Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

What are the Effects of Cultural Traditions on the Education of women? (The Study of the Tumbuka People of Zambia)

By Christine P. Mushibwe


This study is an investigation of how cultural traditions can militate against the education of women in Zambia with a focus on the Tumbuka tribe. Ethnographic methods were employed over a period of three months in a village in the Eastern Province of the country. Data were collected through participant observation, focus group and in-depth interviews, narratives, and documents. A total of 47 participants comprised the sample. This research cuts through multidisciplinary fields such as social sciences, education and anthropology. Through thematic analysis data were analysed.\ud \ud \ud Evidence in this research demonstrates that patrilineal groupings are strongholds of the patriarchal predisposition and that patriarchal attitudes and cultural traditions do not recognize women as equal partners with men. The Tumbuka women‟s experiences and beliefs reflect socio-cultural traditional norms that tend to limit gender equality, and compel women to accept and justify male domination at the expense of their own status and to regard consequent inequalities as normal. Evidence demonstrates that the initiation rites, an active institution for girls of pubescent age, interfere more with the school-based education of girls. The women are active social agents as well as passive learners who will not allow the girls they are coaching to question the reason or purpose for some traditional practices that are oppressive and directly cause them to fail to complete their schooling successfully.\ud \ud \ud The strong hold that the cultural traditions has on the locals has further resulted in conflicts with modern schooling, which is viewed as disseminating „white‟ man‟s culture and values. Established in this research is the fear and suspicion that the locals have on the outcome of their children learning these values that they see as alien to their own. The modern education provided in school is perceived as a force that undermines cultural values. It is viewed as presenting an inherent challenge to the cultural traditional control measures that are in place.\ud \ud \ud Arguably, while ethnic traditions should be respected and sustained because they define one's identity, aspects of culture which are discriminatory, restrictive and tend to devalue women‟s physical, emotional and psychological development should be eliminated because they are retrogressive. Therefore the argument that deep seated socio-cultural traditions play a significant role in encumbering female education is proven

Topics: H1, HQ, HT, L1, LC5201, LG
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2001-2007) Phikamalaza Registers Zambia:
  2. (1992). [Online] Available at: ng_time_trends_in_the.10.aspx# > [Accessed on 16/04/2010]
  3. (2004). 50 Key Concepts in Fender Studies.
  4. (2003). A beginners‟ Guide to Social Theory. London: Sage Publication.
  5. (1997). A Comparative Study of Culture and it‟s on Girls Academic Aspiration in Uganda. Kenya:
  6. (2007). A History of the Tumbuka from 1400 to 1900. Zambia:
  7. (1999). A Situation Analysis at the Provincial Level of Girl Chid Education in Zambia Lusaka:
  8. (1998). A Sociology of women:
  9. (1995). A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
  10. (2008). A Vindication of the Rights of Women. [Republished] Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge Wright,
  11. Africa: South African Document on Education FAWE (2004) Re-entry for Adolescent School Girls Mothers: Best Practices in Girls‟ Education
  12. (1985). Aims, Values and Education.
  13. (2004). An Introduction to theories of popular culture. 2 nd ed.
  14. (2007). Analysing Qualitative Data.
  15. (2006). Analysing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis. 4 th ed.
  16. (2003). and Africa: Reflections on the Poverty of Theory‟ African Women & Feminism: Reflecting on the Politics of Sisterhood.
  17. (1998). Approaching Observation.
  18. (1884). Argonauts of the Western Pacific: an Account of Native enterprise and adventure in the Archipelagos of Melanesian New Guinea. London: Routledge Kegan Paul.
  19. (1992). Assertiveness for Managers.
  20. (2005). Assessing Quality and Responsiveness of Health Services for Women in Crises Settings: Zambia Case Study Report. Zambia: The
  21. (1997). Available at: <> [Accessed on 09/05/2007]
  22. (2001). Available at: <> [Accessed on the 07/02/08] Din, I.
  23. (1994). Beginning Qualitative Research: A Philosophic and Practical Guide.
  24. (2004). Between Sex and Power: Family in the world,
  25. (2007). Beyond Determinism: The Phenomenology of Africa female Existence.
  26. (1975). Beyond the two disciplines of scientific psychology‟
  27. (2002). Biographical Research.
  28. (2000). Boundary Oscillations: Epistemological and Genre Transformation During the “method” of Thesis Writing:
  29. (2009). Briefing African and the Credit Crunch: from crisis to opportunity.
  30. (2008). Change and Continuity: Perceptions about Childhood Malawi. A Malawian Publication.
  31. (1991). Child Labour in the Zambezi
  32. (2005). Childhood Education‟ Gender Bias in the classroom: Current Controversies and Implications for Teachers.
  33. (2006). Children and Young People Voice their experiences on
  34. (1985). Children of the Land: Exchange and Status in a Hawaiian Community. New Brunswick NJ:
  35. (2005). Children‟s Education Fund
  36. (1992). Coaching for Performance: A Practical Guide to growing your own skills. London: Nochola Brealy Publishing.
  37. (1901). Coming of age in Samoa: a psychological study of primitive youth for western civilization; foreword by Franz Boas.
  38. (1994). Coping with two cultures: British Asians and Indo-Canadian Adolescents. Multi-Lingual Matters Ltd.
  39. (2005). Country Gender Report.
  40. (2005). Critical Ethnography: Method, Ethics, and Performance Chapel Hill:
  41. (1993). Culture and Society.
  42. (2000). Culture as a barrier to rural women‟s entrepreneurship: Experience from Zimbabwe.
  43. (2005). Cultures and Organisations NewYork:
  44. (1997). Cultures and Organisations.
  45. (1976). Daughters and mothers, mothers and daughters.
  46. (1997). Defining Terms and Concepts for Ourselves. Cited in:
  47. (2004). Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Fertility Report.
  48. (1999). Designing and conducting ethnographic research.
  49. (1998). Designing Funded Qualitative Research.
  50. (2003). Desk review of PAGE 1997–2002, The way Forward
  51. (2004). Development Southern Africa‟ Poverty in Zambia: Levels, patterns and trends.
  52. (1995). Different Functions of Coding
  53. (1989). Does Inequality Matter Educationally.
  54. (2004). Doing Educational Research: A Guide to First Time Researchers.
  55. (1998). Doing Ethnographic Research. London: Sage Publication.
  56. (2007). Doing Ethnographies.
  57. (2007). Doing Gender Work in Ghana.
  58. (2001). Doing Grounded Theory: Grounded Theory Review Mill Valley CA:
  59. (2000). Doing Qualitative Research.
  60. (2005). Doing your Research Project: A guide to first-time Researchers
  61. (2002). Education Data for Decision-Making
  62. (1974). Education For Critical Consciousness.
  63. (1997). Education, the only female empowerment in Africa.
  64. (1996). Educational Alternatives to Schooling in Zambia.
  65. (1982). Educational Policy and Practice Affecting Females in Zambian Secondary Schools.
  66. (2000). Educational Research: Contemporary Issues and Practical Approaches.
  67. (2005). Equal Opportunities: Rhetoric or Action.
  68. (2005). Eroticism, Sensuality and “Women‟s Secrets” among the Baganda: A critical Analysis. [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed 28/03/07]
  69. (2006). Ethnicity and Englishness: Personal Identities in a Minority Community.
  70. (2003). Ethnography for Education.
  71. (2004). Ethnography Relating the Part to the Whole.
  72. (2000). Ethnography.
  73. (1998). Experience, Methodology, Observation and Theory. In: Grills,
  74. (2003). Exploring European Identities. The Open University.
  75. (2000). Fair trade in tourism to protected areas- A micro case study of wildlife tourism to southern Luangwa National Park. Zambia: Ministry of Tourism.
  76. (1992). Feminism – A reader.
  77. (2000). Feminism after Post Modernism: Theorising Through Practice.
  78. (1997). Feminisms and Education.
  79. (2003). Feminist Africa: Issue 2‟ Representing Culture and Identity: African Women Writers and National Cultures [online] Available at:
  80. (2005). Feminist Methodologies
  81. (1992). Feminist Philosophies: Problems, Theories and Applications.
  82. (1987). Feminist theories and Practical Polices shifting the agenda in 1980‟s.
  83. (1987). Feminist theory and practical policies: shifting the agenda in the 1980s. Bristol: School for Advanced Urban Studies.
  84. (2000). Fieldwork, participation and practice ethics and dilemmas in qualitative research. London: Thousand Oaks,
  85. (2004). Fiscal Policy and Public Expenditure Control.
  86. (1970). Foundations of Behavioural Research Cited
  87. (1979). From here to Maternity: Becoming a Mother.
  88. (1998). Fundamentals of Educational Research.
  89. (1990). Fundamentals of Educational Research. London: The Falmer Press Teachers Library Arnfred, S.
  90. (2003). Gender and Leisure: Social and Cultural Perspectives.
  91. (1997). Gender and Nations.
  92. (2009). Gender transformations and media representations: Journalistic discourses in three South African newspapers. [Unpublished] S.A:
  93. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.
  94. (1996). Gender Values and Identity.
  95. (1994). Gendered Education: Sociological reflections on Women, teaching and feminism.
  96. (1999). General History of Africa.
  97. (2006). Girls and Africa Education: Research and Action to keep Girls in School.
  98. (1998). Girls and Basic Education: A Cultural Enquiry.
  99. (2004). Global Campaign for Education
  100. (2006). Governmental Organisations Coordinating Committee
  101. (2000). Greater Investment in Children through women‟s empowerment: a key to demographic change in Pakistan.
  102. (2001). Grounded Theory in Ethnography. In
  103. (2007). Grounded Theory: An Exploration
  104. (1966). Growing up in East Africa. London:
  105. (2008). Health Organisation
  106. (1990). Human Behaviour in Global Perspective: An Introduction to Cross-Cultural Psychology.
  107. (1956). Ichisungu: A girls‟ initiation ceremony among the Bemba of Zambia.
  108. (1988). Ideas of Human Nature.
  109. (2001). Impact of the HEART Campaign; findings from the Youth Surveys,
  110. (2005). Improving Women‟s lives: World Bank Actions since Beijing. A World Bank publication.
  111. (2006). Information Literacy Education in Asian Developing Countries: Cultural Factors Affecting Curriculum Development and Programme Delivery.
  112. (2001). Interpreting Qualitative Data.
  113. (1997). Interpretive Ethnography for the 21 st Century. London: Sage Publication.
  114. (1997). Interpretive Ethnography for the 21st Century. London: Sage Publication.
  115. (2004). Interviewing Women: A Contradiction
  116. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. London: Thousand Oaks.
  117. (2001). Introduction to Education Studies. India:
  118. (1995). Introduction: An Overview of Computer-aided methods in Qualitative Research.
  119. (2005). Introduction: Knowledge, Identity and Power – Education Movements in the global South
  120. (2001). JENDA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies‟ Alice in Motherland: Reading Alice Walker on Africa and Screening the Colour “Black.” [Online] Available at: [Accessed on 29/03/2007] Oyewumi, O.
  121. (2006). JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies‟ In their own way at their own level: empowerment among rural women, the case of the Mo
  122. (2005). JENDA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies‟ Keeping the Feminist War Real in Contemporary Kenya: The case of Wambui Otieno.
  123. (2002). Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African women Studies‟ Simon De Beauvoir in Africa: “Woman=The Second Sex?” Issues of African Feminist Thought. [Online] Available at: Accessed on [30/03/2007]
  124. (2004). JENDA: A Journal of Culture and African Women‟ There she is:
  125. (2004). JENdA: Journal of Culture and African Women Studies‟ The Epistemological Challenge of Motherhood to Patriliny. [Online] Available at:
  126. (2003). Journal of Gender and Development.‟ Early female marriage in the developing World.
  127. (2003). Learning to be Violent: the role of the school in developing adolescent gendered behaviour.
  128. (1979). Learning to Live in Pre-Colonial Bulozi Unpublished PhD Thesis
  129. (1999). Listening to Africa, Misunderstanding and Misinterpreting Africa: Reformist Western Feminist Evangelism on African Women.
  130. (2007). London: Continuum Organisations
  131. (2002). London: The Falmer Press Teachers Library Arnfred, S.
  132. (2006). London: The Johns Hopkins
  133. (1981). Mary Wollstonecraft and Education.
  134. (1999). Mary Wollstonecraft.
  135. (1962). Matrilineal Kingship Los Angeles:
  136. (2003). Maumau‟s Daughter: A life History. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publication.
  137. (2007). Maximizing Transparency a Doctoral Thesis:
  138. (1982). Mbusa: Sacred emblems of the Bemba.
  139. (1984). Men and women in school textbooks.
  140. (2004). Methodology Procedures and Ethical Concerns.
  141. (2000). Ministry of Sport Youth and Child Development Youth in Economic Development-A Key Group in Poverty Reduction.
  142. Nations General Assembly Special Session On AIDS] Reporting (2010) Zambia Country Report; Monitoring the Declaration of
  143. (2007). Nations International Children‟s Education Fund
  144. (2008). Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
  145. (1987). Naturalistic Inquiry.
  146. (1996). Negotiating Identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. Ontario, Calif.: California Association for Bilingual Education.
  147. (1995). NGO‟s, Gender, Culture and Multiculturalism: A Zimbabwean View.
  148. (1931). Notes on the customs and folk-lore of the Tumbuka-Kamanga peoples.
  149. (1994). Observational techniques.
  150. (2008). of Bristol S.A.U.S. WHO [World Health Organisation]
  151. (2002). OMCT [Organisation Against Torture]
  152. (2000). On The Move.
  153. (1989). Participant Observation: A methodology for Human Studies.
  154. (1995). Passing on the rites of passage: girls initiation rites in the context of a urban Roman Catholic Community. London: African Studies.
  155. (1970). Patriarchal Attitudes: Women in society.
  156. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  157. (1950). Peoples of the Lake Nyasa Region. London:
  158. (2007). Phikamalaza Basic School Zambia:
  159. (2005). Practitioner research for teachers. London: Sage Publication.
  160. (2002). Public Woman.‟ Public Words; A Documentary History of American Feminism. vol.3 USA: Rowman and Littlefield
  161. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis.
  162. (1998). Qualitative Methods and Analysis in Organisational Research.
  163. (2002). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods.
  164. (1992). Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and Attitude Measurement.
  165. (1999). Race, Identity and Citizenship.
  166. (1987). Racial Inequalities in Education.
  167. (1987). Radical and Revolutionary Feminism.
  168. (2002). Real World Research: A resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers. 2 nd ed.
  169. (1999). Reasonable Men and Provocative Women: an analysis of Gendered Domestic Homicide in Zambia.
  170. (1995). Research and the teacher: A Qualitative Introduction to School Based Research.
  171. (1993). Returns to women‟s Education.
  172. (1994). Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought.
  173. (1972). Ritualisation of Women‟s Life-Crisis in Bugisu.
  174. (2002). Ruskin and gender.
  175. (1971). Schools and Socialisation.
  176. (1992). Sex and Reason.
  177. (1992). Sex-role Socialization: Gender Socialisation.
  178. (2002). Sexuality and Gender.
  179. (2009). Sexuality Education: Theory and Practice. Canada: Jones and
  180. (2004). Sharpening the wooden Sword in Imperial Germany: Marital status and education in the work of Helen Lange. Women's History Review: Gender Theory; Women's & Gender History.
  181. (2000). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches.
  182. (1981). Sociology in Focus. Orriskirk:
  183. (1980). Sociology Themes and Perspectives Slough:
  184. (2000). Software and Qualitative Research.
  185. (2006). Statistics Office
  186. (1998). Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry.
  187. (1993). Sub-Saharan Africa.
  188. (1989). Supporting Zambian Education in Times of Economic Adversity. An evaluation of Swedish-Zambian Co-operation
  189. (2008). Systematic review exploring time trends in the association between education attainment and risk to HIV infection in SubSaharan Africa-AID. Epidemiology and Social.
  190. (1998). Template Analysis.‟ In:
  191. (1995). The African Inheritance.
  192. (2005). The Ann Oakley reader: gender, women and social science.
  193. (2001). The Bush Burnt, the stones remain: female initiation rites in urban Zambia. London: African Studies Centre.
  194. (2003). The challenge of Third World Development.
  195. (1980). The Domestication of Women: Discrimination in Developing Societies.
  196. (2005). The Education of girls and Women in Africa.
  197. (1997). The Education of Women in Developing Countries. Makurdt Nigeria: Osuman and Co.
  198. (2010). The Education of Zambia [online] Available at:
  199. (2000). The EFA
  200. (2008). The epidemiology of HIV infection Lusaka: Ministry of Health Akuffo,
  201. (2010). The Global Economic Crisis-Zambia‟s Strategy to Maintain Stability. [Online] Available at :<
  202. (2007). The Good Research Guide: for small-scale Social Research Projects.
  203. (2004). The Historical Context.
  204. (2000). The Impact Of HIV/AIDS On Schooling In
  205. (1989). The Law Of Succession And Inheritance In Zambia And The Proposed Reform.
  206. (1980). The Logic of Practice.
  207. (2004). The Methodology of Focus Groups: The Importance of interaction between research participants.
  208. (2004). The New Economic Recovery Programme: The Second Time Around.
  209. (1999). The New Feminism.
  210. (1989). The Past is before us, Feminism in action since the 1960‟s.
  211. (1993). The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
  212. (1978). The Philosophy of the Social Sciences. London: Methuem and Co Ltd.
  213. (2007). The Post Zambia: Lusaka Plumwood,
  214. (1999). The quality of Qualitative Research.
  215. (1969). The Ritual Process. Hamondsworth:
  216. (2004). The Role of Agriculture and Mining
  217. (1996). The role of parents in the education system.
  218. (2003). The Science of Personality.
  219. (1985). The shifting relations between schools and non-schools education.
  220. (2008). The situation of Zambia.
  221. (1974). The Sociology of housework.
  222. (2006). The state of Knowledge on sexuality in SubSaharan Africa: A synthesis of literature.
  223. (1970). The Subjection of Women.
  224. (2009). Theories of Personality.
  225. (1990). Theorising Patriarchy.
  226. (1992). Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence.
  227. (1998). Thinking for ourselves: An Introduction to Feminist Theorising.
  228. (1966). This my Country.
  229. (1994). to 1994 Journals: Traditions, Prominent, Sitenge, Lozi: Published by the Dpt. of History/
  230. (1994). Tools for Cultural Studies: An Introduction. South Melbourne:
  231. (2001). Tradition Marriages in Zambia: A study in Cultural History.
  232. (1998). Transforming Qualitative Information: Thematic Analysis and Code Development. London: Sage Publication.
  233. (2004). Understanding Qualitative Research and Ethno methodologies.
  234. (2004). Unequal access, unequal participation: some spatial and socio-economic dimensions of the gender gap in education
  235. (1991). Using Computers in Qualitative Research.
  236. (1995). Using Hierarchical Categories in Qualitative Data Analysis.
  237. (1999). Using NVivo in qualitative research.
  238. (1995). Using Observation in Small-Scale Research.
  239. (1999). Using questionnaires
  240. (2006). Using thematic analysis in Psychology Qualitative Research in Psychology.
  241. (1996). Violence and gender relations: theories and interventions.
  242. (2007). Voices From Africa.
  243. (1995). What has Assessment Done for Us and to Us?”
  244. (1999). What is feminism? An Introduction to Feminist theory.
  245. (1996). What is women‟s studies.
  246. (2006). What Young People are saying about Education, Religion and Participation?
  247. (1985). Why Women Don‟t have Wives: Professional Success and Motherhood.
  248. (1998). Women and Traditions.
  249. (1984). Women in higher education: what is the problem?
  250. (1989). Women in the Third World: Gender Issues in Rural and Urban Areas.
  251. (2001). Women Movements in International Perspective: Latin America and Beyond.
  252. (1983). Women of Africa: Roots of Oppression.
  253. (1996). Women, „the‟ family and families.
  254. (1989). Women, From subjection to Liberation.
  255. (1996). Women, Power and Resistance: An Introduction to Women‟s Studies
  256. (1992). Women, Violence and Social Change.
  257. (1973). Women‟s Consciousness, Man‟s World.
  258. (1999). Women‟s Education and Career Opportunity in Kenya. Kenya:
  259. (1993). Women‟s Education in Developing Countries: An Overview. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins
  260. (2003). World Development Report.
  261. (2003). Zambia demographic and Health Survey 2001-2002.
  262. (2009). Zambia Humanitarian Country Profile. [Online] Available at: [Accessed on 12/2/2010] ZDEGC
  263. (2003). Zambia-Social-Children: Sexual abuse of young girl‟s rife in Zambia (online)
  264. (2003). Zambia: People and their culture. Bridgewater College: Department of sociology.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.