Tradition & Culture

Women’s Role In Asante War Explained

Prof. Eugenia Anderson, a historian from the Department of History at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), has elaborated on the often overlooked role of women in the warfare of the Asante Kingdom.

She asserts that the unrecognized and underrated role of women in warfare was due to the religio-cultural beliefs attached to war and gender by the Kingdom.

Speaking at the 150th Anniversary of the Sagrenti War at KNUST on February 6, 2024, Prof. Anderson did not mince words when discussing the crucial roles played by women in war politics.

“It is important to emphasize that child-bearing women did not engage in frontline warfare not because of their physical inadequacies but because of the fear of menstrual contamination. Menstruation inhibited women’s political progression because of the cultural beliefs attached to it.”

She continued, “Though menstrual blood was considered a source of fertility, menstruating women were considered ceremonially unclean. They could not attend social events in the community, participate in religious ceremonies, honour their ancestors, visit the chief’s court, or associate with any male government official.”

Meanwhile, she emphasized that menopausal women were able to engage in war. The fact that women on their menstrual periods could not engage in warfare didn’t rule them out from the Asante Military structure.

Prof. Anderson noted that they played the role of female captains and the Asafo Kyeremmaa who were rare guards.

Additionally, women at the time provided military support services such as scouting, carrying supplies, and cooking. They also handled war logistics and provided valuable intelligence on enemy strategies and troop movements, serving as spies.

Further, she said, “Despite these limitations, women played crucial roles in war in Asante. One of the crucial roles seen is the ritual known as “momome”. This was a spiritual warfare in which pre-menopausal and menopausal women performed daily ritual chants, ritual dancing, mimes, and other spiritual performances to enhance the victory of the military in war until the troops returned. These women sometimes pounded empty mortars with pestles as a form of torture to Asantes’ enemies.”

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