Kasena Women’s Critique of Gender Justice through Proverbial Jesting

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School of Oriental and African Studies


This paper analyses proverbs used by Kasena women from northern Ghana in their effort to critique gendered perceptions of justice in their society. This critique takes place within the socially approved medium of the joking relationship that pertains between a Kasena woman and her husband’s kin. The joking relationship permits joking partners to give their views free reign and therefore provides a safe avenue for women to express their own attitudes and values pertaining to justice. They subvert and contradict Kasem proverbs in order to protest the use of gender as a basis for defining women’s roles and rights in the home and in marriage. However, gender justice, as it can be gleaned from the proverbs the women deploy, is not limited to demanding freedom from traditional dependencies and addressing gender inequities. It is broadened to include calls for the recognition of women’s self worth and of their contribution to culture—a conception of justice that has been the subject of recent debates on the definition of justice which have moved the focus from issues of distribution to questions of recognition.



proverbs, subversion, gender justice, joking relationships, Ghana


Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.1(2012): 9-20