Background
The Pan African Women’s Organization was founded in Dar es Salaam in what was then Tanganyika in July 1962 at the height of the nationalist era. As African leaders fought for independence and African unity, the Cold War was unfolding with a major focus on matters ideological, loyalties to the East and West blocs, the resultant Non Aligned Movement and Afro Asian solidarity. Meetings took place in places like Accra, Cairo, Mwanza, Casablanca, Moshi, Tunis, Monrovia, Tananarive, Mbale and Addis Ababa involving three major groupings: the Casablanca and Monrovia groups as well as the Pan African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA). Less well known is the struggle of African women getting organized against the colonial powers, holding their own meetings and establishing links across Africa and elsewhere. Indeed in December 1949 when the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) held its annual meeting in Beijing, Madame Celestine Ouezzin Coulibaly who had just set up the women’s section of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA) in Abidjan, travelled to Peoples Republic of China which was only two months in existence .African women established solidarity links with other anti colonial struggles on the continent and beyond such as Vietnam. Following a call by the WIDF Congress in Vienna in 1958 that each continent set up its own chapter, attempts by the women of the then French Wes Africa to establish a pan territorial body rapidly came to nought in 1959, hampered by the changing political climate in West Africa coupled with age old patriarchal norms. Further attempts were made by the women of the Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union and delegations travelled the length and breadth of the continent and eventually, given the strategic position occupied by Tanganyika as the one independent country in East Africa, close to Uganda and Kenya but with the presence of liberation movements from Southern Africa already based in Dar es Salaam, the epoch making meeting took place in that city. It is to be noted that to their credit, African women rose above all the divisions and differences based on language, ideology, geography and political persuasion to rally around the cause of African women’s unity. The Organization of African Unity-precursor to the African Union – only came into being the following year in May 1963.

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