Mukwahepo: Women, Soldier, Mother

In 1963 Mukwahepo left her home in Namibia and followed her fiance across the border into Angola. They survived hunger and war and eventually made their way to Tanzania. There, Mukwahepo became the first woman to undergo military training with SWAPO. For nine years she was the only woman in SWAPO’s Kongwa camp. She was then thrust into a more traditional women’s role – taking care of children in the SWAPO camps in Zambia and Angola. At Independence, Mukwahepo returned to Namibia with five children. One by one their parents came to reclaim them, until she was left alone. Already in her fifties, and with little education, Mukwahepo could not get employment. She survived on handouts until the Government introduced a pension and other benefits for veterans. Through a series of interviews, Ellen Ndeshi Namhila recorded and translated Mukwahepo’s remarkable story. This book preserves the oral history of not only the ‘dominant male voice’ among the colonised people of Namibia, but brings to light the hidden voice, the untold and forgotten story of an ordinary woman and the outstanding role she played during the struggle.

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Ellen Ndeshi Namhila

Ellen Ndeshi Namhila is Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Namibia (UNAM) in Windhoek and a well-known writer, historian and policy maker for research and heritage. She was Director of the Namibia Library and Archives Services from 1998 to 2007 and subsequently the University Librarian of UNAM until 2015. Ellen Namhila acted as Vice-President of UNESCO’s International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World and served on the Governing Board of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. In her Mbapira Award-winning book, The Price of Freedom (1997), she chronicles her life and upbringing during the Namibian liberation struggle and in exile. Her subsequent books Kahumba kaNdola: The Biography of a Barefoot Soldier (2005), Tears of Courage (2009) and Mukwahepo: Woman, Soldier, Mother (2013) portray ‘forgotten’ or side-lined personalities of Namibia’s recent history and reflect the gendered politics of memory and historiography.

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