblings interact at RYP?  Specifically, what role do older siblings play?  Do you notice anything in regard to homework help, discipline, sharing, or safety?  How do the girls help at home?  How do the boys help at home?  Do they have enough time to do their homework?  How do they spend their free time?

Week 9: Do the girls hope to finish high school?  What do the girls want to do after they finish school?  At what age do young women in their cultures tend to marry? Young men?  Have any women in their families earned money outside the home?  If so, what sorts of work have they done?

Week 11: Have you noticed any changes in the girls’ attitudes and skills over the course of the semester?  The boys’?  In what ways have they adapted themselves to American culture?  In what ways have they retained aspects of their own cultural backgrounds?




School: Loyola University Maryland
Professor: Dr. Elizabeth Schmidt
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