“WOMEN of Africa we salute and honour you! And tell me here is there a man who can say I’m not born of a woman?” said the late former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe when he delivered his speech at an African Union Summit held in South Africa in 2015.
Without doubt, Cde Mugabe will be remembered for his love, care and concern for the downtrodden, especially children and women.
As the nation and the world reflect on the life of Cde Mugabe, we must celebrate his contribution to the advancement of women in Africa.
At the age of 95, Cde Mugabe is no more but his voice will always ring loud and be remembered for speaking up for the voiceless women across the continent.
He challenged practices that put women on the periphery.
His deep respect for women saw him appreciate the contribution of great women of Africa such as Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire, and Mbuya Nehanda.
“Whenever I think of the virtues and indomitable spirit that epitomises the African woman, I’m reminded of the heroines across the African continent who stood up against the forces of colonisation and occupation.” said Cde Mugabe
“Who can ever forget the indomitable and fighting spirit of such legends as Yaa Ashantewaa, Queen Mother of the Ashanti Kingdom who, when confronted by the British said to the people: ‘If you men of Ashanti will not go forward then we will, I shall call upon my fellow women, we will fight the whitemen, we will fight until the last of us fall in the battlefield’.”
As a freedom fighter and one of the founding fathers of Zimbabwe, Cde Mugabe appreciated the role women played in the liberation of the nation.
He was a leader who acknowledged that the conquest of the British in the liberation struggle was also made possible through the efforts of women.
Cde Mugabe therefore carried the story of Mbuya Nehanda across nations:
“We in Zimbabwe also have a story to tell about the woman, Mbuya Nehanda, who led the men during the 1897 war against the British and when those other men she was leading with were arrested, together with her and she was asked to submit, she said she will not submit. She refused saying, ‘I don’t want your religion’.
The others agreed to be baptised before they were hanged.
She said, yes I’m going to die and my bones will rise tomorrow and indeed they rose and indeed we fought the British and we indeed conquered the British.
So her bones are what we are now; we have risen from her now,” Cde Mugabe said of the great woman.
Cde Mugabe showed his respect of women in politics by valuing the ZANU PF Women’s League, considering it an important wing of the party.
Women benefitted from various Government initiatives that ensured food security in the country.
The women of Zimbabwe and Africa salute Cde Mugabe!