Yaa Asantewaa: The Warrior Queen

In honor of Black History Month, the Involvement Newspaper will be featuring African leaders, heroes, and activists in a bid to remember their contributions towards a better Africa.

By: Sharon Jerotich (jerotichsharon096@gmail.com)

Photo courtesy of breathlist.com

The year is 1840 and the subject of awe is Nana Yaa Asantewaa. She was born in the Asante Kingdom which is modern-day Ghana. She was Asona royalty from the Besease clan in Central Ghana and was of the Edweso stool clan. Sister to Kwasi Afrane- Ruler of the Edweso and wife to Owusu Kabwena- the seventh King of Asante. She was later bestowed upon the honour of queen mother by her brother, Kwasi Afrane.

Yaa was not just royalty because of her bloodline. The way she led her life supported her royalty status. It is recorded that even as she was growing up, she was interested in local administration. Yaa’s rise to power started with the arrest of the king, the queen-mother, and almost every other leader of the Asante Kingdom. She was forced to act as regent on behalf of the queen mother. She attended meetings and represented her people, the Edweso. This she did with bravery.

It is recorded that she once uttered these words, “If you, men of Asante will not go forward, then we will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight until the last of us falls on the battlefield.” This came after the chiefs in the Asante Kingdom had begun to lose hope in their fight for the golden stool (a symbol of unity in the Asante Kingdom). With these words, she gave the chiefs the will to fight once again.

For her heroism and leadership, Yaa Asanetwaa paid the price. She was banished to Seychelles where she lived as a prisoner until she died in 1921. However, to this day she is remembered not only in Ghana but in the rest of the world as someone who fought to preserve the freedom of the Asante people. She also inspired subsequent nationalist movements among Ghana and the rest of the Gold Coast which led to the freedom of Ghana in 1957, the first country in sub- Saharan Africa to attain independence.

The emancipation of Ghana instigated a series of nationalist movements in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon all of which attained independence by the year 1960.

Aside from her political contributions, Yaa Asanetwaa has been a subject of inspiration for many African Feminist Movements. She was mother, guardian to her grandchild, farmer and took up leadership roles upon the passing of her brother and imprisonment of her grandchild- Kofi Tene.

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