“Alake for a long time you have used your penis as a mark of authority that you are our husband. Today we shall reverse the order and use our vagina to play the role of husband” – Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti and 10 Thousand Egba Women.
The African society, since its inception, has been programmed to always push women into the background. Over time, the society has thrived on the patriarchal sense of lordship of men over women and the place of women has moved between the kitchen and the bedroom. This has restricted the potentials of women, trapping them in a venomous space where they have to fight for their visibility and their exalted place in the community.
Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti led a group of 10,000 Egba women to fight against the tax imposed by the then Alake of Egba Land, Oba Ladapo Ademola (1872-1962). It was more than just a battle against unlawful taxation; it was a battle for survival and for the womanhood. The outcome of the unrest was the exile of Oba Ladapo Ademola in 1948, and they suspended the taxation.
In ancient times, one common manifestation of misogyny was sexual discrimination; the men felt they owned the woman’s body and will call for its use at any point in time. Men determine the number of children they want, and when a woman fails to produce a male heir for her husband, she is removed from the husband’s main house and relocated into a separate building. She will be recalled when she produces a male child. This is done at the detriment of her health most times as if it is her duty to determine the sex of her child.
Their counterparts in the Northern part of the country also face gruesome challenges, from female genital mutilation to girl child marriages, to disenfranchisement of women in social and religious orders and even when they make the slightest attempt to face their partners, they are openly punished, sometimes imprisoned or executed.
An attempt to give women hope in the society was the introduction of the Gelede masquerade into the Yoruba society. The masquerade, carried by the male, celebrates womanhood with its theatrical display which reflects on sensitive issues concerning womanhood.
Between 1925 and 1930, the hinterland of Eastern province of colonial Nigeria witnessed a fresh wave of protests led against taxation and other unfair policies that they subjected women to. At the bank of a river connecting Opobo to Ikoti Abasi and the Bonny Kingdom, over 120 women were killed during the tax protest. No single memorial material was erected in their honour till today!
The glorious Aba Women were victorious against a misogynistic society. The women rose to defend what was theirs; they succeeded in making a statement that left a mark not just on the pages of Nigerian history, but the world at large.
Historical figures like Madame Efunroye Tinubu of Egba, Queen Amina of Zaria, Queen Mother Idia of Benin, Princess Moremi of Ile-Ife, Emotan of Benin are examples of women that stood up and rose against misogyny in their respective societies. The saying “You can’t keep a good woman down” is as valid as it is in 21st-century Nigerian society, a society that still sees the average woman as a weaker sex, despite her important role in societal development.
The quest to put policies in place for protection and safeguarding the rights and the endless opportunities for the Nigerian woman is important and those policies should be affected now. Now is the time for the rise of the African Woman!