The quest to institutionalize affirmative action and female participation in governance could well have its antecedents in pre-colonial Angola. Queen Nzinga Mbande, a 17th-century monarch set up an all-women governmental system in the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of present-day Angola. Two of her sisters served as leaders of an all-female army that defends the kingdoms’ territorial integrity. With a council of elders which consisted only of female advisors, she won the admiration of the Dutch, with whom she forged a strong alliance to repel the advances of the Portuguese. Most significantly, she established a powerful guerrilla army which put slave armies to rout and closed all slave trade routes in her kingdom.

As the discourse on gender mainstreaming roars on, Queen Nzinga’s personality and exploits provide a refreshing perspective on the capacity of the African woman to fashion an even daring, unique response to global problems.