From Marginalisation to Empowerment – The Nigerian Woman. A Story 

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 1, 2023

Women in Nigeria have made significant progress in recent decades towards achieving political influence and power.

Many of Nigeria’s indigenous cultures were matrilineal before colonisation, which means that women played significant roles in community governance and that descent could be traced through the female line. Women were active in trade and held positions of power in the markets, especially among the Igbo people of southeast Nigeria. Similar to this, women predominated in political and religious institutions among the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria.

However, many traditional African societies were disrupted and replaced by patriarchal systems that favoured men with the arrival of European colonial powers in the late 19th century. Women’s political influence decreased as a result, and they were cast into roles of servitude in the home and in society. Nigerian women have nonetheless continued to accomplish remarkable feats in spite of this exclusion.

Despite these setbacks, women in Nigeria started uniting to form women’s rights organisations in the early 20th century and promoting their demand for greater political representation.

A pivotal moment in Nigerian women’s activism occurred in 1929 when Igbo women led the Aba Women’s Riot in opposition to British colonial policies that threatened their trade and land rights.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a prominent figure in the fight for Nigeria’s independence and fought for women’s rights, equality, and education. She was also a teacher, activist, political campaigner, and supporter of women’s rights. The Nigerian Women’s Union was established as a result of her efforts. The founding of this union provided women with a platform from which to advance their interests and fight for their rights.

Women continued to organise and form political parties to run for office after Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. Given that so few women held elected office in the early years of independence, this advancement might have been made more quickly and gradually.

Nigeria didn’t commit to gender equality and women’s empowerment until the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which demanded the inclusion of women in all decision-making processes and the abolition of all forms of discrimination against women, was ratified by the Nigerian government.

Women’s political representation in Nigeria started to increase, albeit gradually, in the years after Beijing.

Diezani Alison-Madueke, the nation’s first female governor, joined President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet in 1999.

Chimaroke Nnamani appointed the first female deputy governor in Nigeria in 2006, making history for women’s political rights.

In recent years, there have been some notable turning points for women in Nigerian politics. Patricia Etteh was chosen as Nigeria’s first female House of Representatives speaker in 2011. Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, who leads the northern state of Taraba, became Nigeria’s first female governor in 2015.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is another prominent woman in Nigerian politics. In March 2021, she was appointed the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) first female and African director general. She held the positions of Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance in Nigeria, where she implemented a number of economic reforms that helped to stabilise the country’s economy.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Nigeria’s Dora Akunyili was the organization’s first female director general (NAFDAC). She won numerous international awards, including the Time Magazine Award for one of the 100 most influential people in the world, for her campaign against the sale of fake drugs, for which she gained recognition on a global scale.

The World Trade Organization’s first female and African director general is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (WTO). She oversaw the implementation of reforms that boosted the nation’s economy while serving as Nigeria’s finance minister and coordinating minister for the economy prior to being appointed.

The accomplishments of these women show the zeal and brilliance of Nigerian women in a variety of fields.

Despite these advancements, women in Nigeria still face substantial obstacles to political representation and power. According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, the nation is ranked 133rd out of 153 nations, which highlights significant differences between men and women in terms of economic participation, political emancipation, and health and survival.

The difficulties faced by Nigerian women include cultural and traditional beliefs that treat them as less valuable than men, a lack of access to healthcare and education, and violence and harassment both in public and private settings.

The development of women’s power in Nigeria has been marked by significant turning points and obstacles. Nigerian women have proven their tenacity and resolve in the fight for gender equality, persevering through patrilineal systems of pre-colonial times and struggles for political representation in the post-independence era.

There is cause for optimism that the trend towards greater gender parity will continue to gain momentum in the coming years, even though there is still much work to be done to address the structural and cultural barriers that restrict women’s political power in Nigeria.


“Nigerian women all over the world, in politics, business, social enterprise public policy, the corporate space, the creative sector are present and redefining what leadership and excellence…” URL:

“In the precolonial period, women played a major role in social and economic activities. Division of labour was along gender lines, and women controlled such occupations as food processing, mat weaving, pottery making, and cooking. Moreover, the land was communally owned, and women had access to it through their husbands or parents.” URL:

“Here are 17 powerful women whose extraordinary achievements helped shaped Nigerian culture: (1) Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (1900 – 1978) ADVERTISEMENT Kuti was an activist, teacher, political…” URL:

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