In the freedom fighting legacy of Malawi’s Vera Chirwa, you see the power of emotion and feelings, often devalued in women, as the driver of her activism. You see, also, the feelings and compassion for the people whose freedom she fought for and still the love she held for her own family, while being tortured and violated by the country she stood for.
Editor’s note: This essay is available in print in our latest issue on African Revolutions and Revolutionaries. Buy the issue here.
Vera Chirwa’s story is unique. Not only is it about a fight for justice and human rights, it is also a story of grit, love, motherhood, faith, and passion. That her story is not widely known to Malawi’s younger generation is a pity and emphasizes that history is told by the victors and, in itself, holds nuances of privilege and power. To tell Vera’s story is to acknowledge that her legacy represents many other untold stories.
Vera’s story displays the tensions of motherhood that lie in wanting the best for your family while also pursuing your own dreams, and the sacrifices that come with pursuing a dream as great as freedom for your country. It showcases activism for a country but also for the most marginalized—for the rights of women politically, socially and economically. It puts a spotlight on collaborative leadership that is just as necessary in present-day Malawi as it was during the fight for independence.
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