Early Women who Introduced Women Education/Women Emancipation from the Amalgamation of Nigeria (1914)

Early Women who Introduced Women Education/Women Emancipation from the Amalgamation of Nigeria (1914)

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In the African societies, education of women over time has generated lots of arguments. Some people argued that the place of women is in the kitchen so it is a waste spending time and resources to educate them. Others suggested that since she will ultimately be married out, it is unreasonable to invest in her education. She is to be given only such training in domestic activities that would enhance her being a good wife and mother (Fafunwa, 1994; Oroka 1996).

In the face of scarce resources, many parents believed that educating a male child is preferable and more beneficial to educating a female. This is because most African family systems are patrilineal; having their generations recorded and headed through males (Suara, 1999). These opinions have negatively impaired the education of women and the girl-child. In recent times, women and the girlchild education has attracted not only local or national attention but also international attention because of the large population of the female folk and their role in nation-building. Accelerated development in the third world countries hitherto, was geared towards capital accumulation.



Upon her return to Nigeria, Ransome-Kuti organised literacy classes for women in the early 1920s and founded a nursery school in the 1930s. She went on to found the Abeokuta Ladies’ Club (ALC) along with Eniola Soyinka (her sister-in-law and the mother of the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka) for educated women involved in charitable work in 1942. In 1944, the club expanded to include the market women and, in 1945, defended them when the government began taking their rice without compensation.

This marked the turn of the club, which steadily became more politicised, subsequently changing its name to the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) in 1946. According to African Feminist Forum, the union was used to organise women in Abeokuta in protest of colonial taxation and other unfavourable, foreign and excessive policies under the slogan, “No taxation without representation”.

As with the Igbo women in 1929, the Egba women of Abeokuta focused their opposition on a local representative of British power rather than on British power itself. “Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a pioneering nationalist who fought against British colonialism and a cultural nationalist…a pioneer African feminist and a human rights activist who was tireless in her campaigns for women’s rights and for economic, political, and social justice. She was an educator who gave a voice to the voiceless and education to the uneducated.” – Oxford Dictionary of African Biography


Lady Margaret Ekpo was born on July 27th, 1914 in Creek town, Cross Rivers State, Nigeria.  She was a women’s right activist, social mobilizer and a pioneer in women politics in Nigeria.  She was a grassroots politician in Aba despite the patriarchal dominance of men in politics at that time and the gender stereotype of women unto traditional roles of taking care of the household.

She started attending political meetings in 1945 when her husband, Dr. John Ekpo, resented the colonial administration’s treatment of Nigerian doctors which he was a part of, but did not attend as a civil servant. She was the only woman at meetings where the discriminatory practices and imbalances were discussed.

She worked as a pupil teacher after the death of her father which almost truncated her education. She later earned a Diploma in Domestic Science in Dublin. She returned to Nigeria to set up a fashion institute. Through the Women’s association, she was able to convene women meetings and encourage them in political participation. Later that year, she was nominated to the Eastern region House of Chiefs to represent women.

Her membership in the House of Chiefs gave her the opportunity of knowing that the Special Membership of the legislature, which was used as a pedestal to appoint her to the House of Chiefs, was going to be abolished in the new Nigerian Constitution. This was particularly disturbing given that at that time in Nigeria, women did not vote. She sought and got the support of her party leader, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Their party, NCNC won the elections and amended the constitution, introducing ‘Universal Adult Suffrage’ which meant that every woman could vote and be voted for.

She co-founded the women’s wing of the NCNC and was very influential in the party. She, at various times, used her position to settle high level disputes among men, commit the party into making some decisions and ensuring they were carried out. Rather than use her position acquire material things for herself like women of her time, she projected and made sacrifices for the interest of Nigerian women.

After being detained for three years of Nigeria’s Civil War which had adverse effects on her health, her political activities reduced to attending political meetings until her death on September 21st, 2006 at 92 years.


Moremi made significant contributions to African freedom but her life has received little scholarly attention. She was a queen of the Yoruba tribe, which is one of the most famous and influential black tribes in history. Moremi’s exploits helped preserve the commercial life of her people and freed them from oppressors.

Today, there are over 41 million ethnic Yorubas who live predominantly in sixteen countries in West Africa, although, because of the transatlantic slave trade, large Yoruba communities have taken root in countries like Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the Americas.

There are also Yoruba communities in many European countries most having migrated in the immediate decades after the end of colonialism in the 1970s and 1980s while fleeing economic and political instability in their home countries. But the Yorubas would have never survived to become a prominent black ethnic group in the 21st century if it were not for the bravery of some of its early heroes, among which is the remarkable Queen Moremi.

Unfortunately, there are hardly any original written documents to validate most of the things we know about Moremi. We must rely on folkloric accounts passed down over generations by the Yoruba themselves which is a common limitation when studying ancient and medieval African history.

Although accounts of Moremi’s exploits are now sparsely documented in popular culture, the Yorubas have always considered folklore (called ‘Aroba’ in the Yoruba language) the strongest medium for teaching and preserving history, rather than written documents or wall‐​carvings. This medium of preserving history is a feature common to many Sub‐​Saharan Africa tribes. We also do not know for certain exactly what year Moremi was born or when she died owing to the absence of written evidence. But we do know that she was a princess from the town of Offa  and was later married to the Ooni (king) of Ile‐​Ife.

Early Women who Introduced Women Education/Women Emancipation from the Amalgamation of Nigeria (1914)


Hajia Gambo Sawaba was a Nigerian politician and activist who was well known for her charitable causes one of which was fighting for the freedom of northern women. The rights and status of women in Northern Nigeria have to date remained a delicate issue to comprehend or solve although progress is being made. In more recent times, the Me-too campaign has found its way into the region. Locally known as Awera Me Too, the movement has stirred up a lot of controversy with women revealing their abusers amidst arrest of activists.

As a young girl, Gambo Sawaba, who was then known by her birth name Hajaratu Gambo, became popular both at home and in school for her feisty nature that made her never back down or give up a fight even if it meant a physical one. A personality trait that would lead her to become a pioneering feminist and activist in Northen Nigeria. Her early struggles did not make her timid but rather made her more courageous and her experiences feeding into the desire of helping other your girls and women like her who were being oppressed by the society they found themselves in.


Charlotte Olajumoke Obasa was a Nigerian philanthropist of private disposition who was a champion of women’s right and was instrumental in the establishment of the Wesleyan Girls High School.


Abayomi became active in the education of women and girls in Nigeria, which was not equal to that of men and boys. She joined the Lagos Women’s Organization. She did fundraising and promoting for Queen’s College through the West African Educated Girls’ Club, an organization she founded.  It opened in 1927. She was a founding teacher at the school. She was the only Nigerian to work there.  Around this time, she became one of the first women in Lagos to drive a car.


Although educational facilities available to women during the colonial era were limited. In 1944, she established the Ibadan People’s Girls Grammar School in Molete, to educate women in different subjects including domestic science. However, her views and subsequent political ideas did not advocate a much more expanded vision of women’s place in a broader society.


Education inequality between male and female in Nigeria has remained a perennial issue, since the introduction of western education in Nigeria. Achievement of equal status in educational attainment by men and woman has continued to be elusive. This is due to many factors ranging from faulty educational system to cultural and traditional practices that are inimical to women education. However, emerging realities have shown that efforts towards improving women education in Nigeria is yielding positive result giving hope that the skewed education imbalance between men and women will be reversed within the next 10 to 15 years if the current momentum is sustained.


Adeniran, A. I. (2007). Educational Inequalities and Women disempowerment in Nigeria. Retrieved August 30, 2012 from www.wunrn.com021/06/2011

African Union (2003). Protocol on people’s Rights and Rights of women. Peculiar Instincts Production.

Anugwom, E. E. (2009).Women, education and work in Nigeria. Educational Research and Review 4 (4), 127 – 134.

UNICEF Nigeria (2003). Understanding the Child’s Rights Act.  Abuja: UNICEF

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