WHO IS MAWINA KOUYATE?
A previous version of this article contained incorrect speculation that the Mawina Kouyate Center in Sierra Leone no longer existed. The Mawina Kouyate is still in existence and functioning. This article has been updated to reflect the facts.
A name synonymous with Mother Africa was born in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States of America on 31st March 1941.
For 40 good years of her life, Comrade Mawina Kouyate had been an exemplary revolutionary in international, Pan-African and community movements.
Comrade Mawina’s early work began in organising women around tenants and welfare rights in her birthplace of Boston. Comrade Mawina attained the height of her revolutionary work when she joined the All-African people’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) in the 1970s, after having been influenced by the work, recruitment and organisation of the Party militants led by the immortal Kwame Ture, formerly Stokely Carmichael.
She was particularly drawn into the forefront of the African Revolution by the practical and definitive position taken by the A-APRP, in regard to the emancipation and equality of the woman as a sine qua non for the total liberation and unification of Africa under a socialist government.
She thus became one of the founding members of the women’s wing of the Party, the All-African Women’s Revolutionary Union, AAWRU in 1980. Four years later she became the Co-coordinator of the Union from 1984 to 1995, and when the coordination committee expanded into an AAWRU Union Council she continued to be a member until her resignation in June 2002 for health reasons. She has also served as a member of the Central Committee of the A-APRP from 1980 until her resignation.
The A-APRP is the party conceived by Kwame Nkrumah to lead the African Revolution to its logical conclusion, following an upsurge of imperialist and neo-colonialist attacks against the independence of emerging African countries, particularly those countries led by revolutionary Pan-African governments in the 1960s.
Comrade Mawina’s revolutionary work heightened both qualitatively and quantitatively, as she also became a serious supporter and advocate of the women’s wings of historically revolutionary Pan-Africanist parties; the PDG-RDA of Guinea Conakry led by Ahmed Sekou Toure, the PAIGC of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde led by Amilcar Cabral, the Pan-African Union (PANAFU) of Sierra Leone, and the Pan-African Women’s Organisation of Azania (South Afrika).
In the international arena, Comrade Mawina gave unreserved and open support to the revolutionary people and government of Cuba, where she also sought medical treatment for cancer, which was facilitated by the Communist Party of Cuba. In 1999 she helped organise Fidel Castro’s visit to Harlem.
Comrade Mawina also gave revolutionary support to the progressive people and government of the Libyan Jamahiriya, and was one of the leading organisers of the various delegations of the AAPRP and its sister organisations to willfully travel to Libya to protest against the imperialist-engineered illegal sanctions against that African country.
Comrade Mawina’s lifelong struggle took her to a number of places in the world, sowing the seeds of freedom, equality and justice for all oppressed people.
Mawina Kouyate had her wish fulfilled on Tuesday September 3rd 2002, when after gallantly and victoriously giving all her life, energy, resources and time to the people of not only Africa, but to all oppressed people worldwide, she passed away peacefully in her Motherland of Africa in Kanifing South in the Gambia West Africa. She has definitely carved her name in the hearts and minds of all who are oppressed and the oppressors alike, and of future generations to come, for her uncompromising stand and fight against oppression, injustice and exploitation.
We call on our young African sisters to emulate the exemplary life of Mawina Kouyate. The sisters must protect their bodies from abuse both from themselves and others.
THE TEACHINGS OF MAWINA
Mawina had always said that the sisters must protect their bodies from abuse both from themselves and others. Mawina teaches us that capitalism is the enemy of the people, because this evil system does not view humanity as an end in itself which needs to be served by people. Rather, capitalism views human beings as a commodity that can generate wealth for men and women. Consequently, capitalism aims to degrade the human being into an object to be traded, bargained, negotiated and purchased like merchandise, used like a tool, and discarded like a waste product. No wonder slavery and colonialism thrived on the exploitation of human beings, in particular the African.
But Mawina noted that capitalism is most severe on the woman. She said capitalism, aided by feudalism and distorted religious beliefs, promotes the idea that the woman is value-less and cheap. Thus capitalism creates materials which it promotes that if the woman uses she upgrades herself and adds value to her body and status. This is why in the world today the woman has become an object of entertainment, taste, luxury, laughter, abuse and misuse. All throughout the world, beauty pageants are organised where women exhibit their bodies for people to watch and feel satiated. All forms of dress are created that covers less than half the body of the woman. All forms of hairdos and shoes are created that present the women in very wild and ridiculous appearances. But women and men are made to believe that if the woman puts these materials on then she becomes more presentable, beautiful, fashionable and prestigious.
This is all capitalist thinking and practice intended to degrade and exploit the woman for the profit of greedy capitalists. Instead of educating our girls to respect themselves and contribute to their society, capitalism, which is the basis of our education, teaches our boys and girls that beauty, fair-complexion and nakedly dressed are indications of modernity and success. No wonder in the Gambia and all over the African world our women bleach their skin and pour all kinds of dangerous chemicals on their body like cocoa butter, Clear Essence, Akagni etc., with the misguided belief that they are making their bodies look smoother and fresher. They could not realise the damage they cause to their health. Our women folk have been made to believe that the best among them is one who wastes her hard earned money into buying expensive dresses, hairdos, shoes, creams, and spending lavishly on ceremonies when their children and homes are lacking in numerous essential materials, services and programs.
Capitalism is the enemy of the people, more so the woman. This is why the women, and the young girls in particular, should lead the fight against capitalism and the intense materialisation of the society for which the women is the one who suffers most.
Mawina had used her resources not to buy expensive, half-naked dresses, ridiculously high-heeled shoes and wild hairdos, but she used her resources for the preservation of her body and health, the promotion of humanity and the fight against injustice and exploitation of men and women by the evil system of capitalism.
THE CONDITION OF WOMEN TODAY
Women constitute about 51% of the African Nation. This simple fact of numbers alone means that without their total involvement in the struggle for development, any efforts become more difficult. In Africa, and in most parts of the world, there is so much tokenism and speech-making on the issue but little attempt to bring women into the social, political and economic life of the country in any meaningful and real way. Women have been largely seen as a group that needs to be sympathised with, helped or aided because they are weak, unthinking and temperamental.
This is very unfortunate and false.
Thus a group of ‘concerned men and women’ would also get up somewhere to claim to represent the true interest of women and pose themselves as the spokesmen and spokeswomen for the masses of women. When one analyzes these individuals one notices at best they are merely doing lip service for their own personal aggrandizement, while the lot of the women continue to languish in poverty, exploitation and oppression.
Occasionally we have governments in Africa claim that because they have appointed a number of women ministers, or put a little more number in the national assembly or better still look at the number of women managers in the government, and therefore claim that women are progressing, and then take credit for that. But does this isolated and individual case and improvement reflect general improvement in the conditions of women in the towns and villages, in homes and factories, in the gardens and farms? No, it does not. The emancipation of women cannot be done by any other people except women themselves or are in the lead. This is what the women should realise now and get up to demand their freedom and equality. The oppressor never gives freedom by charity. Freedom is taken by any means necessary by the oppressed.
African women mark this! Your husbands, fathers, uncles, boyfriends, male co-workers and brothers will never, never willingly set you free!
You the Women have to free yourselves by your own effort.
The condition of our women is very deplorable. Backward cultural beliefs and practices, religious misconceptions and capitalism have made the women an object of ridicule, sympathy, profit-making and entertainment.
These oppressive and exploitative ideas, relations and systems are what need to be smashed now so that women, and ultimately the society in general can be free. As long as women are not free then men and the entire society are also not free.
Women face triple oppression. First they are oppressed simply because they belong to the African Nation. All Afrikaans are oppressed by capitalism which gave birth to slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism which we suffer from today. These evil systems are being propagated and run by a local minority elite in collaboration with their foreign masters in the Western Capitalist countries. The woman is oppressed secondly because of her economic class which defines her economic condition. In Africa women are not allowed to own property such as land.
They are more or less sold in marriage, where they are taught to serve their husbands as slaves. They cannot take any decisions regarding their economic well-being without the consent of the man. Thus the woman has become very poor, uneducated and unskilled. Thirdly women are oppressed because they are simply women. Misconceived ideas are used to create the belief that women are evil, weak and stupid by nature just because she is a woman. Stories from the Scriptures are taken advantage of and distorted to promote this misconception. Lives of great men in history such as Samson, Adam, and Joseph among others are used to show the evil nature of the woman. But no one talks about the weakness of such men to allow themselves to be carried by a woman if that ever happened in the first place. Secondly no one talks about how many more men have abused misused and destroyed women for their own selfish interests. But a few cases such as that of Samson and Delilah are used to indicate that the woman is evil. Have we asked who sent Delilah?
In our society women are considered to be a type of inferior being whose goal in life is to care for men, provide sexual services and to produce and raise children and carry out domestic chores. Women work from sun up to sun down and yet still they continue to languish in the most appalling conditions. Workshops, conferences, conventions, and organisations are created for women’s equality and emancipation, yet still the majority of women continue to suffer. Why? This is because most of these efforts and the individuals involved have not touched the crux of the matter. The crux of the matter is that the oppressive system that is in place has to be smashed. A new citizen has to arise that will realise that each and every human being is important and must not be exploited for the selfish interest of one individual. Society can only move up with the equal and free participation of all.
It is ungodly and foolhardy for women to succumb to these backward beliefs and practices in the name of preserving our culture. Any culture that is oppressive and exploitative is bad culture and needs to be discarded immediately.