Malawi?s president Joyce Banda recently opined that African women should not follow the ?western route? of assertiveness and confrontation as a way to gain a voice in politics. Being an assertive woman as defined by western standards may not work in some cultures or a patriarchal society in general. However, women in a small rural community in Adamawa state, Nigeria have been, in some way, assertive for the last two hundred and forty-six years. Seventy-six year old Bintu Namda currently reigns as the Nyagangwu (ruler) in her community, and follows in the footsteps of some pretty powerful women who have gone before her.
Namda ascended the throne in the village of Arnado Debbo in 2014 after an extensive screening process, and is the sixteenth ruler since the first female ruler pioneered the way for women.
And it all began with a myth that dates back to more than two centuries.
According to Malam Atiku Gende, a council member who has worked with other members of the traditional house, male kings who were elected to the throne died within three to six months of their reign. And while this may have been due to several factors, one response to this was to elect female leaders instead — the first of whom reigned on the throne for nine years. The longest ruling female leader was on the throne for forty-one years.
While it remains taboo for men to ascend the throne, they continue to play an important role as members of the traditional council and advise the ruler as needed.
There are many communities in Nigeria?and other places on the continent where women have held?traditional leadership roles, but nothing beats the exclusivity that women in?Arnado Debbo have historically received.
Image:?Kabiru R. Anwar/Daily Trust
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