The Views of the Women in the Zulu Tribe and Bobo Fing Tribe

By Latisha Carr, Xavier University

All women in Africa are subordinate to men because women are viewed as inferior in status and value. Women of the Zulu tribe and Bobo fing tribe have different levels of status and value. The women of the Bobo tribe have striker rules when it comes to what they are to wear. In the Bob tribe all females regardless of age must have their arms and legs covered at all times. This is their way of showing respect to the men. The women of the Zulu tribe wear clothes based on their marital status. Single women only wear short skirts made of grass or beaded cotton strings. They do not wear anything on the upper portion of their bodies and they keep their hair short. Engaged women let their hair grow and she covers her breast with a decorative cloth. This is a sign of respect to her future family; this also indicates to the community that she has been spoken for. Married women clothing rules are similar to the Bobo women. Married women must cover their bodies completely. This signals she is off limits to other men and they also have to wear a hat on their head. During her husband’s absences she could not take the hat off and pretend she was unmarried. Married Zulu women do not have to wear hats like the Bobo women.

All women in the African tribe must follow and obey the rules of the “21 day purification.” Some of the tribes have more rules to follow than others. The women in the Zulu tribe have to do more tasks for their purification. The reason is because they have to do different tasks before they go into purification. Both tribes take their “21 day purification very serious. If the women do not follow the principles of this purification, they are looked at to be unclean. When the Zulu women have “become of age” and their menstrual began, this is when they start purification. They women, before starting this process must collect the roots of Rubia Cordifolia shrub (a type of plant). They mix up porridge and would have to eat it for seven days. During this time the women stay in the hut with only their mother, if the mother is deceased another woman of the family will attend to her at this time. The women are not allowed to be seen by anyone else, they do have the opportunity to have one friend to stay with them during this process to give support. When the women come out she is expected to look clean and renewed. A Bobo woman does not have to do any task before starting her purification. Bobo women’s 21 day purification starts related to their menstrual cycle. During this purification, there are rules that limit the number of days women can interact with men. This also limits them to when they can enter the tabernacle and participate in ceremonies. Around the time of Bobo women’s menstruation, the body is undergoing a process of cleansing. She must be left alone until a seven day window deemed fit for sexual intercourse. The women simply receive food from her Kingman passed through a small aperture.

In All African cultures, the weddings involve more than just the joining of two lives. Usually, it is about the joining of two communities. It’s more of a process, rather than an event. In these two tribes there weddings are based on appearance. In the Zulu tribe, the bride changes her clothes three times during the day. She does this to show off to her in-laws just how beautiful she is in different colors. For the ceremony the bride will change into a traditional outfit. During the ceremony the parties from both the both the bride and groom’s side compete through Zulu dancing and singing. They Zulu also have a tradition where they slaughter a cow to accept the bride in their home. The bride puts money inside the stomach of the cow. This is a sign that she is now apart of the family. The Bobo tribe uses masks for their weddings.

The women in African tribes are always the ones who have to do the chores and make sure they are done. “The most fulfillment of responsibility of African women is being heavily involved in protection of their children.” (Bernard Magubane and Mandaza, Whither South Africa? pg156) The Zulu tribe women domestic duties are a little harder than the Bobo women’s duties. Of course both women of each tribe are expected to look after the children and cook, that is their first priority. The women in the Zulu tribe have duties that consist of collecting wood, fetching water and cleaning. The Bobo tribe women duties consist of cleaning looking after the children, gathering fruit and getting mud. The Zulu women work is a little more challenging because they have to walk miles to get water and carry these different buckets and items on their head. They also have to collect wood so they can stay warm and cook food. These women travel to the woods to get wood which my take the whole day to complete. The Bobo women also have a task that is hard; they must walk miles for a muddy bucketful. This helps them stay cool when they are in hot day.

For all females in African tribes the women are taught at a very young age how to do domestic chore and take care of the family. “To men women must do domestic chores in order to be stable.” (Bernard Magubane and Mandaza, Whither South Africa? pg137). For a Zulu girl, about the age of five she is introduced to the household chores. She is introduced to these chores until about six years later when she becomes a real asset to her mother. Initially she is given a small gourd to fetch water and accompanies her mother to the river. Her mother would demonstrate how to hold and carry the bucket of water. The mother would braid a head support from grass (inkatha) which helps balance the container on the head. The child learns to balance varying load without using her hands. The daughter also lean how to cultivate the land, her mother would take her to the field and teach her how to cultivate. At age eleven, she is given her first hoe (igeja). By now she knows what firewood to collect, she uses the firewood for cooking, and she looks after her siblings. The Bobo girls are not taught to take care of the land because the men will handle the land themselves. The Bobo girls are taught how to take care of her husband by cooking, cleaning and looking after the children.

Respect is an important thing to have and do. In the Zulu tribe respect plays a very imporant role in their lives. Discipline is taught a young age. With in the community as a child grow up, they know that all married men and women are also their parents and refer to them as such; when called by an adult, they will respond by saying either ‘ma’ / ‘anti’ or ‘baba’ if the person is married. If it is a young woman, she is to be called ‘sisi’ and a young man is to be called ‘bhuti’. Discipline can be carried out by any adult member of the community. If not respect the child will be reported to the parents who will then probably give the child another hiding for causing them shame. Children quickly learn that entering the men’s world is only allowed by invitation or when told so. All instructions given are carried out quickly and are received on one’s knee. This is done respectfully and silently, child may address an adult unless spoken to first. Men and women live in their own worlds and generally keep a distance to each other. Bobo fing tribe respect is different form Zulu because of how they have to address men and subordination play a great role in this part of the Bobo fing culture. As we know all women are subordinate to men, so in Bobo tribe men have higher status than even older women. This means that regardless of a young boy’s age by women he is looked up to be respected no matter what. The women are greeted as empress, priestess, and princess, and men as prophet, prince, and priest.


14 thoughts on “The Views of the Women in the Zulu Tribe and Bobo Fing Tribe

  1. What do you mean, “All women in Africa are subordinate” That is absolute rubbish! We are completely equal to men in every way. Yes, in some cultures women are viewed in that way, but not all women in Africa are considered below men!

    Ciao my chinas


    • i’m sorry but are you from africa because my parents were in the Bobo tribe and that unfortunatley is true, there is one tribe i know of that is equal, but what its reffering to is all women in african tribes are subordanate, and considering women from the tribes where interviewed before writing this, you would think that it was true :/

      • Could you e-mail me about who is in charge of what in a Bobo community? It is for school. Please!

  2. I agree with her. If you’re gonna write about bobo and zulu people that’s one thing. But there are HUNDREDS of tribes in africa. Based on two tribes you MOST DEFINITELY do not have enough information to make generalizations about hundreds of different cultures.

  3. its good to see that people like to keep a track of the people of the outer world but i actually wanted the appearance of the people of the Zulu tribe of Africa!!

  4. I am interested in learning more about African women in general and the Zulu women in particular. I am an married American woman.

  5. I am a zulu woman my name is Nonkululeko Mthembu born and raised in Zululand i believe there are so many faces to the zulu culture that you cannot just use one opinion without further research in terms of the roles of man and woman its all about finding your place and role as a woman as the neck that supports this head of the house the man and its gets so beautiful once you know what is expected of you and the man is happy to fullfill his role as well. Look at it like this once you feel loved and you sercure would you not just submit to me submitting is purely letting cutting the talk and just allowing a stronger force to mold you letting go thats submission i understand in love Selfishness is no longer there is a oneness that you cannot explain and that is what my African Culture proclaims not shutting up woman and making them doormats but allowing each role to gradually fall into place.

  6. This was a very stupid article. In some parts of the west africa women were tribal leaders, in fac my cousin’s grandmother who was from Freetown and who recently passed was chief of her village. Her burial and funeral was a ceromy that was carried out by the whole village (men and women alike). Research the ancient Egyptians and learn about how they viewed Ma’at. Not all Africans think of women so lowly.

  7. First and foremost the grammatical error’s in this are absolutely appalling. “The women of the Bobo tribe have striker rules” and “In the Bob tribe all females regardless of age must have their arms and legs covered at all times”. Disregarding the fundamental writing mistakes, your data is obviously completely biased. Interviewing women exclusively from the Zulu Tribe and the Bobo Fling Tribe and than making the assertion that “All women in Africa are subordinate to men because women are viewed as inferior in status and value” is just ignorant. Making a general assertion based on only a convenience sample is unethical to say the least. Finally, if you were to have interviewed random women from multiple tribes across all of Africa, your assertion would still be incorrect. Women are considered subordinate, they are not subordinate.

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