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Campain vs Female Genital Mutilation

Marie-Roger Biloa,
Millenium Club

Pioneering for Africa's Independence

A Tribute to African Women Who Contributed
to the Liberation Struggle For Independence

For fifty years, Africa has contemplated its present and imagined its future under the umbrella of a common organization, yesterday called the OAU,the AU today. Born in the wake of independence struggles often harsh and hard-won, the AfricanUnion is paying a due tribute to the Founding Fathers. Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita or Julius Nyerere ... Familiar names in the breviary of every African, identity markers, figureheads. Yes, but where are the women ? It was about time to remember and acknowledge the crucial contribution of the Founding Mothers in the liberation and emancipation process, from North to South, East to West, obviously in a pan-African approach.

Apart from a few familiar figures like Winnie Mandelaand Djamila Boukhires, it required to shake the grip of oblivion and search for unsung heroines. Some are mentioned for the first time in writing, a real satisfaction. So many others will never be known, despite their legendary achievements. This is a real regret. Moreover, all countries are not housed in the same boat, as it is true that the fight has not experienced the same intensity in Benin and Cameroon, Madagascar or the Central African Republic. The effort was never meant, however, to be exhaustive. The present booklet is intended as a tribute to all the freedom fighters, an educational reminder of the duality of gender, men and women, an exploration of unknown aspects of the African womens history, an inspiration for younger generations in search for role models, a useful complement to celebrating suitably the fiftieth anniversary of an organization that has quite a proud record in terms of promoting gender equality. Is it not the only institution of its kind to have implemented perfect parity among the ten commissioners, five of them being men?

The women involved in the struggle for independence  in African countries often have different backgrounds. Among them, educated women, illiterates, rural women or urban women, housewives or even workers. During the colonial period and beyond, the strength of women is linked to a major element: their place in the market system, and those who have acquired economic independence were the first to organize and demand rights for their community and themselves. On the frontline, brave and fearless, market women in West Africa, but also in urban South African who had to defend their rights against a battered colonial administration, knocked down by their determination and organization. Most quickly joined the ANC, which at its inception in 1912 was male dominated. The following year, women began challenging the Orange State about the pass laws. Industry workers would start campaigning in unions, which later became true powerhouses in the anti-Apartheid struggle. Women in West Africa rebelled against the poll tax, thus against injustice and for their survival through underestimated informal activities. Same struggle for Mau Mau Women in Kenya who have laid the groundwork for the liberation wars in Eastern colonies. In Zimbabwe, the first female leader appears in the 19th century and is called Nehanda. In Nigeria, women appearing to be much more tenacious than men were willing to use all weapons, ancient or modern, and showed a remarkable ability to fight despite their widespread illiteracy

In Cte dIvoire, five thousand women departed from A bidjan f or a m arch over to t he civil prison of Grand Bassam where their husbands were incarcerated without trial. Like a tightly bonded swarm of bees that nothing could stop, they defied the colonial judiciary system. In North Africa, the fierce armed struggle Algeria requires a strong mobilization, and especially by women. Most Algerian FLN supporters were active members of the Bomb Network, as liaison agent or bag carrier. Some under-cover combatants would die in the bush, carrying weapons. Lately, the armed struggle for the independence of South Sudan has had to rely on the courage and commitment of women for the victory in July 2011. All these heroines, true warriors, have indeed participated in wars of national liberation and led not only to political independence in the country, but also represent a major step forward in improving the status of women. And because womens memory should be kept alive, the present publication is grateful for following supports: Femmes Africa Solidarit (FAS), the collective GIMAC (Gender Is My Agenda Campaign), with the support of OXFAM this book exists. It may be enhanced by the contribution of all those who have bits of collective memory, photos, names, stories covering the unsung heroines of struggle movements. We gratefully acknowledge all those who have contributed directly or indirectly to this tribute to the Founding Mothers, especially Mrs Bineta Diop, President of FAS, Oley Dibba-Wadda, Vicky Luyima, Coumba Fall Venn, Samatha McKenzie Catherine Mabobori, Monique Kande, HE Mrs. Clementine Shakembo, Linus Gitahi.

Marie-Roger Biloa,
Millenium Club



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