Seventy years ago , on May 15 1943, History was made in Somalia. The Somali Youth League, a revolutionary, freedom, and political movement was formed. There has been much written about the SYL. A simple Google research will result in a wealth of information and photographs on this historic and dynamic organization.
All Somalis I know are deeply proud of this movement for fighting the good fight and freeing Somalia from European colonization.
However, what concerns me, angers me and saddens me is how the pivotal role of Somali women in this struggle has been completely erased. When one reads about the movement and views the photographs from this era and of the SYL, women are nowhere to be found.
The conversations and remembrance of the SYL and this period have no recollection of the significant role of Somali women as if women didn’t even exist.
Yet women not only existed, but they were at the heart of the struggle. The freedom struggle in Somalia, and elsewhere in Africa would have never been possible without women, but what are the dominate narratives of our histories namely as told from the perspective of men telling us?
I do attribute much of the misogyny which exists in Somalia and elsewhere to the erasure from history of the pivotal role and significant contributions of women.
The removal of Somali women from the narrative for the liberation of Somalia is just one example. We need to reclaim our history. We need to learn about the many stories of that history, not just the role and contributions of men.
One of the few sources on the role of Somali women during this historic period I have come across is from: Safia Aidid’s Haweenku Wa Garab (Women are a Force): Women and the Somali Nationalist Movement, 1943–1960
Safia quotes women poets and freedom fighters from that era, who being women are usually not in the collective memory of their people.
Hawa Jibiril is mentioned several times. Hawa Jibril is a legendary Somali poet and has a book, which I will be ordering and I encourage if this subject is of interest be Somali or not to also order. The book is called: Saa Waxay Tiri, And Then She Said: The Poetry and Times of Hawa Jibril. (It’s in English)
(A young Hawa Jibril on the cover of her book. Here is a recent youtube video of her and her daughter reading some poems from the book).
Below are quotes from the article linked above and below.
The historiography and metanarrative of nationalism in Somalia is often one of “men, their movements and parties, and struggles over power,” with the nationalist movement itself framed as a masculine project.10 In what is perhaps the only comprehensive analysis of nationalism in Somalia, Saadia Touval’s Somali Nationalism, there is not a single reference to Somali women, let alone any references implying a secondary, supportive role..
Women were there from the beginning,” recalled Jamaad Diriye Ali, one of the Somali Youth League women I interviewed. “When it was said that we would struggle for independence, the women joined.
Known as the Sisters, SYL women throughout the 1940s and 1950s were involved in organizing and recruiting new members, promoting Somalinimo and nationalist feeling, raising funds and collecting membership fees, housing and concealing nationalists from authorities, and participating in demonstrations. At times they were imprisoned, tortured, or killed.
Hawa Jibril’s poem describes women’s activities:
At the time we were fighting for our flag
Sisters, we chanted and we clapped
Till our hands and jaws got sore
Sisters, we sold our jewelry
And donated to our League
Enriching the struggle.
When told by men that women lack the capacity for leadership
Hawa Jibril replied:
Are you not really arguing as the Italians? Are you not, in fact, supporting their contention, as expressed at the United Nations, that the Somalis are not ready for independence, because they allege that we have not sufficient education or political maturity?
All credit goes to Safia Aidid: Source
Deleuze, Difference and Repetition