Gender, Anti-Colonialism and Nationalism The Anti-Colonial Legacies of African Women

That women’s participation in anti-colonial and nationalist struggles may not be as obvious in existing literature does not mean such participation was peripheral.

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Walking into the headquarters of the African Union at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, one is quickly confronted at the entrance by a display of about 50 Africans, all men, ascribed with the legacy of African nationalists. These men are noted to have worked towards attaining independence or rebuilding Africa. Sadly, not a single woman’s image adorns this seeming ‘historical wall’.  Men, apparently, monopolize the nationalist narrative in Africa. Very few accounts or writings depict women conspicuously as political players or avid influencers of the anti-colonialism discourse. While Africa’s anti-colonialism and nationalism discourse hardly include the role that women played as nationalists, the fact remains that women distinguished themselves in the colonial and nationalist struggle as powerful, self-determining and yet matriarchal.

Feminism is having a marked impact on studies of colonialism, especially on the gender dimensions of nationalist movements and ideologies. Africa’s reaction to European intrusion into Africa was not uniform; throughout the period of the scramble for Africa, European colonizers faced resistance in many parts of Africa. There are advantages to viewing the workings of such resistance through the lens of gender because gendered dynamics illuminate valuable, under-discussed aspects of anti-colonial struggles...

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