Reference: Johanna Allan, 2019, Silenced Resistance – Women, Dictatorships, and Genderwashing in Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea, University of Wisconsin Press, 360 pp
Spain’s former African colonies—Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara—share similar histories. Both are under the thumbs of heavy-handed regimes, and are known by human rights organizations as being among the worst places in the world with regard to oppression and lack of civil liberties. Yet the resistance movement in one is seemingly dominated by women, the other by men.
The book explores the gendering of resistance to the Obiang dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea, the Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara and, before that, Spanish colonialism in both countries.
It also examines how concerns for equality and women’s rights can be co-opted for authoritarian projects. Moroccan and Equatoguinean regimes, in partnership with Western states and corporations, conjure a mirage of promoting equality while simultaneously undermining women’s rights in a bid to cash in on oil, minerals, and other natural resources. This genderwashing, along with historical local, indigenous, and colonially imposed gender norms mixed with Western misconceptions about African and Arab gender roles, plays an integral role in determining the shape and composition of public resistance to authoritarian regimes.