Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, whose original name was Frances Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas, also called Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti who lived from the year 1900–1978, was a leading activist during Nigerian women’s anti-colonial struggles.
She was the first female student at the Abeokuta Grammar School (a secondary school), which she attended from 1914 to 1917, After teaching briefly at the school, she studied in England (1919–23), where she dropped her English names and shortened her Yoruba name to Funmilayo. Having resumed teaching at Abeokuta, she married Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican clergyman and teacher, in 1925.
She founded the Abeokuta Women’s Union, one of the most impressive women’s organizations of the twentieth century (with a membership estimated to have reached up to 20,000 women), which fought to protect and further the rights of women.
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. Her unwavering commitment to cooperation, solidarity and unity led her to play an active role in politics, notably in the pre-independence constitutional negotiations of 1946.
In old age her activism was over-shadowed by that of her three sons, who provided effective opposition to various Nigerian military juntas. In 1978 Funmilayo was thrown from a second-floor window when her son Fela’s compound, a commune known as the Kalakuta Republic, was stormed by one thousand armed military personnel. She lapsed into a coma in February of that year, and died on 13 April 1978, as a result of her injuries.
Going through her life as we have, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from her. Her bravery in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds has given me and women in Nigeria the right to vote and be voted for. The current battle for more inclusion of women in appointed and elected political offices in Nigeria and active female representation on national and multinational boards of companies in other parts of the world can be traced back to this act.
We have a part to play to continue to build where she and others like her through the generations have fought, struggled, campaigned, negotiated and mediated their way to the benefits we see and take for granted today.
The works of Late Mrs Funmilayo Ransom Kuti remains in our hearts forever. Peace
References: Pioneers of Change: Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti | Nigerian feminist and political leader …, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti biography | Women – Unesco.
Article by: Ekowa Abosede Oghoghomena.