One of the interesting aspects of the revolution being waged in Togo is the very visible and central role that women are playing in that revolution. Farida Nabourema explained in an interview with Sahara TV that the market women in Togo were the primary source of financial support for the political opposition, which caused the government to burn down the two largest markets in Togo in retaliation against these women. Farida also pointed out that there is a long history of Togolese women resisting against oppression. During the period of French colonialism Togolese women rose up in protest against increased taxation.
African women have always been on the front line of the struggle. Apart from the example of women opposing taxation in Togo, in other West African countries such as Nigeria and Cameroon women held similar protests against colonial policies. In many West African societies there was a tradition in which if one woman in a village was wronged by a particular man she would inform the other women. These women would then continuously harass and disrupt him until he was forced to apologize for his actions. This was a custom that was used to protect women against the abuses of men and this same tradition was employed by women in West Africa to fight against colonial oppression.
African women have always played a central role in the struggle against oppression. Nzinga is well-known in African history as the warrior queen who fought against the slave trade. On the other side of the Atlantic we find women such as Harriet Tubman in the United States and Nanny of the Maroons in Jamaica, both of whom fought against slavery. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Fela Kuti’s mother, was a very prominent activist from Nigeria and she played an important role in Africa’s struggle for independence from colonial rule. Rosa Parks, Yaa Asantewaa, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Dandara of Palmares are some more of the many examples of African women struggling against the oppression of their people.
In my book, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, and Other Essays, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the role that African women have played in the struggle against slavery and colonialism. In that same chapter I also point out that African women traditionally held empowered positions in their societies. African women were queens, queen mothers, religious leaders, and military commanders. This was sometimes surprising to Europeans who came from societies where the rights of women were severely restricted. And I have pointed out in a previous article that in Nigeria the Bible was used as a justification for denying equal rights to women, despite the fact that the two most powerful queens in the Bible are the two African queens that are mentioned there. That really demonstrates the empowered position that African women held.
The role that women are playing in the revolution in Togo is a very significant one. They are involved in various aspects of the struggle, whether its protesting in the streets, financing the opposition, or even holding sex strikes to force their men to become more active in the fight against dictatorship in Togo. The role that women are playing in the revolt in Togo is also another example of the important role that women have played and continued to play in the struggle for liberation being waged by African people in Togo and elsewhere.