Aisha Yesufu (Political and Women’s Rights Activist)In 2014, after 300 girls were kidnapped from a secondary school in Northeast Nigeria by the terrorist Boko Haram group, Yesufu, alongside Oby Ezekwesili, launched the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign to demand the release of the girls. The campaign was one of the biggest Nigeria has ever seen and attracted global attention from people like Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and a host of celebrities. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls trended across multiple platforms worldwide and it sparked physical protests in various countries.
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Thanks to the efforts of the BBOG group, 154 of the girls have been released and the campaign is still ongoing. Yesufu has continued to remain a vocal critic of lax government policy and frequently advocates for the accountability of political officeholders.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Writer, Novelist, Feminist)Through her work, Adichie has been able to bring global attention to the inequalities women face in Nigerian and global society. Her first novel Purple Hibiscus, the coming-of-age story of Kambili, a 15-year-old whose family is wealthy and well respected but who is terrorised by her fanatically religious father, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Adichie has often named Nigerian literary icon Chinua Achebe as her earliest inspiration. Half Of A Yellow Sun, Adichie’s second and most famous novel, about the Biafran war, has been made into a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, an extended version of a letter to a friend who asked Adichie’s advice on how to raise her daughter to be feminist, was published in 2017. “We should all be feminists” is the title of the now-famous TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The phrase made it onto Dior t-shirts (a collaboration with Adichie), a Beyoncé song, and has been adapted into a book of the same title. In 2015, the book was distributed to every 16-year-old high-school student in Sweden and has remained on bestseller lists all over the world.
Kiki Mordi (Journalist, Women’s Rights Activist)EveryEvery NGKiki Mordi’s “Sex For Grades” documentary (released with the BBC in October 2019) turned the country on its head. The documentary showed lecturers in Nigerian and Ghanaian universities sexually harassing students for marks and admission opportunities. A day after the documentary was released, the Nigerian senate re-introduced the anti-sexual harassment bill. Since then Nigerian state governments have declared a state of emergency on rape and sexual harassment, while a handful of states have launched sex offender registers. The documentary was also nominated for an Emmy in 2020. Mordi has been doing similar work and advocating for women’s and children rights as a journalist and broadcaster for about six years. In 2019, she produced the film Life at the Bay in Lagos, Nigeria. The documentary tells the story of the inhabitants of Tarkwa Bay and the survival and struggles of their women as they faced eviction from government authorities. Back in 2017, she started an online petition to end police extortion and exploitation after some Nigerian policemen invaded her home and accused her and her boyfriend of being cultists, a crime that carries a five-year jail term. She has been a constant voice against sexual harassment and gender-based violence and works with non-profit organisations to support victims and disadvantaged women. Through her documentaries and campaigns, Mordi has risen to the forefront of her generation’s efforts to build on the foundations laid by those activists who came before them to continue to build a stronger Nigeria for the next generation.
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Betty Abah (Nigerian journalist, author and a women and children’s rights activist)Betty is the founder and Executive Director of CEE-HOPE, a child rights and development non-profit organization based in Lagos State which works with at-risk girls and other vulnerable children in slum communities across Nigeria, including Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest urban slum settlement. CEE-HOPE’s programs focus on increasing girl leadership, mentorship and developing their skills to combat some of their most pressing issues such as teenage pregnancy, school drop-out, and child marriage, as well as other forms of child abuse. She is very outspoken against societal ills and misgovernance in Nigeria.
Lola Omolola (Women’s Rights advocate)In 2014, when almost 300 girls were kidnapped from a secondary school in Northern Nigeria by the Boko Haram terrorist group, Lola Omolola was one of the millions of women shocked by the news. To her, the incident represented the worst form of patriarchy: men were targeting young women for getting an education. She wanted to be a part of her country’s mourning and healing so she turned to Facebook and started a group now called Female In (formerly Female In Nigeria). She invited friends who invited friends and in a short time, the group grew quickly. Soon she started holding real-world events where women could represent themselves and share a unique community; a sort of confessional space, where women share stories that they might be uncomfortable — or even afraid — to tell in person.
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Today, the group is nearly 1.7 million strong and has members from several countries all over the world, but the majority are Nigerian women. It is one of the most powerful online movements in the world. Now, that’s how you turn a devastating moment into positive action. Are there other women worthy of note you feel we have omitted? Please comment and redirect us to how we can find and share their exploits. References frontlinedefenders.org guardian.ng globalcitizen.org Featured Image Source:
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