In some communities, especially where Islam had permeated the social fabric, albeit with varying degrees of success, domestic slaves were often treated as part of an extended family and a female slave was set free after her master’s death if she had borne any children of him.
Mostly, once freed or provided with a higher social rank, these women were charged with overseeing the work being done by other female slaves in the fields, in the marketplace or at the house, and they sometimes even rose to become slave traders or land owners themselves. Ambitious women, both free and slave, used their place in the community and more so their marital relationship as a vehicle to maneuver around any social obstacles that their hereditary lineage limited them to and to consolidate their social standing – a strategy increasingly employed by the women traders to build a lucrative business. (Klein, 1968) (Eastman, 1988)
At this point, we also have to take into account the patriarchal tendencies that a lot of African societies were beginning to develop, or had already developed, during the fifteenth century and the pace of which was further exacerbated during the subsequent legislative measures by the colonial administrators. However, with the passage of time and based on their various experiences, women were able to gain access to the courts and offices hence established, voice their concerns, and have their matters adjudicated. (Curto, 2003).
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