Nigerian Independence: The Role of Women

Published on: October 1, 2022 (Updated on: April 22, 2024)

The role of women in whatever sphere, ranging from politics to economy and even religion has generally been deemphasized over the years. This results from the perception that this particular class of people are weaker, hence having little or nothing to contribute to situations of import.

Whether this assertion regarding a woman’s strength is true or not, is not our focus.
However, implying that women do not indeed contribute to critical matters would be a disrespectful oversight and an aberration of theory, given the fact that there are, after all, historical evidence that have been set in stone. Fortunately, whether we accept or go ahead to undermine or even ignore these evidence, does not change the fact that women are ultimately an integral part of society and the nation at large.

Independence and the role of women

Independence of a Nation as we all know is the political freedom from external control, and the ability of that country to stand on its own. Personally, I’d like to put forward that independence doesn’t only involve the nation at large but also includes the personal liberty of individuals. After all, a nation whose citizens are under an oppression of any kind, especially by its own leaders, has not truly attained any substantiated freedom whatsoever.

It is generally known that our nation Nigeria obtained its independence on the 1st of October, 1960. Nonetheless, it is imperative to point out that what Nigeria obtained on that memorable day is only the freedom from external control, as the ability to stand on its own, that is self-subsistence isn’t a one-day thing but a continuous procedure. Thus, it is safe to say that although independence is gained, it is also maintained.

In a bid to grasp the intermeshing of the concepts of Independence and the role of women, it is therefore pertinent to take note of the contributions of notable women that led up to the point of Independence and of those that have helped sustain it even up to the 60-year mark.

The role of Nigerian women - pre-independence

In the years leading up to the remarkable 1960, there were women whose actions not only stood up to the British colonialists but also catalyzed the independence process. Among them are:

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti

“As for the charges against me, I am unconcerned. I am beyond their timid lying morality and so I am beyond caring.” Voicing one of the most courageous words ever said, Ransom-Kuti during her lifetime was one of Africa's pioneer feminists and a fervent women’s rights activist. A teacher by profession and an activist by conviction, Ransome-Kuti in the 1940s co-founded Abeokuta Women’s Union which led a protest against corruption, lack of women representation and taxes levied on women by the Alake of Egbaland on behalf of the colonial masters.

Over the years, through the establishment of the Federation of Nigerian Women societies, Ransom-Kuti continued to advocate women’s rights. She established schools all over the south and was recognized as one of the first women to form a political party.

She was also one of the delegates who negotiated Nigeria's independence from Britain and sat to discuss the proposed Nigerian constitution. Although the events leading up to her death were unpalatable, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and her immense contributions would forever be felt in Nigeria.

Margaret Ekpo and Hajia Sawaba

Hajia Sawaba born on the 15th of February, 1933, at the early age of 17 was already active in politics and a member of the Northern Elements Progressive Union. Leveraging on this advantage, She proceeded to campaign against under-aged marriage, having been a victim of this herself and forced labour. She also advocated for Western education.

Margaret Ekpo on the other hand, born on the 27th of July, 1914 was nominated to the regional House of Chiefs in 1953. A year later, she was responsible for the formation of Aba Township Women’s Association.

Working closely with Ransome-Kuti, Ekpo protested against the unjust killings of local leaders who themselves had protested against the practices of the colonial masters at Enugu coal in the 1950s. Ekpo was elected into the Eastern region parliament between 1961 and 1965.

The role of Nigerian women - post-independence

Succeeding independence, lots of women have also helped build Nigeria into what we have now. Starting with the most contemporary, Aisha Yesufu will by all means have to come first.

Aisha Yesufu

“A nation where the child of a nobody can become somebody, without knowing anybody.”
Aisha Yesufu, is one of the most ardent and consistent female activists Nigeria has today. Ranging from #bringbackourgirls to the #endsars campaign, Aisha hasn’t let up or show signs of giving up on the ‘dream Nigeria' she has, where no Nigerian is more Nigerian than the other.

Late Dora Akunyili

Not everyone can be an activist, then again not everyone can be a Dora Akunyili either. Although dead, Akunyili's impact can never be forgotten. Before serving as the minister of Information and Communication, Dora used her position as the director general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for the betterment of the nation. She served as an integral part in the campaign that worked indefatigably and successfully toward the eradication of counterfeit drugs and unsafe foods in the country.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The great Okonjo-Iweala, the former minister for finance, is notable for helping the country’s economy grow an average of 6% per annum over three years. She is also credited with developing Reformation programs that helped stabilize the economy and promote transparency.

From the likes of Folorunso Alakija, a tremendous contributor to the Nigerian GDP, to Ibukun Awosika, a woman of great influence, women have and are still actively involved in the growth, all-round development, welfare and emancipation of the nation and its people. Everyone has a part to play irrespective of his/her gender and it’s up to us not to shy away from those responsibilities, because, in all honesty, Nigeria still has a long way to go.

Happy independence day