Missira Wadene, Senegal — Marie Gueye, a teacher in a thatched-roof primary school in this rural village had just come home from class. It was shortly after 5 p.m. And, still dressed in a formal-looking skirt and blouse, she was was pounding grain by hand in the family courtyard. She breathed hard as she lifted the heavy stick and slammed it into the grain.
``Are you tired?'' she was asked.
``Yes,'' she said, never breaking the rhythm. To vary the monotony, she clapped her hands quickly just as the stick reached its maximum height. Sometimes two women work together, alternating sticks like two wooden pistons.
Like many women in Africa who have entered the work force, Mrs. Gueye gets little help with the housework. While she now teaches all day, she has not been relieved of her other chores.
Pausing, Gueye explained her daily routine. ``I get up at six and do this,'' she said, pointing to the grain. ``I continue to eight. Then I go to school.''
She comes home at noon to fix the family meal, then returns to teach from three to five.
Just after five she starts pounding again until after six, when she makes the evening meal. Then she spends a couple of hours preparing her school lessons. Finally, around 10, she turns in for the night.
Although men argue to the contrary, to most visitors it appears that the women here do indeed work harder than men. For example, while a group of women were grinding grain one recent afternoon, some men nearby sat watching two others play checkers.
African men's traditional role centered on waging war, hunting, and building. But since that role has slowly dissolved, men - who see farming, selling crops, and raising a family as women's work - have little to do.
African women now produce 70 percent of the food grown on their continent, according to statistics from the United Nations.