Amina J. Mohammed. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. These are just some of the influential Nigerian women that are inspiring generations both within the nation and across the world. Leading the World Trade Organisation, playing an instrumental role in the United Nations and being a literary icon are some of the things these phenomenal women are doing whilst representing the power that Nigerian women have. We’re making moves in so many different sectors, we’re a force to be reckoned with. With International Women’s Day next week (8th March), it’s important to celebrate the strength and achievements that we women have.
How many Nigerian women firsts are you aware of? Aloma Mariam Mukhtar is a woman of many firsts. She was the first female lawyer from Northern Nigeria, judge of the High Court in Kano, justice of the Court of Appeal, justice of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of Nigeria. Talk about Girl Power! For a woman of her age, she broke barriers and challenged stereotypes of what it means to be a woman in Nigeria.
We’re all probably familiar with the story of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Her noteworthiness is often reduced to that of the mother of the great Fela Kuti, and the first Nigerian woman to drive a car. But there’s more to her than that. She was an anti-colonial activist and feminist. As the leader of the Abeokuta Women’s Union, she campaigned for women’s rights. She also spearheaded the creation of the Nigerian Women’s Union which later on saw her advocating for women’s right to vote in Nigeria. There’s so much to say about this woman who greatly influenced where many Nigerian women are today, but I just don’t have the space.
What is evident though, is that despite the patriarchal society, Nigerian women of yesterday and today continue to prove that they are just as educated, intelligent and just as much a hustler as their male counterparts. There’s so many women and their achievements that we don’t hear about. Whether it’s the women in Jigawa state that came together and bought an ambulance for their village, so that they could safely transport pregnant women to the nearest hospital, or those that are breaking glass ceilings and entering new territories that women have often remained invisible in. They all deserve our recognition.
Take Sandra Aguebor for example, who is reportedly the country’s first female mechanic. She founded Lady Mechanic Initiative, a Lagos-based NGO that empowers vulnerable girls and women with mechanical and technical skills for a better life. Our women are often failed by the education system and society at large, and so through this organisation, Sandra is ensuring the education and employment of young women from disadvantaged backgrounds. I first discovered her story whilst watching a film produced by AlJazeera about her work, and it was her determination and go-getter attitude that captured me, qualities I see in so many of our women today.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, US based Fatima Bello is doing all she can to help Nigeria’s disabled community. Disability has long been stigmatised and grossly misunderstood by our society. Seeing a problem and wanting to offer a solution, Fatima founded Haske Children’s Foundation to provide assistance and aid to children with disabilities. Not only will her foundation give those in need the help and tools they require, but she also plans on educating communities on the broader topics of disability. She’s already started doing so on the foundation’s Instagram page (@haskechildrensfoundation), explaining disability terms and demystifying facts about certain conditions to properly educate our communities. Although it can be a taboo topic, the work that Fatima is doing is important for our society to move forward and better support those with disabilities in our country.
I could go on about the endless successes of Nigerian women because there are just so many. But instead, I encourage you to support, educate, nurture and celebrate the women around you. Not just on International Women’s Day, but all the time. We are the backbone of society and are powerful on all levels.
So, here’s to the women of our nation that continue to inspire generations through their actions, both big and small. We’ve made some headway over the decades, but we still have a long way to go.