Misleading Promise: Change in Status of Algerian Women as a Result of the Algerian National Revolution
Marston, Brenda J.
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Twenty years ago, in 1962, Algeria gained its independence from French colonial rule, and all indications suggested that the women of Algeria would continue to make great strides toward their own independence. It appeared that women had already begun to break the traditional norms that had forced them to lead secluded, narrow lives for so long. During the revolution, the press produced glowing reports of how Algerian women and men were fighting along side each other as equals in a common effort to gain national independence. However, two decades after independence, worldwide optimism about the advancement of Algerian women has dwindled. When any attention is given to the case, people remark that the streets of Algiers are still crowded with women wearing veils and haiks. They note that men still have the authority to choose their daughters' husbands and to force their daughters to marry, even when the girls are barely more than children. Many women are illiterate, and very few hold any positions in government. Women in other countries fighting for national independence warily take the case of Algeria as an example of what could become their own fate. They ask where all the women militants and heroines disappeared to after independence. Now more people are realizing that the answer lies at least partially in the fact that women have a different experience from men under colonial rule. Consequently, national independence has a different significance for women. In colonial regimes, the existing order doubly oppresses women; they encounter a history of male dominance as well as the violence of colonial occupation. So while an anti-colonial revolution may fundamentally change a society's political and economic institutions, it will not necessarily challenge the principles and institutions of sexism. To understand the position of· women in Algeria today, one must look carefully at the long history of traditions which have shaped their lives. Additionally, one must consider on what terms they entered the national liberation struggle, what motivated them to enter and what they expected after the revolution.Kalamazoo College Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Award winner.