Monday, May 7, 2007

Women in Politics

[Nairobi, Kenya]
WHAT THE HELL is it with women when it comes to ceasing power? Everywhere you look, they're getting marginalized, and ending up on the short end of the stick. In some societies, they get treated worse than cattle. Don't they realise that the only way to make long, lasting changes in their plight is by obtaining political power? It seems logical to me. No?

A stroll down memory lane
I remember when I lived with my remarkable
step-mother (Martha) in Barbados for a good 2 years or so - when I was 11. Well, she tried to educate herself, but my dad would burn her books & clothes, and also physically abuse her - badly. After 16 years of putting up with that bullsh!t, he hit her one times too many, and she proceeded to chase him out of his house with a cutlass (used to cut grass, sugar cane, etc...a panga in Africa?). Finally, she wasn't afraid. Well, he never came back to the house, and she was finally free from his reign of terror. The courts also awarded her the house, and she was free to raise my little (half) brother in peace.

Now, I'm sure that this crap would not have been tolerated had there been a culture of women running government in my country of birth. Right? And that's my point. In order to make serious changes, you must first cease power. Then, you appoint people (women in this case) into strategic positions (judges, police administration, MPs, etc.) in order to affect change immediately. Not next year. Today! See, it's so simple. [image: Women In Ancient Iran]
Ancient Iranian Women WarriorsWomen, wake up!
Today, I'm going to repost a comment I uploaded relating to
an article on Nicolas Sarkozy's win in France at Ségolène Royale's expense. I truly believe that it's relevant here because Africa (indeed the world!) needs more women in politics who are committed to real change. Again, when will women stop competing with each other see the big picture? After all, women usually represent a larger percentage of the electorate. Anyhow, here's what I wrote:
"Royal had repeatedly appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of female solidarity. But Sarkozy, a conservative who made his reputation as a hard-line minister of the interior, got the majority of the women's vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company." {source}
WHAT is it with WOMEN? They're hardly represented in French politics! They probably earn less money compared to their male counterparts. And they probably face sexism in many parts of their society. Yet when they have a chance to let a fellow female take the reigns of power, they vote for the sausage. No wonder they never make inroads on key legislation relating to equal pay, women's rights/issues, political representation et al. Mrs Royale was an outstanding candidate that should've made all French women PROUD.

Oh well, I guess French women deserve what they get for not at least giving one of their OWN a CHANCE.

Go Africa go! {source}


Max The IT pro said...

Hmmn, this is an interesting video. Are women actually colluding when they remain silent? You be the judge.

The Cost of Collusion (ISBN 0-9685566-5-5)

Collusion is defined as acting together secretly; conniving. It also comes from the Latin meaning to play or to deceive together, as in a game.

We, as women, have been colluding for generations in ways that have led to our own and each other's powerlessness in the living of our lives. We say yes when we want to say no; we "make nice" with things that are causing us harm; we are willing to surrender ourselves rather than risk hurting someone else's feelings. We encourage each other to do this under the guise of being 'reasonable' or 'understanding'. And then we turn 40, look in the mirror and don't like who we have become.

In this program, the last in a series that delves into how women express power, we explore what we do; why we do and how we do - over and over again! - the things in our lives that don't work - and then blame everything around us for our own state of powerlessness. This is an opportunity to open your mind and your thoughts to consider the depth of your own power and ask: where did it all go? And how do I take it back!
Women and Power - The Series

Max The IT pro said...

If you want to know who I am
I am daughter of Angola, of Kêto and Nagô
I don't fear blows because I am a warrior
Inside of samba I was born
I raised myself, I transformed myself, and
no one will lower my banner, O, O, O.
I am a warrior woman daughter of Ogun and Yansâ

---Song from an album by Brazilian singer Clara Nuñes

Max The IT pro said...

I think my step-mother would be in good company here:

According to Greek accounts, the earliest Amazons came from Libya (then a name for most of North Africa). They wore red leather and carried crescent-shaped shields. It was these Libyan Amazons, they said, who later founded cities and temples in the Aegean and Anatolia.

At a much later period, the Amazons of Dahomey were crack all-female troops, all female, who also served as royal bodyguards. They were also priestesses and wore crescent moon crowns.

The Hausa had a number of warrior queens, notably Amina of Zau Zau. A woman named Bazao-Turunku led warriors and founded a town south of Zaria.

Nupe women warriors called Isadshi-Koseshi fought as fiercely as the men, opposing invasions of the Fulbe conquerers who raided the Nupe for cattles and slaves, especially women.

Source: African Women Warriors page

Max The IT pro said...

Aaah, so this is why Jamaican women are so strong-willed. :-)
Nyabinghi, the "hidden queen" fought to free Africans from English slavery and rule. Also called Queen Muhmusa or Tahtahme, she inspired the Nyabinghi underpinnings of Rastafarianism.

Nanny of the Maroons was born in Ghana, and folk history says that she came to Jamaica with the express purpose of becoming a high priestess and leader of her people, never having been a slave. She led the eastern Maroons based in Moreton, and forged an alliance with another group led by Cudjoe. (The name Maroons comes from the Spanish cimarron,meaning "gone back to the wild.")

The Jamaican Maroons were the first people to force the English to sign a treaty with their subjects, on March 1, 1738. The lands conceded in this treaty formed a base for the Maroon's independent survival. One of these communities was named Nannytown after the female Ghanaian leader. Maroon country was so feared by the English that it became known as the "Land of Look-Behind."


Max The IT pro said...

South American Women Warriors

From the time of Columbus' discovery of the "new world" reports of women warrior tribes were common. Gonzalo Pizarro wrote of "ten or twelve Amazons fighting in the front rank of the Indians" who killed many of his soldiers. Francisco de Orellana reported his expedition being set upon by a women's army near the Maranon River on the Venezuelan coast, which is known today as part of the Amazon River. Father Cristobal de Acuna gave an extensive account of tribes of warrior women in his, New Discovery of the Great River of the Amazons. Accounts by other South American explorers, conquistadores and priests in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Chile and Argentina mention first-hand encounters with women in battle or second-hand reports of women warrior tribes.

As with the ancient Amazons until recently many historians, who accepted these same sources as credible on all other details of the South American conquest, dismissed their reports of women warriors as fiction. However in the last 30 years anthropologists Robert and Yolanda Murphy and ethnologist Jesco von Puttkamer, among others, have documented a growing body of evidence which supports the reports that matriarchal women warrior tribes existed throughout the continent.

Source: History of women warriors through the 19th Century

Max The IT pro said...

Max Dashu

This is a brief summary of a visual presentation, first shown in 1986, which was given in September 2005 at the Shamanic Studies Conference in San Rafael, California.

A Chukchee proverb declares, “Woman is by nature a shaman.” (1) Yet the female dimension of this realm of spiritual experience has often been slighted. Mircea Eliade believed that women shamans represented a degeneration of an originally masculine profession, yet was hard put to explain why so many male shamans customarily dressed in women’s clothing and assumed other female-gendered behaviors. Nor does the masculine-default theory account for widespread traditions, from Buryat Mongolia to the Bwiti religion in Gabon, that the first shaman was a woman.

In fact, women have been at the forefront of this field worldwide, and in some cultures, they predominate. This was true in ancient China and Japan, as it still is in modern Korea and Okinawa, as well as among many South African peoples and northern Californians such as the Karok and Yurok. There are countless other examples, including the machi of the Mapuche in southern Chile and the babaylan and catalonan of the Philippines.

Images, oral traditions, and historical descriptions show women as invokers, healers, herbalists, oracles and diviners, ecstatic dancers, shapeshifters, shamanic journeyers, and priestesses of the ancestors. The Chinese Wu were ecstatic priestesses who danced to the music of drums and flutes until they reached trance, receiving shen (spirits) into their bodies, healing and prophesying under their inspiration, speaking in tongues, swallowing swords and spitting fire. The power of the shen gathered around the whirling dancers was said to cause objects to rise into the air, to prevent wounds from forming when the dancers slashed themselves with knives.

Similar descriptions were recorded by Greco-Roman visitors to Anatolia: "At Castabala, in Cappadocia, the priestesses of an Asiatic goddess, whom the Greeks called Artemis Perasia, used to walk barefoot through a furnace of hot charcoal and take no harm." (2)

Certain female burials from ancient Central Asia have been designated as shamanic priestesses by archaeologists Natalia Polosmak and Jeanine Davis-Kimball. The priestess of Ukok (fifth century BCE) was buried in a three-foot-tall framed headdress adorned with a Tree of Life, with gilded felines and birds on its branches. Similar finds have been excavated at Ussun’ in south Kazakhstan, and from the Ukraine to the Tarim basin, with recurrent themes of the Tree of Life headdress, amulets, incense, medicine bags, and sacramental mirrors. Such mirrors are also seen in the Bactrian region of Afghanistan, held facing out against the body, and they still figure as initiatory devices wielded by female adepts in Tibet. The overwhelmingly female mikogami of Japan also kept the “sacred mirror” of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

My visual presentation Woman Shaman includes a sequence of women shapeshifting into animal form or riding on the backs of shamanic steeds. These themes recur in many shamanic traditions, and are vividly illustrated in modern Arctic carvings. An Aleut ivory (circa 1816) shows a woman shaman wearing an animal mask. Other examples from the mid-20th century include "Woman Riding a Bear" by Cecilia Arnadjuk, Repulse Bay, Canada; "Woman/Polar Bear" by Odin Maratse, Greenland; a walrus-tusked "Woman Shaman" by Nancy Pukingrnak of Baker Lake; a half-woman, half-walrus piece titled "Woman Shaman Transforming Herself"; and "Medicine Woman" by Kaka of Cape Dorset.

The darwisa or maraboutes of North Africa bear Islamic titles, but practice much older North African customs. Among the Tunisian cave-dwellers, the darwisa cures sick people from possession from the jnun. In the ritual, she plays drum rhythms to discover which jinn caused illness; when she hits the right one, the person begins to dance. Then the darwisa talks to the spirit about what caused the illness and what is required to cure it. (3)

Codices produced by Aztec artists shortly after the Spanish conquest show women presiding over the temescal (sweat lodge). One of the invocations sung by such a priestess was recorded: "Mother of the gods and us all, whose creative and lifegiving power shone in the Temezcalli, also named Xochicalli, the place where she sees sacred things, sets to right what has been deranged in human bodies, makes young and tender things growing and strong, and where she aids and cures." (4)

Invocatory chants have remained an element of Mexican Indian shamanism. One of the great master was Maria Sabina, “the woman who knows how to swim in the sacred,” whose incantations seem to have acted as a means of entering into deep states of consciousness. Laying on of hands was part of her healing practice. Further north, in California, Bernice Torrez of the Kashaya Pomo, healed by touching and removing spirits of illness from the body of the sick person. She was the daughter of Essie Parrish, the great yomta, a title which means “Song.” This prophet-seeress carried chants for ceremonies, healing, and control of the elements.

Chant and shaking a sacred rattle are important elements in the practice of Katjambia, a Himba medicine woman in Namibia. As she shakes the rattle, she calls out Njoo, Njoo, in a "secret language from Angola." After absorbing the negative energies into her own body, Katjambia returns to the sacred fire of her ancestors, who release them. A song by the Chilean composer and folklorist Violeta Parra celebrates the powers of the Mapuche machi, describing how she presides over the guillatún ceremonies and how her shamanizing cures the sick and brings a crop-threatening rain to an end.

The healing power of female shamans was occasionally stated to have been so far-reaching that they were described as being able to restore life to the dead. So it was told of Pa Sini Jobu, great Tungutu of the Bosso people in the middle Niger region. Her method of dancing to ecstasy and shifting into the form of a great bird echoes the story told of Isis. Both the goddess and the Tungutu are described as beating their wings over the dead (a ram, in Pa Sini Jobu’s case) and bringing them to life. (The Colchian sorceress Medea is also pictured bringing a ram to life, using a cauldron, herbs, and incantations.) In western Africa, the sorceress Kulutugubaga has the power to heal all and bring the dead to life. She is the last of the legendary Nine Sorceresses of Mande.

Reviving the dead was one of the marvels performed by Yeshe Tsogyel, a foundational figure of Tibetan Buddhism. In Lady of the Lotus Born, she says, "... In Nepal I brought a dead man back to life... My body journeyed like a rainbow in celestial fields..." (5) This 8th-century poem is loaded with shamanistic content, recast in a Buddhist mold. The shamanic Bönpo religion is known to have contributed many elements to Tibetan Buddhism.

A Manchurian epic, Nishan Shaman, turns around the story of a woman who is the most powerful shaman in the country. She is called upon to revive the son of a rich man after countless others had failed. She beats her drum, chants, and sinks as if lifeless herself while journeying to the Otherworld, where she meets up with Omosi-mama, the "divine grandmother" who "causes leaves to unfurl and the roots to spread properly," who is the giver of souls and protectress of children. It was she who ordained that Nishan would become a great shaman.

Of course, Nishan finds the soul of the dead boy. But she is pursued by her long-dead husband, who demands to be saved as well, but she calls for a great crane to seize him and throw him back into the city of the dead. The shaman is hailed as a heroine when she comes back to the upper world and showered with riches. Later she faces repression from Confucian authorities who accuse her of not being an obedient wife, and they burn her shamanic regalia and drum. (6)

In much the same way, Spanish colonials persecuted women shamans in the Philippines, calling them “devil-ridden old women” and “witches,” and destroying their shrines and sacred objects. (7) Maya oracles and shamans faced the same treatment; the Tzoltzil priestess María Candelaria raised an insurrection in Chiapas in 1712 to resist the repression of the indigenous religion.

Several hundred years ago, the Jesuit Acosta wrote that Peruvian witches were shapeshifters who could journey through the skies and foretell the future "by means of certain stones or other things they highly venerate." He and other Spanish sources agreed that the witches were mostly old women.(8) The colonials imposed their own preconceptions on Peruvian shamans, notably that of the devil and flying ointments, and persecuted these Quechua and Aymara women shamans as witches.

The Peruvian Inquisition forbade seeking knowledge through dreams or signs in the sky or through vision quests: "the said women other times go out to the country by day and at night, and take certain brews of herbs and roots, called achuma and chamico and coca, with which they deceive themselves and numb their senses, and the illusions and fantastic scenes which they experience there, they think and claim afterwards as revelations, or certain news of what will happen." (9)

Inquisitors tried the curandera Juana Icha for healing with the power of the old Quechua gods. She had offered corn meal, coca and chicha to the mountain spirit Apo Parato. An Indian informer told the monks that she "worships the earth and the stars and cries to the water." (10)

This is necessarily a truncated synopsis of a presentation which has not yet been committed to writing, but I hope it conveys a glimpse of a very international spectrum of women’s shamanic experience – and leadership.


1. Czaplica, M. A. (1914) Aboriginal Siberia, a study in social anthropology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p 243

2. Frazer, James (1955) The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. London: Macmillan, Vol. XI, 14

3. Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries (1988) ed. Henningsen, G, and Ankarloo, B, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p 211

4. Nuttall, Zelia (1901) The Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilizations: A Comparative Research Based on a Study of the Ancient Mexican Religious, Sociological and Calendrical Systems. Cambridge MA: Peabody Museum

5. Dowman, Keith (1996) Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. Ithaca NY: Snow Lion

6. Nowak, Margaret (1977) The Tale of the Nishan Shamaness: a Manchu Folk Epic. Seattle: University of Washington Press

7. Brewer, Caroline (2001) Holy Confrontation: Religion, Gender and Sexuality in the Philippines, 1521-1685. Manila: Institute of Women’s Studies

8. Silverblatt, Irene (1987) Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru, Princeton: Princeton University Press, p 171

9. Contramaestre, Carlos (1979) La Mudanza del Encanto. Caracas: Academia Nacional de la Historia, p 204

10. Silverblatt, p 183


Max The IT pro said...

...Female mavericks were also active in the arts and sciences. The renegade nun Okuni originated the Kabuki theater, from which women were soon banned. In Moorish Spain, the poet Walladah bint-al-Mustakfi rejected the veil and marriage, preferring to host intellectual salons and take female as well as male lovers. Around 975, her counterpart Aisa bint Ahmad declined a proposal by a poet she disliked with a defiant stance: "I am a lioness/ And will never consent to let/ My body be the stopping place for anyone/ But should I choose that/ I would not hearken to a dog/ And how many lions have I turned down."

The most courageous women challenged oppression. The famous Swahili singer Siti Binti Saad rose from the oppressed classes to make taarabu music her vehicle calling for social justice in what is now Tanzania. She protested class oppression and men's abuse of women; her song "The police have stopped" sharply criticized a judge who let a rich wife-murderer go free. She seemed unafraid even of the sultan. The battle leadership of a Pawnee elder saved a village from atttackers, and so she was named "Old Lady Grieves the Enemy." Afterward, she taunted wife-beaters, telling them to go after the Poncas who came to burn up the village, and leave the women, who do no harm, alone.

There are many historical accounts of women warriors, and women often fought to defend their homes, their people and their country. However, although it is hard for many people today to conceive of such broad female authority, in some societies women had the formal power to veto the decision to go to war. The Cherokee Beloved Woman, in her capacity of representing the women at the men's council, possessed this authority, and so did the Gantowisas (Matrons) of the Six Nations (Iroquois). It was the women who supplied warriors with dried food and other necessities, and they suffered the consequences of war as well. There was a saying, "Before the men can go to war, the women must make their moccasins." (See Moccasin Makers and War Breakers, below.)

The Lisu people of Yunnan (southwest China) once had a tradition that fighting had to stop if a woman of either side waved her skirt to call for an armistice. Often this would be a highly-regarded elder. The skirt, imbued with the woman's mana, symbolized the life-giver's power. A woman taking off her outer skirt was also the signal for war or peace in the Pacific island Vanatinai, where women were also the traditional protectors of prisoners of war...


Max The IT pro said...

This is probably a far cry from what women in Iran experience today. Perhaps.

* [Image] Women in pre Islamic Iran. Aquarelle by Shapour Suren-Pahlav - Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)
link: Islam Betrays Iran & Israel - A historical perspective

* Women in Ancient Iran
In summary the evidence of the Fortification and Treasury texts provide us with a unique insight into the social and economic situation of Persian women, royal and non-royal, as well as female workers. These women owned property, were involved in managing their assets. Participated in economic activities of the estate and other economic units. They had employment opportunities earned wages and as a result were able to be economically independent. Patriarchal system prevailed and husbands and other males had far more rights and privileges than their wives or children. Nevertheless such evidence clearly indicates that women in ancient Iran were not an undifferentiated mass leading a secluded life behind high walls without any function and purpose other than child rearing. A situation that sadly became their destiny for many centuries after the collapse of The Sasanian Empire.

- courtesy of The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)


Max The IT pro said...

NANDI - QUEEN OF ZULULAND (Symbol of a woman of high esteem) (1778-1826)
The year was 1786. The King of Zululand was overjoyed. His wife, Nandi, had given birth to a son, his first son, whom they named Shaka. But the King's other wives, jealous and bitter, pressured him to banish Nandi and the young boy into exile. Steadfast and proud, she raised her son with the kind of training and guidance a royal heir should have. For her many sacrifices, Nandi was finally rewarded when her son, Shaka, later returned to become the greatest of all Zulu kings.

To this day, the Zulu people use her name, "Nandi," to refer to a woman of high esteem.

link: forums

Max The IT pro said...

Afrikan Women Warriors
Matriarchal warrior tribes and matrilineal tribal descent are a continuing theme in African history and in some cases survived into modern times. One of the great African warrior queens of the ancient world was Majaji, who led the Lovedu tribe which was part of the Kushite Empire during the Kushite's centuries long war with Rome. The empire ended in 350 AD when the Kushite stronghold of Meroe fell to repeated Roman assaults. Majaji led her warriors in battle armed with a shield and spear and is believed to have died on the walls of Meroe...

...Madame Yoko ruled and led the army of the fourteen tribes of the Kpa Mende Confederacy, the largest tribal group in 19th century Sierra Leone. At that time at least 15% of all the tribes in Sierra Leone were led by women, today approximately 9% have women rulers.

Menen Leben Amede was Empress of Ethopia. She commanded her own army and acted as regent for her son Ali Alulus. She was wounded and captured in a battle in 1847 but was ransomed by her son and continued to rule until 1853.

Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh, was a leader of the Dahomey Amazons under King Gezo. In 1851 she led an army of 6,000 women against the Egba fortress of Abeokuta. Because the Amazons were armed with spears, bows and swords while the Egba had European cannons only about 1,200 survived the extended battle. In 1892 King Behanzin of Dahomey (now Benin) was at war with the French colonists over trading rights. He led his army of 12,000 troops, including 2,000 Amazons into battle. Despite the fact that the Dahomey army was armed only with rifles while the French had machine guns and cannons, the Amazons attacked when the French troops attempted a river crossing, inflicting heavy casualties. They engaged in hand to hand combat with the survivors eventually forcing the French army to retreat. Days later the French found a bridge, crossed the river and defeated the Dahomey army after fierce fighting. The Amazons burned fields, villages and cities rather than let them fall to the French but merely delayed Dahomey being absorbed as a French colony.

In the late 19th century Mukaya, the leader of the Luba people of central Africa who's nation stretched along the rain forest from Zaire to northern Zambia, led her warriors in battle against enemy tribes and rival factions. Initially she fought alongside her brother Kasongo Kalambo, after he was killed in battle she assumed sole control of the empire and the army.

Nehanda (1862-1898) was a priestess of the MaShona nation of Zimbabwe. She became a military leader of her people when the British invaded her country. She led a number of successful attacks on the English but was eventually captured and executed...


t said...

I like - militant for women's rights. Like you, that's one thing I try to live and shout out, something I once heard or read from Rosie O'Donnell: you don't wait for people to give you your rights, you just take them.