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Historically, a woman's traditional position in the home has conflicted with her ability to enter the public arena and to shape public policy. Although the rhetoric of African states suggests otherwise, this conflict has been a continual and recurrent problem for African women, both in colonial and in postcolonial times. How are African women to deal with the imbalance between public and private roles, between traditional roles and modern expectations? How are they to balance their own needs and responsibilities against the state's need to channel women's labor into export industries? Faced with these tensions, African judges and policymakers have recently attempted to alter inheritance and land laws that restrict the economic status of women and limit their ability to participate fully in economic development.

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