Queen Arawelo: The Original Feminist & What She Taught Women

This is for all my sisters. Salute!


According to Oxford English dictionary a feminist is described as an individual who supports women’s rights and equality between the sexes. That’s it. Feminists are not crazy man-hating, bra-burning women contrary to popular belief.

Feminist come from all backgrounds and walks of life and have overcome and broken so many barriers for women around the world. If it wasn’t for feminism us girls would not be allowed to vote, own property, start businesses or have careers. Basically the things we take for granted today.

In the past, women around the world have been living in predominantly patriarchal societies, where men hold primary power and authority over women. This type of society was seen as ‘ideal’ and still exists today. It marginalised women and basically treated them as second class citizens.

Many movements have campaigned and fought against this type of society, as well as traditional gender roles. The most radical movement in modern times which revolutionised the whole social structure and gave women equal rights was the feminist movement, popularly known as the women’s liberation movement.

But being a feminist is not a unique product of the 20th and 21st century. Feminists of the past have made their mark in history and I am going to discuss one in particular. Let’s rewind back to 15 AD and look at the life of the strong and diligent queen Arawelo and what she has taught women.

Queen Arawelo ruled what is now known as modern day Somalia, around 15 AD. Eldest born to a King who only had a female daughter, she naturally succeeded him as heir. She was one of the original feminists and believed in empowering the women of her country.

Being a female queen was a rarity in those days. But she set out to prove that women could do a great job of ruling a kingdom just as well as men. In a time where Kings were making rash decisions to initiate wars, Queen Arawelo was nurturing her women to become strong and independent.

She strongly believed women should not rely on their husbands to be the sole breadwinners of the family. She also demanded that there must be no segregation in both women’s and men’s duties. This led her to actively encourage women to take up masculine roles and become providers for their families.

Before becoming Queen, Arawelo and her female companions hunted and collected water for their town. This was to prevent them from starving and moving away during the Buraan droughts. She held her town and country together with a strong grasp.

Her actions and beliefs were recognised throughout Africa. Queen Arawelo was given gifts as a sign of solidarity from Queen Sheba, in the form of gold and jewellery. Queen Sheba was queen of Ethiopia at that time and ruled the Aksumite Kingdom.

During her rule, Queen Arawelo had a disagreement with her husband, as he thought women should only focus on their domestic and child rearing duties. This angered her very much. Her comeback was to command all women of the land to leave their womanly duties. This caused a role reversal where men were cooking and looking after the children whilst the women became the leaders and the providers.

She castrated male prisoners and hung men by their testicles. Yes, their testicles. Just let that sink in for a sec.

This was due to a horrific experience she had in her youth of being raped in the desert whilst she was hunting. This planted the seeds of hate for the typical male characteristics at that time, which was arrogance and control. I am not supporting her extreme force and castration of men, but her strong and powerful stance opened the door for equality between men and women.

There was a long period of equality between men and women in Somalia, where both sexes were treated equally. This was heaven on earth. This is what revolutionists such as the suffragettes and the women’s liberation movement dreamed of. A world where men and women can coexist and work together to build a better country.

Throughout history, big changes in society were a direct result of militant action. Take the suffragette’s for example. They fought for women’s right to vote. Despite all their campaigning and pleading, no one would listen until drastic action was taken; in the form of hunger strikes, breaking windows of big businesses and arson of unoccupied buildings.

Another example is Malcolm X during the civil rights movement. He was an advocate of ‘stop singing and start swinging’ which sparked violent confrontations with the police in order to get equality for African American’s.

What I am trying to illustrate is, Queen Arawelo carried out what she thought needed to be done in order to change the views and opinions of society back then. This unfortunately meant some violence was involved.

Moreover, little is known about Queen Arawelo’s death, but legend narrates that she was eventually assassinated by her grandson, who was against her campaign for female liberation. This marked the end of the legacy of the great Queen Arawelo.

I guess all the best revolutionists have a bitter end eventually.

The story of Arawelo is retold from generation to generation and I believe it conveys how it is possible for women to be successful leaders. However, the story is mainly used to portray how Arawlo was a sadistic woman who took pleasure in castrating men.

Arawelo is used as an example of why women should not be involved in politics and leadership in Somalia, which is very saddening. In reality, Arawelo took control and ruled Somalia at a time where they desperately needed harmony, order and success.

Queen Arawelo’s legacy is simple. Women are strong and they rule!

If she was alive today, Queen Arawelo would encourage women to strive for success and be the best of version of themselves. She would teach women to follow their dreams despite what others or society says.

Women are passionate, strong-minded and ambitious. They are the backbone of society, they give birth, raise and teach their offspring’s the principles of life and should in turn be valued.

Period point blank.

By Ladan Musse


Shafi, 2006. The Legendary Cruelty. [Online] Available at: https://shafisaid.wordpress.com/

Affi, L, 1995. Arraweelo: A Role Model For Somali Women.

In: P. Bernard and M. Mohamed Abdi.POUR UNE CULTURE DE LA PAIX EN SOMALIE. 1st ed. Paris: Association européenne des études somaliennes.

Fifty Things Feminism Has Done For You, 2012. [Online] Avaliable at: https://blowingawaymylife.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/fifty-things-feminism-has-done-for-you/

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