Considered by many to be the first feminist queen in history, Somali Queen Arawelo sought to make her reign one in which women played a leading role. However, to achieve this, Arawelo used her tough and sometimes ruthless personality.
Queen Arawelo is considered the first feminist queen
However, both her personality and the way in which she managed to create this egalitarian kingdom depends on who tells the story, as is often the case with these strong characters. What all versions agree on is that her reign was one of the most prosperous and stable in the history of what is now Somalia.
Arawelo took the throne after her father's death
Little is known about specific details of Arawelo's life and reign. One of the few things that is known for sure is that she ruled during the 16th century. She was the eldest of the three daughters of the King of Somalia, and a male succession was impossible after his death, which was against the norm. So without consulting anyone, Arawelo took her father's throne.
Arawelo decided to eliminate gender stereotypes
Arawelo was always very rebellious and determined. Since she was little, she insisted on having the same education that children had, and even got involved in activities that were considered exclusively for men. For this reason, when she assumed the throne, she made it her priority for girls to have the same opportunities that she had insisted on having. How? She eradicated all gender stereotypes established by society.
Clearly, this way of ruling did not make many happy. At the time of taking the throne, Arawelo put women in the most important political positions of the kingdom, which resolved many problems. The women were not allowed by their relatives to take those jobs, as they argued that they had responsibilities at home that they could not leave. Arawelo's solution was to put these men into such tasks, so that they would see that what they expected of their wives and daughters was no different from servitude.
Arawelo empowered her kingdom as a young woman
Arawelo had already been in charge of empowering the women of her kingdom before becoming queen. During her father's rule, the kingdom suffered terrible droughts and famines that devastated the population. The young Arawelo then decided to organize a group of women to hunt and carry water— activities that were exclusive to men at that time.
Thus, with her experience, little by little she managed to reverse gender roles by having women in positions of power and men doing housework. Eventually, this investment led to equal treatment that made her kingdom prosper like never before.
Queen Arawelo has been mischaracterized in myths
Many of the stories about Queen Arawelo involve the use of violence and extreme misandry. However, as stated earlier, this has a lot to do with who is telling the story. The way in which she has been portrayed after her death has been filled with myths and legends. Some of them paint her as a ruthless woman who hated men, to the degree that she murdered her grandson to prevent him from re-establishing a patriarchal system. This has never been proven historically, just as her hatred of men has never been shown to be the consequence of abuse in her youth.
In fact, many of the stories that say her violent personality originated from abuse claim that as revenge, Arawelo imposed castration as a punishment for rape. In addition, these stories also say that she trained a group of women to oppress the male population and promote female supremacy. However, although these stories attract us out of curiosity, it is most likely that they are nothing more than myths, since historically, powerful and independent women are often endowed with negative and violent attributes.
Arawelo and her importance as a figure in feminism
Despite the myths, what we must remember about Queen Arawelo is her determination to promote equality in her kingdom— something that has probably never been seen again in human history. But more importantly, despite the fact that her story dates back many centuries, Arawelo proved that an egalitarian system is possible, and that the best way to make a nation prosper is to unite its people by eradicating gender norms and stereotypes.