Since the beginning of time in Nigeria, women have been thought to live within the confinements of their homes; catering for the needs of their husband and children, never to be caught engaging in activities that concerned the “men” but it took a lot of perseverance from women to breakthrough that belief and show how effective they could also be. The struggle for women to be heard started during the years that led to Nigeria’s independence in 1960; where there were prominent women who took to the front seat, fighting effortlessly and relentlessly by not only coercing Nigerians to stand up to the colonialist but also leading active political and socio-economic movements that culminated into Nigeria’s independence. Fast forward to the present day Nigeria’s society, we can spot women who have been able to hold and play vital roles in sports, politics, entertainment industries, art and so much more. So, it’s time to uncover some of these amazing women whose achievements and unique influence has contributed to the country’s celebration of independence.
The birth of a Heroine, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti
Frances Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas was born on 25th October 1900 in Abeokuta (now Abeokuta, Ogun state) and died on 13th April 1978 in Lagos. She was an educator, politician, women’s right activist and a suffragist. She was the first female student to attend Abeokuta Grammar school and also the first woman to drive a car in the country. Now, let’s dive into her works.
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti’s contributions to politics and socio-economic movement in Nigeria
Politics in Nigeria dated far back as during the era of the colonialists. But women became noticeable in politics and the fight for freedom during the 1900s when women like, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti also joined the movement. As a young adult, Funmilayo worked as a teacher organizing some of the first pre-school classes in the country, arranging literary classes for lower income women, thereby uplifting the female child education. During the 1940s, Funmilayo went further to establish the Abeokuta Women’s Union and fought for women’s rights demanding better representation of women in local governing bodies. Her political career grew immensely giving her the opportunity to take part in the Nigerian independence movement and take part in conferences and joining overseas delegation to discuss proposed national constitutions. In 1947, the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons party (NCNC) sent a delegation to London, England, to protest a proposed Nigerian constitution which she was the sole woman in the delegation. While in London, she caused a stir after writing an article for the “Daily Worker” that argued colonial rule had “severely marginalized” Nigerian women both politically and economically. In 1953, Funmilayo formed the federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies for women’s inclusion, improved educational opportunities, and the creation of new social services and health care, she also served as a board member for the Nigerian Union of Teachers. She continued her great works until her death.
The unbent activist, Margaret Ekpo
She was born July 27th, 1914 in Creek town (the present day Cross River state) and died in 2006.
Margaret Ekpo’s works
She was the first female political activist and held protests alongside Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti against the killings of the leaders of a local group that protested against the practices of the colonial owners at an Enugu Region Parliament between 1961 and 1965 during her time as a member of the Eastern Region Parliament.
The works of these great women paved for others like;
The staunch Amina Jane Mohammed
Amina Jane Mohammed, a Nigerian diplomat and politician who is serving as the fifth Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. She coordinated the Task Force on Gender and Education for the United Nations Millennium Project, in 2005, she was charged with the coordination of Nigeria’s debt relief funds toward the achievement of the MDGs. Her mandate included designing a Virtual Poverty Fund with innovative approaches to poverty reduction, budget coordination and monitoring, as well as providing advice on pertinent issues regarding poverty, public sector reform and sustainable development, during her time as the millennium goals adviser, she and her team helped reduce maternal mortality in Nigeria by 30 percent.
Ayisha Osori the Nigerian lawyer and so much more
Ayisha Osori, she is known for her work on good governance, gender equality, women’s economic and political participation and ending violence against women in Nigeria and, the first CEO of the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund. In 2018, the Open Society Foundations announced the appointment of Osori as the Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) overseeing the operations of OSIWA in 10 African countries.
The woman with a heart for the world and a head for business, Eleanor Nwadinobi
Eleanor Nwadinobi, she is a medical doctor and women health activist and also the first Nigerian to be elected as president of Medical Women International Association. She is the manager of the program’s women and girls arm ‘Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Program’ which is aimed at tackling the lack of peace and security in the country.
These are few of the amazing contributions women have rendered and are still rendering in this great nation. Every October, gives an opportunity to reflect back on how far we have come as a nation, the fights, struggles, the wins and the most important of all, the heroes and heroines who have stood their grounds as pacesetters.