africa before

Men in Africa

The African man from an anthropological standpoint was and is still viewed as the dominant gender. There was usually a high demand placed on men to be the leaders and providers of the clan and because of this, the males in a family setting were given the privileges available at the time. For example, when formal education was permeating into the doors of Africa, only the males were deemed qualified for this opportunity. However, their female counterparts were viewed as qualified for the kitchen or house helps, making their sole aim to be subservient to a man. These mindsets, although being centuries-old still have traces of it in present-day Africa although it is not as much as it was back then.

As hinted earlier, the males in an African community in the past had obvious gender roles and culturally accepted advantages. This article is going to outline some of what was generally known to be the male-based gender roles and attributes. 

In the area of marriage, we find that polygamy was still very common in rural villages in South Africa especially as stated by Siegfried John Ngubane in his research dissertation “GENDER ROLES IN THE AFRICAN CULTURE…” that traditional leaders acted as role models in that regard. For example, one King Mswati chooses a new wife every time there is a reed dance celebration.

When it comes to war, the strength of a group of people was measured by their military might and their conquest. Therefore the people conscripted to do the actual “warring” were the males. It was culturally uncommon to see a female in the “military” because that sort of thing was traditionally regarded as a man thing. In some cultures, the males were made to start training from a very young age and they were hardwired to do battle as they grew up.

Also, in the past, males in a community were given a dominant disposition in terms of right to ownership, receiving inheritance etc. According to the African renewal magazine, women grow most of the food on the farms but rarely have secure rights to the land in their own names. The lands are usually in the name of the husband or father as it seems to be more secure that way. A painful plight occurred when a widow named Felitus Kures in Northern Uganda was evicted from a small farmland that she depended on with her late husband. A few months after the funeral of her husband, her in-laws sold the land without her knowledge and only realized when the new owner came to evict them.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, SLAVCHEVSKA, V., de la O CAMPOS, A. P., & BRUNELLI, C. (2016). Beyond Ownership: Women’s and Men’s Land Rights in SubSaharan Africa.

Kimani, M. (2013, February 26). Women struggle to secure land rights. Africa Renewal.

McCall, D. F. (n.d.). Review: Anthropology and History: The African Case on JSTOR. Jstor. Retrieved July 7, 2021, from