April is International Black Women’s History Month. It is a month dedicated to celebrating and uplifting the achievements of Black women worldwide. And once again, it is time to honor and celebrate Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Ida B. Wells, and many more. But, of course, Nigeria has its women of honor. But unfortunately, their names will not come to mind if you are asked to name women heroes.
So, we are happy to bring you these women heroes that shaped the course of history in Nigeria. We ask you to share and respond to let us know the woman hero you would like to see on this list. We promise to update and add your contribution. Also, we ask you to research these women to understand their role in history. This list appears in no order.
Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a Nigerian educator and political activist. Ransome Kuti was born in Abeokuta and was the first female to attend Abeokuta Grammar School. By the 1940s, she began advocating for education for market women to bridge the equity gap and better representation for women. During this period, she led a march of 10,000 women, which resulted in Alake’s temporary abdication of his throne. This protest also resulted in the abolition of taxes for market women. Before her death in 1977, Ransome-Kuti received the Lenin Peace Prize and membership in the order of the Niger.
Ladi Kwali, OON, NNOM, MBE, was an educator, potter, and ceramist. She was born in the village of Kwali in the Birnin Gwari local government, Kaduna. Kwali learned pottery at an early age. She made giant pots of water jars, bowls, and cooking pots from coils and clays. Her work was outstanding because of its details and decorations. Kwali’s pottery is known for decorations such as snakes, crocodiles, chameleons, birds, and lizards. In 1962, Kwali was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire; in 1977, she was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In 1980 she received the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award, and in 1981, the national honor of the Officer of the Order of the Niger. Her work is displayed in museums around the world.
Chief Margaret Ekpo was a Nigerian women’s rights activist. In the 1940s, Ekpo organized the Market Women Association in the Eastern Nigeria town of Aba to fight for women’s economic rights, protection, and expansionary political rights for women. In 1954, she won a seat in the Eastern Nigeria Regional House of Assembly. She further used her position to advocate for equality for women. And in 2001, the Calabar Regional Airport was renamed Margaret Ekpo International Airport.
Queen Amina (Queen of Zazzau) was the Queen of Zazzau, now known as Zaria in Kaduna. Queen Amina was born in the middle of the sixteenth century. Her father, King Nikatau, was the 22nd ruler of Zaria. The name Zaria derives from her sister, whose name is Zaria. After the death of her parents, Queen Amina’s brother became the King of Zazzau (Zaria). Before her parent’s death, she had established herself as a “leading warrior.” Her brother Karami died in 1576, making way for Queen Amina. Upon assuming the throne, she waged a 34-year campaign against her neighbors to expand Zazzau (Zaria) territory. Her army consisted of 20,000-foot soldiers and 1000 cavalry troops.
Chief Alimotu Pelewura was born into a large Lagos polygamous family. In the 1920s, Pelewura founded the Lagos Market Women’s Association (LMWA). She believed that imposing taxes on market women would impact them negatively. In 1932, Pelewura led the market women in protest against the direct taxation of women by colonial masters. In the mid-1930s, she led another protest, this time against the relocation of the Ereko market to the Oluwole area of Lagos. Following the demonstration, Pelewura was arrested and detained. But she was released because women continued to rally for more days.
Flora Nkeiru Nwapa was a Nigerian author known as the mother of modern African Literature. She is also the forerunner to a generation of African women writers. Nwapa is the first African woman novelist published in English in Britain. Her novel Efuru, published in 1966 by Heinemann Educational Books, gained international recognition. Nwapa was known for recreating life from the perspective of an Igbo woman. In 1970, Nwapa founded Tana Press and became one of the first African women publishers.
Hajia Gambo Sawaba was a Nigerian women’s rights activist. She was among the many Nigerian women activists mentored by Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. Sawaba is widely regarded as the pioneer in fighting for the liberation of Northern Nigerian women. She was not afraid to challenge authorities openly. Unfortunately, her open challenge of the status quo resulted in 16 incarcerations. She strongly advocated against child marriage, forced and unpaid labor, and taxes on market women.
Nana Asmau’u was the daughter of Usman Dan Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate. Asmau’u was regarded as the precursor to modern feminism in Africa. She was an accomplished poet and teacher. Nana Asamau’u was seen as a leading scholar in Nigeria when female education and independence in Islam were rare. She witnessed the Fulani wars and captured her experience writing Wakar Gewaye, “The Song of Wandering.” Her legacy goes beyond her writings; she was instrumental in defining the values of Sokoto State.
Kofo Aina Ademola, Lady Ademola, was the first black African woman to earn a degree from Oxford University, the first Nigerian graduate teacher at Queens College, the first female member, and later became chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the United Bank for Africa (UBA). Ademola co-founded the New Era Girls’ Secondary School, Lagos, and the Girl’s Secondary Modern School, Lagos. In 1959, Ademola was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire. She received the award from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. She was also awarded membership in the Order of the Federal Republic by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.