The unsung (s)heroes/heroines

The typical freedom fighter who is often rewarded after a struggle is one who holds the gun, stands at the forefront of the struggle and raises a voice speaking out against the injustices of an era. More often than not that freedom fighter is the man who stays in prison, is tortured and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment yet he still stands firm against the ideals and policies of the regime he opposes. Indeed these men are brave men. Their role in challenging the status quo is an indisputably pivotal one in shaping the world into a better place.

However my heart bleeds for the forgotten freedom fighters…

The women who may not go to the war-front but are still drawn onto the battlefield. The women whose souls are battered as their bodies are turned into war zones as men rape them and mutilate them to exact revenge against their enemies. The women whose children die in their arms from hunger, starvation and disease yet they soldier on. The women who endure the long nights and dark days without their husbands, sons and brothers. The women who are left behind to wonder if they will ever see their loved ones again and who are often given the burden of taking care of the children, the elderly and the disabled under harsh conditions. Yes, these women's role is huge yet it is often never recognised. They remain unsung heroines of the struggles for political freedom, for peace, for justice and for human rights.

At this moment my heart stands with a sheroine, Manal Bahey El Din Hassan, my friend, whose husband Alaa Abd El Fattah is being held by the Egyptian military rulers at Torah prison. Alaa stands falsely accused of inciting violence among protestors that led to the death of 26 people on 9 October. Yes for refusing to be tried in a military Court I salute him. For criticising the army and the violence it incited and executed at Maspero I also salute him.

But I salute Manal more. Right now she is heavily pregnant about to give birth to their first child. She is facing the difficulties of her final term of pregnancy alone, without her husband. Alone she stands firm and is continuously fighting the military and its policy of subjecting human rights defenders and political activists to military trials on trumped up charges.

Even her husband in a letter he wrote to the press acknowledged that while he is in prison his wife is out there;

"whom I will leave alone in the last days of her pregnancy and will leave her alone to oversee the workers who are preparing Khaled's (their unborn son) room, I who shall be detained and she who shall be burdened while she is running around for my demands, my sustenance and my visitation permits as well as the campaign that was founded for my case.” (Full article available at

My heart also stands with Jenni William a Zimbabwean human rights activist and social justice champion whose struggle for social justice has landed her in prison many times. In her prison diary entitled “Reflections after my 39th arrest” Jenni writes

“My name is Jenni Williams, national coordinator of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). I am persecuted for being a human rights defender, just getting over my 39th arrest and recovering from my 3rd stint in a Zimbabwean jail as an unconvicted prisoner. Arrested on the 21st of September World Peace Day, I spent 2 days in horrific conditions at Bulawayo Central Police and then 10 days at Mlondolozi female prison in Khami complex. This brings my tally to 73 days of my life spent in jails wearing the bright green dolly rocker tunic of a remand prisoner. Despite so many arrests, the state has been unable to criminalise my right to peaceful protest so they through a particular officer with personal grudges have now resorted to criminal charges of kidnapping and theft.”

She denounces the dreary conditions in remand prison and says “I ask us to think and try to find other ways than to send someone to a prison that cannot feed them in a country that will not reform or correct them. Instead of prisoners coming out as reformed members of society they re-enter society as hardened criminals with little hope of being reformed.” (the whole entry is available at

Many more women out there have taken the same role and time and time again their efforts have never been fully recognised for the sheer bravery they represent. These women are brave beyond measure and today I salute them and recognise them as true (s)heros.

Comment on this Post


And I salute you, MaDube, for writing with such understanding and sympathy.

I'm reminded of my days in detention, when the pain for the safety of one's family - especially our children - is upmost in one's mind, in and amongst the confusion of the why's and what'fors and the anger and feelings of inability to go on fighting. The days when one holds on through a strength you know not whence it comes.

I think of our brothers and sisters in prison all over the world, many of whom are victims of a society which respects power and greed, and I pray that we will find novel ways to educate, and to create sharper adversarial tools to erode the wickedness of this era of life that we share on our long-suffering mother earth.

Love and hugs from Monica

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well. (A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

Dear Rumbi

While Manal is a lady of strong will, a lot of that has to be attributed to the supporters (and thats an army of unsung heroes/heroines) who stood by her though they know any day they will be in trouble for the support.

So ultimately, it brings us to the importance of network building again. A revolutionary carries on because there is a network of people who want the revolution badly, no matter what. God forbid, if tomorrow one of us runs into trouble, the rest of us will stand up against it, isn't it? So, while the leader/individual fighter takes the bow, the supporters like you also must be thanked for that.

I have been following both these stories through reporters without borders forum. Its sad that while Mobarak is gone, his ugly legacy of suppression continues. Egypt is far from being liberated.


Stella Paul Twitter: @stellasglobe

Indeed Manal draws strength from knowing that she has friends all over the world and at home who support her and the cause her family and countrymen are fighting for. Thank you Stella for pointing that out. Yes I will be there running behind you, should anything happen to you (God forbid) but truly that is the value of having a network of like-minded individuals who believe in what you believe in.

Hugs and kisses,


this is really touching. I share their pain and pray hard for them. We know that their struggles are ours. we really need to support eachother and we are all here to lend a hand. We must denounce all kinds of bad practice which violates the human rights. we have to work together especially for our sisters who suffer the abuse of authority or dictators. good luck to you my dear friend riana

They need our support, moreso because they are often not recognised as fighters too in the struggle. Thank you for your comments dear.