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8 “Necessity Removes Restrictions”: Swahili Muslim Women’s Perspectives on Their Participation in the Public Sphere

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Chapter Summary

The prospects of empowering Swahili Muslim women are being questioned along Islamic doctrinal and cultural grounds. Muslim women amongst the Swahili are forced by necessity to confront and contest interpretations of religious texts deemed responsible for reinforcing patriarchal structures and male-dominated religious forms of authority. Due to entrenched unequal forms of education, most Swahili Muslim women lack resources on how to debate, mobilize and lobby their way into leadership positions outside the home. Recently, in a few instances, Swahili Muslim women have been visible in higher managerial ranks in large corporations and women's organizations. To a large extent, the aspirations and potentials of Swahili Muslim women to engage in what comprises leadership in the public sphere, notably the wielding of political power and authority, have yet to be realized. The Swahili ruled the coastal city states for many centuries prior to European colonial rule.

Keywords: European colonial rule; Islam; Swahili Muslim women; women's organization



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