Ladies of a certain generation might not know it but feminism is not necessarily a novel concept. Indeed there are those who argue that traditional African Culture ascribed more rights to women than western culture does. Owing to the actions of a few, though, in recent times the term feminism has gradually acquired some stigma as people who describe themselves as such are sometimes perceived as attempting to upturn nature. However, feminism is simply aimed at advocating equality for men and women as opposed to patriarchy which is founded on the belief that men are superior to women and therefore relegates them to the background.
It is interesting to note that feminism has unfolded in a series of “waves”. The first wave is situated in the 19th and early 20th centuries and was concerned with establishing women’s suffrage (voting rights) as well as upturning legal inequality. The second wave, which took place from the 1960s to the 1980s broadened the debate to include cultural and gender norms and the inequalities associated with those. It also questioned the role of women in society. This was the era that birthed women like Chief Ekpo. Indeed Nigeria has had her fair share of very vibrant feminists, especially in the 60s. Some notable ones are Madam Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (mother to Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Grandmother to Femi Kuti; first Nigerian woman to drive a car); Hajia Gambo Sawaba (deputy chairman of Great Nigeria People’s Party; leader of the national women’s wing of Northern Element Progressive Union); and of course Chief Margaret Ekpo.
The third wave which we are currently experiencing began in the 1990s and refers to varied forms of feminism which could be described as a continuation or amplification of the second wave and as a response to its shortcomings.
Margaret Ekpo’s direct participation in politics began in 1945 somewhat by chance as her husband who was indignant about the colonialists found himself unable to attend meetings where such matters were debated owing to his status as a civil servant. He delegated his wife Margaret to attend on his behalf and so began a journey to women activism that culminated in her establishing a Market Women Association in Aba (currently the capital city of Abia state). The association was used to promote women solidarity and strengthen them to fight for their economic rights.
Borin in 1914 (the year of Nigeria’s amalgamation) the teacher, politician and women’s activist lived long enough to see the Calabar Airport in Cross River state named after her in 2001. She died in 2006. The Margaret Ekpo Fellowship Program for Women’s Rights was also established in her honour and is solely for women.
Why don’t you apply?