Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa
Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa of the Ejisu Clan of the Asante people is a Ghanaian hero. King Prempeh I of the Asanteman federation was captured and exiled in 1896 by the British (who were looking to claim Ghana as the British “Gold Coast”). The Ashanti people had built an influential West African Empire, which the British were now forcing them to give up. Not only this, but the British colonial governor was demanding the Golden Stool (a historical ancestral symbol of power). Asantewaa is a hero because of the passion she had and courage she showed trying to achieve independence for Ghana. When the Ashanti men were ready to surrender and give up freedom and independence, Asantewaa spoke up:
“Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King.
If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opolu Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
Asantewaa lead an army of 5000, but was eventually captured and deported; her act of bravery stirred the desire for independence. Ghana secured independence from the United Kingdom in 1957. A museum exists to recognize Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa at Kwaso in the Ejisu-Juaben District of Ghana.
(Above information Retrieved from: http://www.blackhistoryheroes.com/2010/05/queen-mother-nana-yaa-asantewaa.html)
I am working on the maternity ward at the 37 Military Hospital, which is called the Asantewaa Ward after this historical story that promotes feminism, leadership and liberty. I have always been passionate about gender equality and I was so pleased to hear of a woman portrayed as such a historical figure. This story promotes empowerment for women and is an inspiration for women. Women’s health is of great importance as it also affects the health of children and the family as a whole. Although there are Millennium Development Goals as well as health ministry goals based around women and maternal health, greater improvement is needed. For example, the maternal mortality rate in Ghana is 350/100 000 live births compared to Canada’s 12/100 000 live births.
The traditional role of the woman in Ghana is largely based around looking after the families needs such as gathering water, preparing food, managing family healthcare needs, bearing children (Kwapong, 2008). Gender role perception in Ghana differs between traditional and modern outlooks with an increasing change in women’s desire for education despite the larger population’s beliefs. Traditional beliefs are still very prominent however, especially in the many rural areas. Although some women’s beliefs are starting to change and women are becoming more independent and educated, research shows that the impression of the traditional female role is still the most prominent to males (Akotia & Anum, 2012).
African women are not by any means the stereotyped “mute beasts of burden” as Curry (2011) states, however they do not have the freedom they deserve. Further efforts to create equality and increase knowledge of this topic in both female and males are essential.
“Because in our hands lies, perhaps, the last possible hope for ourselves— and everyone else on the continent. After all, we are one of the world’s least-touched resources.”
(Curry, pp. 195, 2011)
In order to break the cycle of poverty, oppression and victimization of women, a united, strong, and educated front needs to be established. Inspiration must be obtained from figures like Asantewaa (Curry, 2011).
It has been wonderful to meet Ghanaian women and learn about their lives. I’ve spent a lot of time with the women in the hospital (patients and workers), majority of which are intelligent, strong and independent. Laboring mothers are extremely brave and are able to endure incredible pain with hardly a flinch. Many of the young women I’ve met are waiting to have children until their career is established, and marrying when they are ready. I can’t wait to meet more people, and I hope for all the best for the future of Ghanaian women.
“As a role model for the woman of the new millennium, Yaa Asantewaa challenges women in particular and society in general to reconstruct a wider society that more fully explores women’s lives and experiences within it. The important lessons to learn from Nana Yaa Asantewaa are that she had a vision and ideals that she firmly held on to. She did not permit her gender to be a stumbling block in her march toward this vision.”
(Curry, pp. 196, 2011)
Thankyou for reading!
Akotia, C., & Anum, A. (2012). The Moderating Effects of Age and Education on Gender Differences on Gender Role Perceptions. Gender & Behaviour, 10(2), 5022-5043.
Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa. (n.d.) black history heroes. Retrieved from: http://www.blackhistoryheroes.com/2010/05/queen-mother-nana-yaa-asantewaa.html
Curry, G. (2011). Women from Ghana. Frontiers: A Journal Of Women Studies, 32(1), 179-198.
Kwapong, O. (2008). The health situation of women in Ghana. Rural & Remote Health, 8(4), 963.