No Decolonization without Women’s Liberation: Women’s Liberation in the PAIGC’s Theoretical Discourse

Kohl: A Journal for Body and Gender Research 9 (1):141 - 155 (2023)
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[Attached PDF is the Arabic translation, the hyperlink takes you to the original English version] In this paper I argue that the emphasis, which was placed by the PAIGC’s leadership, and specifically by Amílcar Cabral, on the importance of advancing women’s rights and women’s liberation should be understood as being a consequence of Cabral’s modernist philosophical orientation. Moreover, I argue that women played an essential part in the struggle for liberation from Portuguese colonialism. In the first section, I characterize Cabral’s modernist philosophical orientation and the way it influenced his views on the necessity of women’s liberation. I emphasize the philosophical commitment to autonomy as a guiding normative principle. In the second section, I argue that women played a key role in pressuring the PAIGC to integrate them into its structure, i.e., they were active agents and not just passive subjects waiting for somebody to “liberate them.” In the third and concluding section, I describe the limits of the PAIGC’s commitment to women’s liberation, and I discuss why some members of the party’s leadership (e.g., Luis Cabral) disagreed with Amílcar Cabral regarding the importance of women’s liberation. This paper thus approaches the question of feminist anti-colonial imaginaries both from the perspective of the hopes which attended a partially feminist-inflected African liberation struggle, as well the betrayal of these hopes by men in leadership positions. Those leaders never took seriously the idea that the liberation of women was a necessary condition for the creation of a social environment which would allow for the full actualization of the capacities of men and women in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

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Zeyad El Nabolsy
York University


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