by Adewale Alabi
The #EndSARS/#EndSWAT protests saw a lot of women step up; rallying their peers on and off the protest grounds. Names like Feyikemi Abudu, Savvy Rinu, and Aisha Yesufu are just a few of them on the lips of a lot of Nigerians. However, are we going to continue to appreciate women and the role they have played when the protests are over? This is a big question because history shows that African women are often put in the background, their achievements erased as a result of patriarchy.
In ancient cultures within Nigeria, women who have done powerful deeds in the past have been largely erased in modern history, only slipping into our consciousness when they pop up in some documentary. For example, a lot of people tout the Benin Empire as one of the great African civilizations. However, only a few know that the fate of the empire once rested on the shoulders of a woman who literally saved it from invasion and doom. Iyoba Idia whose likeness is used in the famous Benin Ivory, helped her son fight to get an embattled throne and also led armies in a war to defeat invaders, who wanted to sack Benin. According to historians, she was always on the battle frontline with her son, who was a prince and young king.
Most people who know this part of history are mostly from the Edo region of Nigeria. Outside the state, only a few people know of Idia’s story. This is just one of the many female heroines whose historic feats have been erased or reduced to little facts. The same culture of erasure has also happened to women in contemporary Nigeria whose deeds are mostly reduced to trivial facts.
Funmilayo Kuti, for instance, is often known to be the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car, but this is not the most important aspect of her life. During the 1940s, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti established the Abeokuta Women’s Union and fought for women’s rights, demanding better representation of women in local governing bodies and an end to unfair taxes on market women. She led marches and protests of up to 10,000 women, forcing the ruling Alake to temporarily abdicate in 1949. Does her profile sound familiar? Notice how the women in the #EndSARS protests have also achieved similar feats?
The big question is when will Nigeria start to give women their due credit and not erase their efforts, reducing it to a few trivial facts? It is pertinent for this present generation to document all that has happened this month properly so history doesn’t repeat itself. And so Nigerian girls can read on it, gaining an arsenal of confidence to rule their world.