Female Socio-Cultural and Religious Problems in Nawal El Saadawi Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba So Long a Letter


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The research work examined female socio-cultural and religious problem in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter. Over the years, the challenges facing the female folk is that of cultural and religious problems. It is also discovered that, several cultural practices affects the females. As examined by the two Islamic authors, the Islamic practices affect the women psychological such as polygamy in the religious sphere. Therefore, it is hoped that an awareness of such practices should be abolished. And work of feminists in Africa should be encouraged and to bring equal opportunities for men and women.


Female Socio-Cultural and Religious Problems in Nawal El Saadawi Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba So Long a Letter



1.1     Background to the Study

Women throughout the world have few legal rights than men and their rights are always taken for granted. According to Chamber Dictionary;

Culture is the custom, civilization, society, ideas, values of a particular society or social groups especially at a particular time and the appreciation of arts, music, literature, improvement and development through care and training (327).

The socio-cultural practices in Africa affect female children. Female children are always trained in the kitchen, they are not always giving the best upbringing, they are trained to take care of home activities instead of school. Male children are been brought up well because they are known to be the people who will take the family from generation to generations. Debbie Neill asserts that:

Igbo society upholds the nation of manliness as fundamental social norms, violence against women is justified, African women languished on the fringe of their universe, neglected, exploited discrimination and indeed to feed lie outsider (142).

The feminist believe that women are oppressed simply because of socio-cultural practices, their sex and they cite the ideology of patriarchy as a reason for the beliefs.  It is an intellectual commitment and political movement that seek justices for women and the end of sexism in all form.


1.2     Statement of the Problem

In Africa, many cultural practices are against women, for instance, no matter how a woman works, she cannot be considered being equal with a man because a man is stronger, physically than women. Without any doubt, men are stronger mentally and physically than women and men are always the head of every family, but does this fact create room for the oppression of female gender? Does this mean that the women should only be called upon when her husband is hungry or when time for child bearing comes? Does this also give room for women to be trampled upon by men? Most important should this above mentioned problems women faced in African society and our country Nigeria deprive women the opportunity of contributing to the development of our country Nigeria?

Another problems women faced in Africa society due to cultural practices is that, women are not allowed to marry more than one husband whereas men does. In the Christian religion, women are admonished to be submissive to their husbands, doing only the things their husband want them to do or approves of. Besides, they must be very obedient and submissive; they must obey their husbands at all times and never to refused them anything even if it is not really convenient for the wives. Therefore, the above mentioned problems concerned the researcher to write on the topic, female socio-cultural and religious problems in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter.


Female Socio-Cultural and Religious Problems in Nawal El Saadawi Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba So Long a Letter

1.3     Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research work is to examine the female socio-cultural and religious problems in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter and further discusses the socio-cultural and religious problems in the society.

1.4     Significance of the Study 

This research work will be important to students of English and literacy studies and other researchers on how to solve the problems of socio-cultural and religious issue that have been existing from birth and oppression from the male counterparts.


1.5     Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of this study will be limited to Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter.

1.6     Research Methodology

The research will be focus primarily on Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter as its main sources while other sources like library, internet and other work of feminist writers will be added as its secondary sources.

1.7     Definition of Terms

Female: being a woman or a girl. A female is an animal that can leg eggs or give birth to babies.

Socio-cultural: Is the arts, customs and habits of a particular society or nation.

Religious: Concerning with religion and Christianity.

Problem: A difficulty that has to be solved.

Female Socio-Cultural and Religious Problems in Nawal El Saadawi Woman at Point Zero and Mariama Ba So Long a Letter

1.8     Bio-Data of Mariama Ba

Mariama Ba was born in 1929 in Daker abnd her life was indeed eventful. Her mother dies when she was just a child and she was raised by her maternal grandparents, especially her grandmother who became her beloved and influential surrogate mother. This powerful woman of noble origin was very much attached to traditional values and ideas, thus very wary of the French way of life, influences and individualism.

Mariama Ba’s father in contrast, was a progressive man. Born in 1892, he was enrolled as a Tirailleur in the French Army in the World War I, become Daker’s Deputy Major and eventually Health minister. It was he, against the advice of his in-laws who insisted on sending Ba to a “French” school and followed her progress throughout her schooling days. The confidence of Ba’s father in his daughter’s ability was well placed as she came first in the qualifying examination for entry to the prestigious women teachers College.

However, the diverging perception of success held by her father and her grandmother who never more conspicuous than on this occasion. As her father, friends and neighbours were rejoicing and celebrating her unprecedented success, her grandparents were wary of all the publicity surrounding their grand-daughters scholastic achievement and very been to end her schooling there and then.

As Ba puts it:

In the absence of my father who was posted to Niamey, I fell to berthe Maubert, the headmistress of her school to break the resistance of my family who felt that I had travelled long enough on this road that led nowhere (36).

As one may guess, Ba continue to be a high achiever during her four years of study at teacher’s College. She was thus fully versed in all the intro-cacies of French etigutte, values, language, social conventions and ways thinking before she ever put foot on French school in 1947 to 1959 before transferring to regional inspectorate teaching as an educational inspector.

As a feminist, Ba’s contribution is absolutely importance to modern African studies since she was among the first to illustrate the disadvantaged position of women in African society. Some of Ba’s works include:

So Long a Latter” (1981)

Scarlet Songs   (1986)

La Fonction Politique des Literature Africans élites (1981).

Ba has established herself an inspiring figure for African woman. She illustrates that traditions and customs are against modernity and against the “New World” and inspire people to revise them and take those steps that remain to be taken.


1.9    Bio-Data Nawal El Saadawi

Nawal El Saadawi was born in 1931, in Tahla, a small village outside Cairo in the Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt. Her family was relatively traditional and get some what progressive. Her father was a government official in the ministry of education, his integrity as a man opposed to corruption gave El Saadawi a model of independent thinking and also taught herself respect.

El Saadawi’s mother came from an upper-class family; she died when El Saadawi was twenty five years. El Saadawi said about her mother that she would have been an early fighter for women’s rights, if she had not buried her beliefs in her marriage.

In 1949, El Saadawi entered medical school; she received her M.D in 1955 from the University of Cairo and a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University, New York, in 1966. Immediately after her graduation, El Saadawi practiced psychiatry at the university Hospital in Cairo and eventually rose to become Egypt’s director of public health. Since she began to write she has focused on women, particularly Arab women, and even more specifically on their sexuality and legal status. For some times she published nonfiction, such as al-Mara Wal-Sira  Al-Nafsi (1976) woman and self-struggle, a text about women and psychological conflict and the Hidden face of Eve 1977, in Beirut. Woman at point Zero 1975 was partly based on material about women’s mental health that she had collected at Ayn Shams University.

A memoir from the women’s prison 1983 was published in Saadawi lost her job in the Egyptian government in 1972.

The magazine health which she had founded and edited for more three years was closed down. Long viewed as controversial and dangerous by the Egyptians government, El Saadawi was arrested in September 1981, along with many other objectors to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty by President Anwar Sadat’s Regime.

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