Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, was the first female student at Abeokuta Grammar School. She worked as a teacher and pushed for women’s rights, organising protests and campaigning for more representation in local government. Ransome-Kuti, also known as the “Lioness of Lisabi,” led the Nigerian Women’s Union and the Federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies. She earned the Lenin Peace Prize and the Order of the Niger. She died at the age of 77.

Ransome-Kuti founded the Abeokuta Ladies Club in 1932, with the initial focus on philanthropy and adult education sessions. By the 1940s, the group had switched to political activism, with Ransome-Kuti organising literacy sessions for market women. She obtained a better awareness of Nigerian women’s social and political inequalities and coordinated a successful campaign to prevent local authorities from collecting rice from market vendors. In 1946, the club was renamed the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU), to challenge random price regulations and taxes placed on market women.

By late 1947, Abeokuta authorities had prohibited women from organising parades or protests, but Ransome-Kuti and her co-organizers arranged “picnics” and “festivals” instead. Tensions between AWU demonstrators and authorities rose in February 1948, when the Alake compared AWU women to “vipers that could not be tamed.” The AWU’s activities resulted in the temporary abdication of the Alake in early 1949.

She was also involved in the nationalist movement and was a prominent member of the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP). Ransome-Kuti was known for her fearlessness and activism, often clashing with colonial authorities and later with post-independence Nigerian governments over issues of social justice and human rights.

She was the mother of Fela Kuti, the famous Nigerian musician and activist. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti’s legacy continues to inspire feminists and activists in Nigeria and beyond, and she is remembered as a pioneer in the fight for gender equality and social justice in Africa.

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