It was the queen’s birthday yesterday, HRH Queen Elizabeth II was 90 years old, long may she reign.
Queen Elizabeth II, Nigeria 1956@NigeriaNostalgia
It got me thinking about the African queens that helped shape Nigeria, the women I used to tell my classmates about during history lessons of kings, queens and princes in the tower.
These are the women who stood up for women’s rights, got beaten and thrown into jail because they believed in equal rights for all, long gone but not forgotten.
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti (1900 – 1978) campaigned for women’s rights and the abolition of the crippling taxes the women were made to pay by their colonial masters.
She was a member of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons party, In 1947, she was described by the West African Pilot Newspaper as the ‘Lioness of Lisabi’ for her leadership of Egba women in a non violent campaign against taxation. The women sang songs about the king, danced and decided to have a sit in the King’s compound, he was made to leave in shame.
Margaret Ekpo – The Fashionable Feminist
Margaret Ekpo (1914–2006) was at the forefront of fashion, combining western and Nigerian fashion influences, and standing up for women’s rights in Eastern Nigeria. She set up a Market Women’s Association to promote solidarity and fight for the economic rights of women, who were treated like second class citizens.
After the second world there was a shortage of salt, she got to the men of the region through their stomachs by decreeing that women could only buy salt if they belonged to the association, many a man had a bland meal until he allowed his wife to join! She made sure that Nigerian women had the right to vote.
Hajia Gambo Sawaba
Hajia Gambo Sawaba (1933-2001) was an activist who championed the participation of women in politics. She was known for her charitable causes and for her views on women’s liberation.
Mrs Eniola Soyinka
Mrs Eniola Soyinka co-founded the Egba Women’s Union with Mrs. Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti. She was the mother of renowned playwright, Prof. Wole Soyinka. She organised workshops for illiterate women in the region teaching them how to read and write and understand their rights as citizens.