Zanzibar's Biubwa Amour life ideals were woke and radical

Friday January 21 2022
Biubwa Amour's biography

Biubwa Amour's biography written by journalist Zuhura Yubus. PHOTO | COURTESY


The title of the book could be political but Mwanamke Mwanamapinduzi, the story of Biubwa Amour Zahor, 84, is about a fearless and determined woman who overturned cultural norms and changed her life, which is till today culturally revolutionary.

From the story, as told by renowned journalist Zuhura Yunus, it is clear that Biubwa’s progressive feminist leanings were before her time.

The biography, written in Kiswahili, sheds light on the unsung heroine from Zanzibar.

“When our country’s political history is told, the stories heavily favour men; the contribution of women is many times forgotten. However some of us have contributed and participated in many of the critical historical moments of our country,” says a letter by Biubwa, which appears as the book’s foreword.

This book tells the story of Biubwa, a woman of Arab descent, who believes in the equality of all people.

A Zanzibaria living in the 1950s she was ostracised by her family for marrying an "African". Later she divorced and remarried and survived rape and gender violence in the hands of her husband and public officials.


Biubwa became a defender of social justice in her teens when she joined the Girl Guides and later the Zanzibar Women’s Association.

She later became a member of the political party Afro-Shiraz (ASP), with close alliances with Abdulrahman Babu's Umma Party.

The author punctuates the story with anecdotes of key events in the Zanzibar’s history like the events leading up to the revolution of January 1964, the assassination of the first president of Zanzibar Abeid Karume after the revolution, the Ugandans and Kenyans who aided the revolution and the racial tensions between Arabs and Africans.

In ASP, Biubwa played an instrumental role in Zanzibar’s revolution and was jailed for four months following Karume’s assassination.

Zuhura weaves in stories of other Zanzibari female political activists like Mwanaidi Dai, Fatma Karume, Aipe Mzee, Khadija Jabir, Mwanaidi Hassan, Mtumwa Fikirini and Pili Jaha Ubwa.

The historical facts are corroborated by other sources listed in the book’s footnotes.

On January 9, 2019, then president of Zanzibar, Dr Ali M. Shein, honoured the political efforts of Biubwa with a Medal of Honour.

Former Tanzania President Jakaya M. Kikwete in a blurb in the book says: “Nimefarijika sana kuona Biubwa Amour Ahor akipewa nafasi yake stahiki katika maandishi na makavazi ya historia ya Mapinduzi Matukufu ya Zanzibar na Ujenzi wa Taifa la Tanzania kupita kitabu hiki. (I am pleased to see that this book has given Biubwa Amour Ahor the honour she deserves in the history of the Zanzibar Revolution and in national building of Tanzania)."

The biography shows how the battle for gender equality on the continent is far from being won.

It has taken this long to have Biubwa’s story told, despite her trailblazing. Her story will serve to inspire justice and revolutions to uplift the region and the continent.

This book is published by E&D Vision Publishing in Tanzania and is available on Amazon. and in local bookshops.