Nana Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother of the Ashanti Empire in Asante region in Ghana, was the epitome of strength, bravery and courage. Born in 1840, Nana Yaa Asantewaa experienced many events that would test the strength of the Asante Confederacy, including a civil war between 1883 and 1888 and her own brother’s, King Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese’s, death in 1894.
However, the most crucial test of the Asante Confederacy’s strength arrived in the form of British colonization in 1896. When various members of the Asante Confederacy, including the king himself, were exiled to Seychelles Island, Nana Yaa Asantewaa took control when no one else would and made it her mission to save her government and her people by leading the Asante Uprising of 1900 against the British. This type of perseverance and commitment to one’s people is a rare, powerful quality that not many people possess. Sylvaina Gerlich, a modern Nana Yaa Asantewaa, is one of the few individuals who possesses this exact quality. Ms. Sylvaina Gerlich genuinely cares and fights for her people on a daily basis and will never back down from any challenge that stands in her way.
Sylvaina Gerlich is the director of IMIC e.V., a non-profit organization (NGO) that helps migrants while also participating in many social and cultural activities throughout Hamburg. In addition to dealing with all of the legal issues associated with individual migrant cases, Ms. Gerlich takes the time to really get to know the people that she helps in order to not only understand their situation as migrants, but to also know them as real human beings. If someone is in need, Sylvaina Gerlich will stop whatever she is doing and come to their aid. Sylvaina Gerlich is also a member of the Integration Council in the Hamburg Senate, she works constantly to promote integration and rights for all migrants. Cultural events are also a major aspect of Ms. Gerlich’s work and passion; led by Ms. Gerlich, IMIC e.V. organized the first Africa Day in Hamburg on May 25th-27th of 2012. The goal of Africa Day, and Ms. Gerlich’s vision in her work, was to bring about understanding, unity, and acceptance of the diversity of African cultures and peoples in society.
Both Yaa Asantewaa and Ms. Gerlich are not only strong, courageous women, they are also two women who really love and know their own people, and will therefore do whatever it takes to protect them. This type of dedication and perseverance is more powerful than any other weapon known to mankind. It is undoubtedly true that Yaa Asantewaa and Ms. Gerlich would sacrifice anything to help their people and to preserve their culture, something that is both rare and perhaps the most commendable quality that one can ever possibly possess. We are most thankful to have such a dynamic and strong individual as Sylvaina Gerlich here in Hamburg to be our leader for the African community. We love you.
By Danielle Payne and Eric Obuobi-Nyarko