idence, in feminist theory and elsewhere, regarding ‘patriarchy’ itself being many different things, and in spite of the work of prominent African feminists like Ifi Amadiume and Oyeronke Oyewumi, who—based on their own empirical work in Nigeria—show that talking of ‘female subordination’ is far too simple and off the mark. Amadiume and Oyewumi explicitly critizise Western gender dichotomies and oppositional gender discourse (cf. also Kolawole, this volume). They point to different ways of conceiving ‘gender’: of gender as much more dependent on social contexts and specific relations, and much less depending on bodies. According to Oyewumi, ‘universal female subordination’ is a generally misleading conceptualization (Oyewumi 1997:xii ff).
Nevertheless, the GAD discourse has taken over a number of assumptions from the colonial/missionary images and imaginations of ‘African culture’, with ideas of excessive patriarchy and African women as overworked and downtrodden beasts of burden, as ideological corner stones (Becker 2003). African women are constructed as victims, thus legitimizing concerted Western efforts to come to their rescue. Colonial governments and Christian missions—who (as discussed below) effectively undermined whatever power positions African woman might have occupied in pre-colonial, pre-mission days—perceived themselves as gallant saviours of African women from endless African male oppression. Increasingly, in GAD discourse, the victimization of African women is questioned and criticised, but the overall framework of ‘othering’ remains intact.
The GAD images are very powerful, structuring the minds of not only donors, but also Africans, including African gender researchers, who as often as not work part-time as consultants, in contexts where this conceptual framework of ‘universal female subordination’ and ‘primordial patriarchy’ is taken for granted. These images filter down into the minds of rank and file African women. Through ‘gender training’—a widespread donor-financed NGO activity everywhere in Africa—workshop participants are being trained to use (and to some extent to see their own lives in terms of) this gender-and-development vocabulary, without adequately taking socio-cultural contexts into account (cf. Kolawole’s chapter, this volume). According to my own fieldwork in matrilineal northern Mozambique, gender power dynamics work very differently in matrilineal as compared to patrilineal areas, and much more in favour of women. In spite of this, however, even here women, who participate in donor-sponsored NGO activities, learn to see themselves as oppressed under patriarchal power; they do not learn to see, appreciate and further develop the specific gender dynamics of this particular society. In Kolawole’s words (this volume): “The conceptualization of gender in Africa is male-biased and Western oriented.” As an alternative, Kolawole suggests that Af-