O level Notes : FRS - Gender roles for women in Indigenous Religion

In African societies, men and women have specific roles defined by the society and in accordance with Indigenous religion.

In African societies, men and women have specific roles defined by the society and in accordance with Indigenous religion.

Gender roles for women in Indigenous Religion

(a) Household duties

African   women   do   household   chores   such   as cooking, sweeping, fetching firewood and water.

(b) Child bearing and nurturing

Women are responsible for bringing  up children in the right path. It is them who spend most of the time with children who will in turn become closer to them. A mother’s influence dominates in the house and it is believed that good children reflect a good mother. Mothers teach their children values and ethics.

(c) Preserving culture

Aunties preserve culture of respect, honour and dignity through educating girls. It is the duty of women to shape the future of girls according to community’s expectations. Women such as aunties educate girls on their future roles.

(d) Religious roles

Some women are religious practitioners such as medicine women, spirit mediums, diviners and traditionalists. Holding such roles, they have a special role in people’s lives as they are in connection with the ancestral world. These women  relay messages from the other world and are highly respected in the community. Women who are traditionalists play the role of counsellors, judges, advisors, fortune-tellers and revealers of secrets. As ancestors, women  are responsible for fertility, good health and protection of the living.

(e) Source of wealth

Women are a source of wealth through dowry (lobola or roora). Women acquire property and gain income through craftwork like basketry, pottery, weaving and farming.

(f) Being submissive

Women are to be subject to their husbands. They depend on males and cannot make decisions without consulting their husbands.

(g) Ritual specialists


Women play important roles in personal rituals associated with birth, puberty and death. At childbirth, women express gratitude to God with prayers and sacrifices and at death they sing dirges to express their sorrow. Being ritual specialists, they are upholders of community norms and traditions. Some women are rain messengers and it is believed women have a special power to bring rain by appeasing the goddess of rain and fertility.Their duties include making sacrifices, offering prayers and conducting  private and public rites and ceremonies.


(h) Musical role


A  lot  of  festivals  abound  in  Indigenous   religion and  there is singing  and  dancing  by well-dressed women  during   festivals.  Some  of  these  festivals are in honour of the most important divinities and ancestors. Women also sing  songs  during  various rituals and ceremonies.