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The Tuareg Woman

The Tuaregs society is structured around the woman. In the marital institution, it plays the central role, from marriage to the education of children and the management of the home. The Tuareg woman is at the center of all decisions. She is the support on which rests the whole economic life and the future of the community. She proposes the alternatives, manages and frames the encampment to the absence of the man and participates in all the decision in his presence.She is the pride of her brothers and all her family. She is also respected by all men in general. It is in Tuareg society that women are truly regarded as the mother of humanity with complete rights. Moreover, the desert ladies are famous for their beauty and their musical talent; when they give concerts, men run from the most distant points, dressed like ostrich males. The women of the Berber tribes sing every evening by accompanying themselves with Imzad and tambours.

    The Tuareg woman has access to property, freedom, to express herself and to choose one's partner and to be free from bodily harm. To preserve the cultural foundation of this society, a code of conduct known as "Asshak" was instituted and imposed on men. In this moral ethical approach, man must manage his physical advantage so as not to abuse it on the woman and the weak in the society. This rule guarantees the totality of the rights of women. The man who derogates from this rule is no longer noble and is deprived of his rights. It is the women who pronounce this exclusion.

    Before joining her husband, the Tuareg wife has always had a tent, furniture and livestock according to the capacities of her parents. She joins her husband with a capital that he must preserve and grow in agreement with her. The Tuareg woman not only has the right to property, but everything that materializes the family unit belongs to her, starting with the tent and its contents. In the case of separation, it is the man who leaves the home (tent).  

     The Tuareg man knows his mother and the mother of his mother, but ignores his father. The child belongs to the woman and not to the husband. It is the blood of the wife and not that of her husband which confers on the child the rank to be taken in the tribe and in the family. Thus, only feminine descent is retained. The notion of "father" is secondary in their traditional narratives. The Tuareg tribes all claim great legendary women-ancestors. In the Saharawi culture, there is no difference between girls and boys in childhood.

  Sahrawi women also play an active role in their political struggle. In Saharawi land, according to the old tradition, women hold the highest responsibilities. They may be ministers or ambassadors .The Tuareg woman is monogamous; she has imposed monogamy on her husband, although the Muslim law allows him several women. She is independent with regard to her husband, whom she can repudiate under the lightest pretext; she comes and goes freely. She excels in the exercises of the body; on the back of a dromedary ,she crossed a hundred miles to go to a party, it supports races with the boldest horsemen of the desert…

In most Muslim cultures, a divorced woman becomes a pariah. But in Saharawi culture, it is at the same time more respected than a single virgin, and more seductive.

      The Tuareg image that the woman is the central pillar of the tent, tamenkayt, testifies to her role as a stable and stabilizing element (Claudot-Hawad, 1989). This representation of the Tuareg woman is reflected in ethnological studies, not to mention the various writings of travelers where the position of women in the Tuaregs is always considered exceptional. Man, for his part, must nourish and protect the person who, through his role as a social breeder, perpetuates his society: it is only through him that he can ensure the "prolongation of herself" (Claudot-Hawad And Hawad, 1987). As a result, men fight outside against any being or element that may challenge this order of things. Their honor depends on their ability to return victorious either from a battle or from a stay in the essuf, the void surrounding their tents that they are trying to domesticate a little more each day.

written by ARAB Sabrina

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