The feminist rise took a different dimension a couple of years ago when the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie began advocating for equality. But, before ‘Feminist’ became a label, women were always at the forefront of civil, military and domestic movements to redefine the status quo.
In 1925, Nwanyewura of Oloko declared, “We will not pay tax till the world ends!” This statement gradually gave rise to a movement that had women all over the southeastern part of colonial Nigeria rise up and defend their rights against the oppressive payment of tax. A gathering of about 28-40 women led to the now famous Aba women riots. From Warri, Onitsha and Umuahia to Port Harcourt, Calabar, Opobo and Imo, the movement spread. Over 13 women, who took matters into their own hands and fought against injustice, were killed at the bank of the river leading from Opobo to Ikoti-Abasi–there is still no monument or statue in their remembrance. That became a turning point for women in power in colonial Nigeria.
On January 3, 1949, Madame Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti broke glass ceilings, making headlines all over Africa when she led women to protest against taxation and the unnecessary suffering they had been subjected to. She organised a group of women and led the protest that caused the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Samuel Ladapo Ademola (1872-1962), to flee his throne. After that protest, Egba women were never looked down on again. She was an icon and defender of women’s rights. Due to her activism, she was thrown down a building when soldiers invaded her son’s house and set it on fire. She died weeks after from her injuries. No proper enquiry has been set up to investigate her death until today.
Later years saw women in active roles in Nigeria still not getting the fair treatment they deserved; these women remained relentless in a continuous fight against the system. Chief Bisoye Tejuoso, a philanthropist and businesswoman, was brutally murdered in her home. Mrs Dora Akunyuli faced numerous assassination attempts when she was the Director General of NAFDAC. Sefi Atta, Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa and other women writers, through their books and the lives they lived, inspired little girls to fling off gender roles and reach for more.
The likes of May Ellen Ezekiel, the late wife of Nigerian actor Richard Mofe-Damijo, and Chris Anyanwu were at the forefront fighting for the benefits Nigerian women in media are enjoying today. Most importantly, who knows what would have become of Nigeria and Africa at large if Dr Ameyo Adadeboh hadn’t sacrificed her life to nip the scourge of Ebola in the bud when the deadly disease snuck into the country?
Women are the pillars of the world, not just the home. Motherhood, a bitter and sweet experience all mothers go through, creates a boomerang effect of love, sacrifice, joy and service women give to their families, communities and society at large.