Why National Women's Day is Celebrated Every January 30th in Guinea Bissau

The success stories of most African independence struggles would be incomplete without the bravery and sacrifice of a few women who dared to challenge the colonial powers that be. These women rose above and beyond the pre existing gender/societal biases to become influential members of political organizations who would eventually cease power and promote the ideals of having Africans by themselves at the center of their own affairs.

In Guinea Bissau, the legacy of a certain Ernestina Sila stands firm and tall for the records. Her spirited involvement in the struggle for her country's independence would have her pay the ultimate price with her dear life. Though gone but not forgotten, January 30th of every year has been set aside to celebrate her heroics and inspire other women seeking to change the status quo all across Guinea Bissau.
Ernestina 'Titina' Sila (1943 - 1973)
Born in April 1943, Ernestina ‘Titina’ Sila was recruited into the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) while she was a young woman. Although her mother tried to dissuade her from her activism, before long, she had convinced almost everyone she knew to either support the PAIGC or even to join it themselves. Despite her mother's pleas, she ran away from home and joined the guerrillas in Cubucaré, where she was trained as a fighter and began her first combat missions

As one of the first women in the PAIGC, she quickly became a popular leading figure in the revolutionary movement and was often praised by its leader, Amílcar Cabral.

After being trained in nursing in the Soviet Union, she took a commanding role in the Northern Front of the war, rising to the rank of political commissar and joining the Superior Council of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People (FARP).
As the guerilla warfare against the Portuguese continued, the PAIGC paramount leader Amilcar Cabral lost his life. Upon receiving this news, Silá began making her way towards Guinea-Conakry, in order to attend his funeral. While crossing over the Farim River, Silá's detachment was ambushed by a patrol of the Portuguese Navy; and Silá herself was shot. A Cuban doctor attempted to save Silá, but she fell into the river and drowned, as she was not able to swim.

By the following year in 1974, Guinea-Bissau had declared independence from Portugal. Silá's remains were taken to Bissau and interred near Amilcar Cabral's grave.

Along with Amílcar Cabral and Domingos Ramos, Titina Silá has been recognised by Bissau-Guinean political society as a martyr of the war of independence. To commemorate her memory, a square in the capital of Bissau was named after her. In March 1977, a state-owned fruit juice factory named after Silá was opened in the town of Bolama.

Each 30 January, marking the anniversary of Silá's death, Guinea-Bissau celebrates "National Day of Guinean Women" in order to commemorate the women that died for the country's independence.