Original Research - Special Collection: African Women and Pandemics and Religion

Nyawiras as communal liberators: Accounting for life preservation roles among African women

Julius M. Gathogo
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 3 | a8745 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i3.8745 | © 2023 Julius M. Gathogo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 March 2023 | Published: 03 August 2023

About the author(s)

Julius M. Gathogo, Research Institute for Religion and Theology (RITR), Faculty of Humanities, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Kenyatta University, Mombasa, Kenya; and, Faculty of Theology, ANCCI University, Texas, United States


In his book, Wizard of the Crow (2007), the renowned Kenyan novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, expresses the view that a successful society is only guaranteed when women issues are well settled. In light of post-colonial Africa and the era of COVID-19, African women – like the biblical Miriam, the co-liberator with Moses and Aaron (Mi 6:4) – are seen as Nyawiras (plural for Nyawira, the hardworking woman), as their critical role in preserving the family and society is evident. While relying on a critical review of wa Thiong’o’s works and in engaging a selected religio-cultural literature, the article seeks to explore the role of African women [Nyawiras] in societal sustenance. With postcolonial Africa encountering a hotchpotch of challenges, are Nyawiras the best suited persons to deconstruct the status quo and eventually reconstruct the ‘sick’ society under greedy-grabbing male-leaders of nation-states (Aburirias) that have lost their moral compasses? Are women best suited to bring back sanity; and have they crossed the Rubicon in the 21st century? In drawing from diverse examples from Africa and beyond, the research article will be significant in helping the modern African society understand the myriad of problems they are facing in the local and global scene, and eventually appraise women’s heroine roles.

Contribution: This research uses a multi-disciplinary approach and engages a dialogue between African literature and Africa’s religio-cultural discourses in order to better understand the complex situation facing Africa.


African indigenous knowledge; COVID-19; Miriam; Moses; liberation; Nyawiras (African-women); Ngugi wa Thiong’o; Rubicon


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