Africa: Exposing the Invisible – African Women and the OAU

Though little acknowledged, one year prior to the founding of the OAU, Pan African Women’s Organization was formed in 1962 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It could be said that PAWO was the building block, the impetus, for the establishment of the OAU

‘I can hear the roar of women’s silence’ – Thomas Sankara

May 25 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of the African Union (OAU), an epic occasion for the African States, post-colonialism. The long, wide and high road to this unity is an unbroken celebration in the hearts and minds of many Africans. The dignity of our brave forbearers, their fervor for freedom and relentless fight against the current of imperialism; their spirit runs deep in our veins.

In our observance, usually, our narratives take on male features; we tend to have male dominant memories. The memory is etched by means of language (in the English language) words effectively crafted with authority identifiable to the male adjective. This hegemonic masculinity plays itself out through words like ‘History’, ‘fore fathers’, etc, embodying and sustaining attitudes towards the idea of reality and antiquity.

Unfortunately, history as a male domain has become acceptable, and it will continue to be so until we, women and men begin to reclaim the prominent role of women in ‘her story’. As narratives are the result of choices made, in the African context, as a woman and an African-woman, there is responsibility to create space(s) for the silenced and/ stories from the subaltern, from the margin. To celebrate the OAU formation in a male dominant narrative would be effectively equal to casting-off self, allowing the invisibility and reducing the worth of self and women.

We salute Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Seku Toure, Julius Nyerere, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Ketema Yifru -an avid Pan-Africanist who played a eminent role -and others who made this day possible, supporting the rich tradition of African collaboration that dates back nearly 40 years to the formation of the OAU. The independence of African states to form the OAU was also made possible by chief freedom fighters such as Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Duse Mohamed Ali, Cheikh Anta Diop, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Amilcar Cabral, JE Casely Hayford, and in the diaspora, W.E.B Du Bois, grassroots organizers such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, to name a few, influential Pan-Africanist who fought for years for the unification and liberation of African people.

Though much is not remarked, one year prior to the founding of the OAU, Pan African Women’s Organization (PAWO) was formed in 1962, in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. The basis was the total liberation of the African continent, and the institution of a joint justice. Thus, it could be said that PAWO was the building block, the impetus, for the establishment of the OAU. Women such as Jeanne Martin Cisse, Diallo Virginie Camara, Pumla Kisosonkole, and others were notable in leading PAWO. The PAWO, including the OAU, was shaped and stands tall today, due to the willful strength and weight of African-Women-revolutionaries who paved the way, through participation in armed resistance and engagement of anticonlonial struggles.

We pay tribute to: Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Yaa Asantewaa, Margaret Ekpo, Winnie Mandela, Miriam Makeba, Queen Nzinga, Aba Womens’ Revolt of Nigeria, Muhumusa and the order of the Nyabingi’s movement, and many more. In the history of time, women, in the social and political struggles were commanding sponsors, organizers, supporters and leaders.

Lest we forget!

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