Women's Roles in God's Bits of Wood
The novel God's Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane is an account of the strike Senegalese trainworkers underwent in pursuit of equal benefits and compensation from their French employers. In an effort to coerce the workers into returning to their jobs, the French cut off the water and food supply to the three villages wherein these events transpire: Thies, Dakar, and Bamako. Ousmane's novel explores the way in which these hardships evolve the worker's and their families till the strike is ultimately resolved. …show more content…
The dead became martyrs to the cause, so that the strike's success would mean that they had not died for nothing.
Another unique development amongst the women was in whom emerged as their leaders. Penda and Maimouna, a prostitute and blind woman, were the two who led the women in the final march. Penda had concocted the idea of the march from Thies to Dakar to symbolize that they would never quit, no matter their losses and the French's threats. However unlikely it would seem to be led by one whose trade is sex and another who is disabled, it was they who encouraged the other women to push on when they would have quit. Penda led by force, shouting to the women once they had stopped, "No there can't be any stragglers; we must all arrive together." (p 195) Maimouna led by example: Only Maimouna, her baby strapped across her back, marched steadily forward, humming one of her endless refrains (p 202). It was these two unique women who kept the unity and drive within the women till they reach Dakar and Penda is killed.
Little Ad'jibid'ji, in a conversation with her grandfather, seemed to foreshadow the women's altering role:
"I have to start learning what it is to be a man."
"But you are not a man!"
"Petit pere says that men and women will be equal someday." (p 97)
It seems as though this premonition was coming true. At the end of the strike, the men were not the only ones who had achieved equality.