Very often history books suffer from amnesia: they forget women’s contributions to revolutions. History acts as if the men had been all alone, as if only men were there, as if only men stood against injustice.
When people talk of the struggle for independence in Africa, and around the world, only the great men are cited. As one browses from country to country, only men are cited, as if women had been silent spectators. Do you think apartheid would have collapsed without the critical and vital input of women? Do you think without Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s name would have been anchored in our heads today? What do you think these women were doing while their husbands were in prison? History wants us to think that they were ‘just’ raising children as if that was not an enormous contribution already, but in the case of Winnie Mandela and countless others, they took up the fight, and were jailed, harassed, beaten, and humiliated by the system (some were even raped). Yet today, the world acclaims only the men! And when a woman raises too strong a voice, then she is vilified, told that she acts like a man, or is an ‘angry’ woman. How could you face injustice day after day, and just keep quiet? There comes a time when, as Bob Marley says, “You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time…” people will rise up!”
I am so sick of the saying, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” I think it is again quite sexist, and should rather read, “ALONGSIDE EVERY GREAT MAN IS A GREAT WOMAN.” Raising children, and pumping somebody’s ego after a day’s fight, taking up the fights, and then keeping the men’s memory so that the world does not forget them, are no easy fit; these are extraordinary fits. Alongside Nelson Mandela, there is Winnie Mandela. Alongside Thomas Sankara, there is Mariam Sankara. Alongside Patrice Lumumba, there is Pauline Lumumba. Alongside Felix Moumié, there is Marthe Moumié. Rosa Parks had to be defiant and sit in the front of the bus, for the movement to be taken over by Martin Luther King Jr.; without her part in the fight, there would have been no movement!
It is our duty to remember this, and to claim it. The world and history wants us to think that men are the only ones in the world, when we know that 50% of the world’s population is female; men are not the only ones fighting for independence, liberation, freedom, revolution, democracy, … Can one make a revolution without the remaining 50%? NO! It is our duty to remember Women’s contributions to history, and stop the global historical amnesia!