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Uncovering hidden historical narratives of village women in Namibia

Ellen Ndeshi Namhila (University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 4 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe the research techniques used by the author in collecting, analysing and writing life histories of women in the war during Namibia's independence struggle. The interest in recording and writing about these women arose because writing about the independence struggle of Namibia is dominated by men and little has been written about women; the little that is written tends to portray women as victims rather than as independent actors conscious of their decisions and the consequences of such decisions. This history is in danger of being lost if not tapped while these women are still alive.

Design/methodology/approach

A life history approach was followed to appraise the methods used to listening to the women narrating their life stories and to listen to their life stories narrated by those who knew them, worked with them, and shared a prison experience with them. These stories were collected through open interviews followed by more structured interviews with list of open-ended questions with each woman. Life history follows an induction approach, starting with the story and using the stories to create themes and a method or framework guiding the interview recordings, analysing, writing and presentation of the story.

Findings

The stories of the five women led to the demystification of woman as mere victims of repressive regimes and military conflicts. In collecting oral history sources on a subject such as the liberation struggle in a society that was torn apart by a prolonged military conflict, apartheid and repression, a researcher must respect the stories as told, but an extensive verification of the credibility and reliability of the sources may be required. Authenticity is undermined by the fact that the current society glorifies the independence struggle, and everybody wants to be on the side of the winners, even those that fought against liberation have today become its evangelists.

Research limitations/implications

The sources for the paper depend on what the women could still remember and there are no local institutions such as archives and or newspapers to document the events when they happened.

Practical implications

This paper argues the case that publishing women's life stories promotes interests in local history and makes significant impact on the socioeconomic status of women. It further recommends methodological approaches in documenting local histories; dealing with authenticity and integrity in each story.

Social implications

The paper shows that publishing the life stories of five village women in a book with the title Tears of Courage had positive impact on their individual lives; and that publishing such oral accounts is an excellent way to lift the contributions by women out of obscurity into the mainstream of Namibian history.

Originality/value

It is an original paper written from practical research experiences of identifying sources, documenting, interviewing, analysing, writing and constantly cross referencing to verify authenticity and integrity of both written and oral sources.

Keywords

Citation

Ndeshi Namhila, E. (2014), "Uncovering hidden historical narratives of village women in Namibia", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 243-258. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-12-2012-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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