By Briana Ward.
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was known as the leader for women’s rights in Nigeria, and she was also known as “The Mother of Africa.” I would like to take this time to acknowledge her for Women’s History Month and share her story and the changes she made in Nigeria.
Kuti was raised by parents who believed in the value of education. She attended school in Abeokuta and England. Kuti returned home to teach, and in 1925 married the Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, founder of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and Nigerian Union of Students (NUS), a forerunner of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC). Kuti was active in the NCNC, leading the women’s wing.
A career in feminist activism began for Kuti in 1932 when she founded the Abeokuta Ladies Club (ALC). Initially membership was mostly Western-educated and working-class women. The club expanded in 1944 to include market women. To begin working against injustice and the exploitation of market women, in 1946 the ALC became the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU), and membership was expanded. Over 100,000 Abeokuta women worked together to provide social welfare services and to pursue a gender-conscious agenda. In 1949, the AWU expanded to the Nigerian Women’s Union (NWU), a national organization that became known at the Federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies (FNWS) in 1953. With Kuti’s leadership, the FNWS was dedicated to addressing the concerns of all Nigerian women and improving their position in society, including education, suffrage, health care, and other social services.
“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
Kuti’s was a powerful voice across Nigeria. I love that she was a woman who was not only leading and teaching women, but teaching everyone. Her defense of women was her mission, and her words and actions mattered in Nigerian society. If you want to read Kuti’s biography and what she has done to affect the feminist movement, look for: For Women and the Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria by Cheryl Johnson-Odim and Nina Emma Mba.