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Bibi Titi: Unsung heroine of Tanzania

Bibi Titi: Unsung heroine of Tanzania

AROUND the same time that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was encouraging people to peacefully fight colonial rule and freedom fighters were attempting to persuade the British to back down, a group of women were quietly taking centre stage in the struggle for independence.

As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of our country's independence, it's critical that we remember some of the women who fought for freedom with great courage and determination.

Bibi Titi Mohammed was the first woman to actively participate in the country's political liberation movement, which was led by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's Tanganyika African National Union (TANU).

She was also among the first few elected women members of the first post-independence Parliament, (1960 - 1965), representing Rufiji Constituency. The other women MPs of that first Parliament, with their constituency names in brackets, were: - Marion Lady Chesham (Iringa), Babro Johansen (Mwanza) E. Markwada (Tanga Urban); Sophia Mustapha (Arusha); and Mwami Thereza Ntare (Kasulu).

Bibi Titi, a native of Mkongo Village, formerly known as Nyalwilwu, was born in Rufiji in 1926, but her parents eventually relocated to Dar es Salaam, where she grew up, according to Sefu Ndanda, a resident of Mkongo Village in Rufiji District of Coast region.

“This generation might know her because one of Dar es Salaam's major highways is named after her in recognition of her contributions to Tanzania's independence, but also there is a monument erected here in Mkongo village as part of recognizing her significant contribution to the political success of TANU during the time,” he said

Apart from that, he stated that another monument has been created in Mkongo village to honour the TANU National Council Meeting held in 1970, and that these are among the symbols that remind them of Bibi Titi service to the country.

He went on to say that Bibi Titi was the head of TANU's women's wing, Umoja wa Wanawake wa Tanzania (UWT). This group was crucial in promoting TANU's views and objectives. UWT also played a key role in bringing women from across Tanganyika together.

“As we commemorate 60 years of independence, let us remember the struggle of freedom fighters, since we would not be where we are today if it weren't for them. “Let us maintain peace, stability, and unity, as the founding fathers of this country demonstrated,” he said.

Kassim Mketto, a former assistant to Bibi Titi and the Chairman of the TANU Youth League, said he assisted her when she became a Member of Parliament since her secretary, Abdulrahaman Myige, was illiterate.

“Before I started working with Bibi Titi, I got to know her through the leaders she worked with, and occasionally when she went on a trip, we were her aides, so I worked with her for a year,” he explained.

Mr Mketto said you cannot talk about Bibi Titi history without connecting it with the TANU story and Mwalimu Nyerere.

He said when Mwalimu Nyerere formed TANU with the 18 members, they decided to seek out prominent people in Dar es Salaam and told them that they had formed a party with the intention of claiming independence and liberation from colonialism so they asked for their cooperation and help them persuade people to join the party.

The elders include Omary Athuman Londo, Iddy Tulio and Said Chamwenyewe. When the party started it received a lot of support from the Coast region especially Rufiji.

“Because Mzee Tulio and Chamwenyewe are Rufiji residents, they went to Rufiji and looked for specific persons to persuade to join the party so that it would be easier to persuade others to join TANU,” later on Mwalimu Nyerere also visited Rufiji and other parts of the country for the same purpose,” Mr Mketto explained.

When Mwalimu Nyerere returned to Dar es Salaam, he called the elders again and informed them of his trips, according to him. One of the things he mentioned was that his mission to persuade people to join TANU was effective, but that they were only able to recruit men, with no women in meetings or membership.

“Mwalimu Nyerere advised that in order for TANU to move forward, it was important to include three groups: the first are women here is when Bibi Titi became involved in the liberation movement, the second is workers because all intellectuals are workers here Rashid Kawawa and Alfred Tandau were nominated, and the third is co-operatives, where Amon Nsekela, the leader of the Nyanza cooperative, represented other parties,” he said

“As a result, members from these groups were called, including Bibi Titi, who joined TANU and began a movement to inspire other women, where she collaborated with Tatu Mzee,” he says.

She began her activity in Dar es Salaam, but when they saw they were being harassed by colonists, they decided to create TANU women's wing, a branch of the women's section, to make it easier for them to obtain permission to have meetings.

Mr Mketto added that when Bibi Titi travelled to Rufiji, she was able to persuade a number of women, including Habiba Tengeni, who, although being married, opted to devote herself to Titi and accompanied her to numerous locations.

In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of independence, he said Rufiji has two commemorations, one for Bibi Titi and the other for the TANU national executive council meeting held in 1970, but Mkongo village has not yet made progress.

“In honour of Mwalimu Nyerere and Bibi Titi, we ask the government to declare Mkongo village a historic town for future generations," he stated.

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Author: HILDA MHAGAMA in Rufiji

1 Comments

  • avatar
    Jacob Keli
    09/12/2021

    How come, Ms. Lucy Lamack, from Moshi, Kilimanjaro, was no included? She also played a leading role fighting for TANU and also become a deputy Minister during the first administration.

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