Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and the Women's Union of Abeokuta
As part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) long-running General History of Africa project, the UNESCO Women in Africa Series aims to highlight a selection of key women figures in African history through the use of information and communication technologies. The profiles cover women who have excelled in a variety of fields, from Njinga Mbandi’s resistance against colonialisation, to the environmental protection of Wangari Maathai. This particular profile discusses Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and the Women’s Union of Abeokuta in Nigeria.
To begin, the publication introduces the series and the motivations behind it. UNESCO is committed to using education to address gender equality, and see the teaching of history as crucial in understanding and overcoming social problems. By emphasizing the education, academic careers and main achievements of these exceptional women, UNESCO seeks to highlight their legacy, and call for continued research on the role of women in African history.
A brief biography is then given of Ransome-Kuti; born in 1900 in Abeokuta (present-day Ogun State), she was one of the first women to attend the local grammar school in 1914. After this, she traveled to England to attend the Wincham Hall School for Girls, but returned to Nigeria in 1922 where she became associated in some of the most important anti-colonial educational movements in West Africa. In 1944, she founded the Abeokuta Ladies’ Club (later, the Abeokuta Women’s Union), committed to defending women’s political, social and economic rights, which became one of the most important women’s movements of the twentieth century.
The founding and work of the Abeokuta women’s union is then told in comic book form, with beautiful illustrations accompanying the story of women caught between powerful groups: the colonial administration, and the native police forces implementing their powers and abusing their authority. Through the organising powers of Ransome-Kuti, and in the face of arrest, the women collectively and successfully demanded an end to confiscations of their goods. The comic goes on to discuss the activism of Ransome-Kuti, from protests against an unjust constitution while in London, to her tireless work on women’s rights across Nigeria, and the example set for the world by the Abeokuta women’s union.