With tongue firmly lodged inside her cheek, Zola Ndlovu blogs about a recent discovery - intelligent women.
An international team led by neurologist Bruce Houston, Professor at The University of Sydney and Munyaradzi Moyo, senior lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, along with sociologists from Addis Ababa University and the University of Cape Town, have discovered how women, first discovered roaming the earth thousands of years ago, are able to sustain cerebral activity independently of men. The study is published in Modern Science Today.
Intelligent women - who knew
Houston and Moyo found these women amongst groups of vastly different education and income levels; the Tonga of Matabeleland North, an area on the Zimbabwe-Zambia boundary and also amongst the inhabitants of Victoria Island, the financial centre of Lagos, Nigeria.
"This new class of women are specialized for cognitive activity, so we called them "Qui Libere Cognitat," the Latin phrase which loosely translates means 'he who thinks freely'," says Bruce Houston, lead author of the study.
The Libere Cognitat belong to a relatively unknown group of human beings - females. Like males, females are born with a cerebrum, the largest part of the brain. But until this landmark study, it was believed that the female brain differed in that it only had three and not four regions, minus the frontal lobes which are involved with speech, thought and learning.
Intelligent women in Africa
In Africa, thinking females were discovered only some forty years ago, when Nobel prize-winning Wangari Maathai became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctoral degree. To date, females remain poorly studied in comparison to males, who have always been considered the only humans with cognitive ability.
"The discovery of the Libere Cognitat will help us increase our understanding of the intelligence and reasoning of females that thrive in the intellectual department," says Munyaradzi Moyo.
An elusive species
In order to understand this elusive species, Houston and Moyo monitored the brain activity of several Libere Cognitat. They were able to determine how these females should be classified and how they use their frontal lobes in reasoning. Libere Cognitat have the ability to form their own opinions and the scientists suggest that they are able to make nuanced and not just simplistic conclusions to complex issues. Interestingly, the intellectual capacity of the Libere Cognitat is unique to what has been seen before.
The challenge - how to oppress them
"Before this essentially nothing was known about the Libere Cognitat's role in society other than as biological ovens for human offspring. No one knew why they even have brains in their skulls. The new discovery expands our knowledge of how these females may have always been able to think for themselves, despite our very widely held beliefs to the contrary," says Bongani Sithole, researcher at the University of Cape Town and co-author of the paper.
As education levels in the continent rise, Africa's women are gaining economic and political freedom. Educational attainment challenges beliefs that have been traditionally used to justify the subjugation of women. Women were once thought to be incapable of speaking, but a growing amount of evidence show that these humans are also capable of speech. Now comes evidence that thinking might pose a threat to their continued oppression as well.