As we honour our founding fathers this Mashujaa day, let us not forget the women who laid down their lives for our country. Call them our founding mothers if you will, these women supplied the freedom fighters with food and weapons. Some even joined the fight, hand in hand with their male counterparts, to bring freedom to Kenya. They faced physical and verbal abuse at the hands of our colonisers but their determination rid our country of its colonizers gaining us independence.
Below we look at some of these women whose names should never be forgotten.
Mekatilili wa Menza
When the British colonial administration tried to impose their policies and ordinances on the Giriama people, Mekatilili boldly stood up against them. She believed in her people’s traditions and didn’t want to see them tainted or abolished by the British. She moved from town to town, performing the kifudu dance which gained her many followers.
At a meeting in Kaya Fungo she together with Wanje wa Mwadori Kola, a medicine man, administered an oath among the people calling for non-cooperation with the British. The British responded by seizing Giriama land and setting their homes ablaze. What followed was the Giriama uprising which led to Mekatilili’s arrest. She was jailed in Mumias for five years after which it is said she returned to her home where she died in 1924.
Field Marshal Muthoni Kirima
At just 20 years old, Muthoni Kirima joined the Mau Mau as a spy. She also helped supply the fighters with food. Despite already risking her life for the cause of freedom, Muthoni wished to do more and thus became a soldier for the Mau Mau. She proved her worth becoming the first and only female field marshal.
Due to the extreme conditions she was living in, the Mau Mau were living in the forest faced with harsh weather and in danger of wild animals not to mention battling the colonialists, Muthoni had two miscarriages which left her unable to have children. She however got to see the fruits of her sacrifice when Kenya attained independence.
Virginia Wambui Waiyaki ran away from home to join the Mau Mau as a spy. She also helped to mobilise women against the colonialists and would get arms for the fighters. Upon her arrest, she was taken to Lamu for imprisonment where she was abused by her jailer.
She is the great granddaughter of Waiyaki wa Hinga.
Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru
When Harry Thuku was jailed in 1922, hundreds of people stood outside Central Police Station, Nairobi calling for his release. Among them was Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru. On seeing that some of the men weren’t putting in as much effort into seeking Thuku’s release as they should, Mary stripped calling the men cowards.
The crowd responded to Mary’s calls and went towards the police station only for the police to open fire. That day, many were killed as white settlers at the nearby Norfolk Hotel also opened fire. Among the deceased was Mary Muthoni Wanjiru.
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