Ya Yaa Asantewaa: The Ashanti Queen That Single handedly Defeated The British

Throughout the course of history, we have witnessed the sacrifices delivered by so many capable strong women within the African setting. As today is International Women’s Day, we take a look at one outstanding woman in the history of Ghana and notably Asante kingdom.

Yaa Asantewaa was born on the 17th October 1840 in the town of Besease, Ghana. Yaa was the oldest of two children. Yaa had been enticed with royal sketches since her brother, Afrane Panin, became the chief of Edweso which was a nearby community.

During her brother’s reign, Yaa Asantewaa saw the Asante confederacy go through series of instabilities which threatened its legacy. After her brother died in 1894, Yaa used her cultural right as Queen mother to nominate her grandson as Ejisuhene. But the political turnaround happened when the British struck and had her grandson together with the King of Asante Prempeh I and other government officials exiled to Seychelles in 1896. This development saw Yaw Asantewaa assume the throne of Regent of the Ejisu-Juaben district. The absence of the Prempeh I developed a gap within the ruling hegemony. Somehow, the British governor, Frederick Hodgson, felt it was the perfect time to destabilize the cultural heritage of the Asantes. Thus, he demanded for the golden stool of Asante kingdom. This fueled the drive to have discussions on how to secure the return of their King. However, there were several opinions to that effect because many felt it was a fruitless endeavor. Yaa Asantewaa managed to convince the court that it wss their responsibility to fight and not act like cowards.

As a show of energized determination to go to war and fight, she seized a gun and fired a shot infront of the men. Yaa Asantewaa was therefore chosen by a number of Asante kings to be the war-leader in battle. Significantly, this stands to be the first and only example for a woman to be given that role in Asante history. The Ashanti-British War of the Golden Stool – also know as the “Yaa Asantewaa War” – was led by Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa with an army of 5000.

The rebellion started in 1900 as the Asantes fought to withstand the British. After series of attempts, Queen Yaa together with her subjects were overpowered and captured and were also sent into exile to the Seychelles. On 1st January 1902, the British fully seized the land of the Asantes despite their resistance for almost a century, and the Asante empire was made a protectorate of the British crown.

Yaa Asantewaa died in exile in the Seychelles on 17th October 1921. Three years down the line, her body was returned back to her kinsmen where she was given a proper royal burial. Yaa’s dream was actually realized when the Asante kingdom gained independence as part of Ghana on the 6th March 1957.

Yaa Asantewaa remains to be a symbol of justice and bravery in Asante Kingdom and the Ghanaian republic. Symbolically, Yaa Asantewaa serves as an encouragement to Women on the importance of vying for political leadership and not shying away from it.

Learn from Yaa Asantewaa.

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