As a mother, my daughter is always at the fore of my mind in most things I do. I always ask myself “how will action X affect my daughter?” So it should come as no surprise to you when the other day I was thinking of African women who my daughter could study when she was older. Not just any African woman, but an African woman who really fought for what she believed in and strived to be the best that she can be. For some reason, Yaa Asantewaa was the first African woman to come to mind.
Who was Yaa Asantewaa?
Going by memory, all I could remember about her was that she was Ghanaian. So I had to Google her up to remind myself what was AMAZING about her.
According to the Nana Yaa Asantewa Awards website:
Yaa Asantewaa is said to have been born in 1840 and died in 1921. She was a successful farmer and mother. She was an intellectual, a politician, human right activist, Queen and a leader. Yaa Asantewaa became famous for leading the Ashanti rebellion against British colonialism to defend the Golden stool. She promoted women emancipation as well as gender equality. She was the sister of the Ruler of Ejisu (Ejisuhene) Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpase, an ethnic group in present day Ghana.
Asantewaa was appointed queen mother by her brother, Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese. Akwasi died after the Asante civil war between 1883 to 1888. After his death, Yaa Asantewaa, being very influential as queen mother, used her influence to nominate her grandson as Ruler of Ejisu. In 1896, her Grandson as well as the King of the Asante (Prempeh I) were exiled to Seychelles by the British. This was Britain’s way of dealing with African kings in the past as was the case with the Benin Kingdom with the capture and exile of Oba Ovonramwen (King of Benin) in 1897. Sending a king to exile in such times was often followed by looting of their land. This has led to the discovery of lots of Africa’s valued arts and crafts in Britain. Till date, Africa has still not been able to regain its stolen treasures.
As expected, to further entrench their authority, the British Governor-General of Ghana (then known as the Gold Coast) Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool. The Golden stool was the symbol of the Asante kingdom. This prompted a conference of the elders. Yaa Asantewaa was highly disgusted at the behavior of her male counterparts and insisted that if the men would not fight, she would gather the women to fight for the land.
Yaa Asantewaa led the famous war known as the War of the Golden Stool in 1900 against the British. She was captured and sent on exile to the Seychelles. Yaa Asantewa died in exile on the 17th of October 1921. Yaa Asantewa’s War was the last major war led by an African woman. To date, she is honored in Africa as one of the greatest African women. Her body was later returned to Ghana were she was given a befitting burial. She is honored with a school named after her, ‘Yaa Asantewaa Girl’s Secondary School’. In a worldwide competition organized by the BBC Focus on Africa Program at the end of 1999 to select the African Personality of the Millennium, Yaa Asantewaa placed 20th out of one hundred nominees.
Wilhelmina J. Donkoh once wrote; “The world has been blessed with numerous women of great courage. These include Queen Idia of Benin, Queen Amina of Zaria, Queen Ndeta Yalla of Senegal, Nongqawuse of the Republic of South Africa, Queen of the Ndongo of Angola, Kimpa Vita of Kongo, Rosa Luxemburg of Polen, Martha Schad of Augsburg, Queen Elisabeth of Great Britain and a host of other brave women leaders. Nana Yaa Asantewaa was the most prominent of the lot, in the African context. Her accomplishments may not have been as great as Queen Amina of Zaria or Queen Elizabeth I in terms of span of leadership, but her courage to stand up to fight the British occupation in West Africa in spite of an initially unmotivated front put up by the Ghanaian men puts her at the top of Africa’s greatest female leaders.”
Why is Yaa Asantewaa an AMAZING African woman?
To me (Segilola Salami), Yaa Asantewaa was everything a mother is. She did not wait for anyone to defend her land or her people. She was courageous, she did not need a man to save her.
I hope to raise a daughter who is both brave and courageous, who stands up for what is right and defends those that are defenceless with wisdom and to the best of her ability.
I actually enjoyed writing this post and Queen Amina of Zaria is asking me to write about her next. Make sure you come back next week to find out who Queen Amina is.
In case my name didn’t give it away, I’m African, so African history is quite important to me.
That said, what do you think of Yaa Asantewaa? Please leave a comment below 😀