Africa’s past – history – has been told by him and about him. Stories and books are strangely mum on the tales of female warrior – African female freedom fighters.
Any “peace” involves a reworking of power relations, not just between nations or parts of nations, but between women and men. – Professor Liz Kelly
Women play an important role in peace, security and freedom. However their role has been diminished and overlooked. Throughout the continent women were instrumental in fighting against oppressing and for equal rights.
Usually women’s roles in war is relegated to supporting roles and female friendly roles e.g nurses and cooks. These roles are true but only part of the story. Women were also leaders and fighters in the battlefields. They fought along side Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and Frantz Fanon.
Here are some women that bled on the battlefield for freedom and equality in Africa.
Rose Kabuye ( born 22 April 1961)
Women played active roles in the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). Rose Kabuye began her military training after graduating from Makerere University with a degree in Political Science and Social Administration. As Lieutenant she fought in the 1990 invasion of Northern Rwanda from Uganda to secure the right of refugees to return to their homeland. As a leader of RPF women fighters, she organized regular meetings to engage them as a group and provide vital psychological support. Kabuye also served as the RPF’s Director of Welfare, charged with caring for sick and disabled war victims. Her formidable presence was felt in her role as peace negotiator in the 1992 peace talks between the RPF and the former Rwandan government.
Josina Abiathar Muthemba Machel (10 August 1945 – 7 April 1971)
Muthemba-Machel joined the FRELIMO at 18 years. She was the driving force for the establishment of the Women’s Detachment (Destacamento Feminino) in 1967. Muthemba Machel played a leading role in mobilizing the community, advocating and bringing awareness of the FRELIMO and guarding the supplies. She was the visionary of a program that organised health centers, schools and child care provision for those connected to the liberation struggle. Muthemba Machel made an uncompromising stand for the full participation of women in the struggle for the liberation of Mozambican society and its transformation. She succumbed to sickness and died in Dar es Salaam on 7 April 1971, aged 25.
Joice Runaida Mugari Mujuru ( born 15 April 1955)
Mujuru was one of the first women commanders in Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). She was also the only woman to undertake military training in Lusaka Zambia. She was only 18 years old. She is infamously known for downing a helicopter with a machine gun on 17 February 1974 after refusing to flee. She became a commander at Chimoi camp, Mozambique in 1976. In 1977 she became member of the central committee of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and secretary for women’s affairs. In 1978, when her camp came under attack, Muruji—nine months pregnant at the time—was still an active combatant and fought the colonial military. She gave birth days later.
These women represent all the great women who bravely fought in the battlefield for our freedom and equality. Their voice will not be silenced. Their fight will not be overlooked. Their memory should not only be held by every African girl child but by every person across the African continent and diaspora. This series will highlight the role of women in war.
Not just wives or lovers. They were warriors.
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