Salute to Africa's Heroines: As Part of the Black History Month (UK), New African Woman Celebrates Great Women Who Have Shaped Our History and Our Admirable Cultural Values. Although We Feature Just a Few Here, Regina Jere-Malanda Argues That These African Heroines Not Only Brought True Meaning to the Words Courage, Sacrifice and Determination, but Their Immense Legacy and Tremendous Fortitude Should Inspire and Inform Women of the Future
Jere-Malanda, Regina, New African
Throughout our glorious history, Africa has prided itself on great, fearless women to the extent that -while the F word (feminism) is widely derided among both men and women on the continent -many feminist thinkers worldwide have often drawn their inspiration from leadership roles played by African women past and present.
As writer Patricia McFadden puts it: "African women have been an important and increasingly visible part of modern African political life. We participated in anticolonial struggles as trade unionists, political leaders, wives and mothers, often in the more traditional ways that women have entered politics. But we have also made fundamental changes to the body politic of Africa in very significant ways."
Therefore, as we bring up a generation of future leaders, we have a responsibility to narrate her-story in much the same way as the history of the great Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and others is told. For example, the South African struggle against apartheid is blessed by unsung heroines such as Helen Suzman, Victoria Mxenge, Margaret Mncadi, Ida Ntwana, Francis Baard, Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Florence Matomela, to name but a few-women who struggled in refugee camps in exile, and were imprisoned in the most deplorable conditions, but still steadfastly remained pillars of society, promoting values of peace and justice.
Angola's Queen Ann Nzingha was still fighting for freedom when she died at the age of 81, having led her people into battle and the freedom struggle against armed Portuguese forces throughout her life. In ancient Egypt, prominent women like Queen Nefertiti not only occupied high positions of authority and influence, but also fought in active battle against foreign invaders. Mauritanian freedom fighter Dahia Al-Kahina fought off Arab invaders in the battles of 690AD. She commanded her forces with such admirable courage that when she faced defeat, she took her own life rather than succumb to the enemy.
We salute Queen of Kano of Nigeria (1580-1582), Empress Delete Rufael of Ethiopia, 1724, Queen Mother Ndlorukazi Nandi of the Zulu Kingdom of South Africa (1815-1827), and Mbuya Nehanda of Zimbabwe, who are increasingly becoming a distant memory in our modern history, yet helped shape it.
To this day, the words of Ghana's queen Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti in 1900 still imbue her with indescribable courage. "If you men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We women will. We, the women, will. I will call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men until the last of us falls on the battlefields," she told a battalion of reluctant men during a battle for freedom from British occupation. Empathy for her people, the Akans, motivated her to fight for the protection of her people and land against the British colonialism. Although she was eventually exiled to the Seychelles, she was able to inspire the Asante army to fight for the protection of their land and the Asante kingdom prevailed, so that, even today, it is one of the most diverse and rich ethnic groups in West Africa.
Although they rarely receive the same accolade, all these women worked side by side with men in liberating Africa from colonialism and its offshoots. It is widely accepted that Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP), for example, subtantially benefited from the grassroot support of a broad-based nationalist women's movement. In Nigeria, illustrious women like Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti were key players in pre-independence politics. Ransome-Kuti (mother of the late singer and political activist Fela Kuti), through Nigeria's Abeokuta Women's Union, was a vibrant feminist, whose admirable resistance to colonial rule and imperialism made an impact on feminist movements in many parts of Europe and America. …