Feminism is a word that triggers emotions in Nigeria.
While some believe it is a controversial topic, we cannot deny that feminism is important. In a society, where women usually play the second fiddle, feminism has helped give women a voice. Despite its popularity, there are many Nigerians who do not understand feminism.
Pulse is about to break it down. A popular way to explain feminism is to break it into waves.
A wave of feminism describes the era and what feminists stood for at that point in time. Waves of feminism in the Western World are slightly different from the waves of feminism in Nigeria due to cultural and societal differences.
In the beginning, feminism wouldn't include the struggles of women of colour.
Below is a breakdown of the waves of feminism in the western world, followed by the waves of feminism in Nigeria.
Waves of feminism in the western world
1) First Wave (1830’s – early 1900)
This era saw women fight for the right to vote, for equal contract as well as property rights. This was the primary focus of the first wave. It strived to make women equal political counterparts with men. The first wave of feminism also dealt with economic matters and how it affected women.
Their political agenda expanded to issues concerning sexual, reproductive and economic matters.
It must be said that during this period, women of colour were not part of the first wave of feminism.
2) Second Wave (1960s - 1980s)
After the goal of enfranchisement (the right or privilege to vote) had been attained, the feminist movement entered the second wave. During these two decades, the second wave was centred around the issues of female sexuality, reproductive rights, the workplace, domestic abuse and marital rape.
The second wave was able to achieve changes in custody and divorce laws.
3) Third Wave (the Early 1990s - 2012)
During this wave of feminism, women for gender equality in society brought up sexual harassment in the workplace and fought for more women in positions of power.
It also strove to abolish gender-role stereotypes and include more diversity. The third wave also witnessed the entrance of black feminism. Other issues such as gay rights, rape, the reclamation of derogatory terms were prominent in the third wave.
4) Fourth Wave (2012 - to date)
The fourth wave fights for feminist causes mainly with the use of social media. It seeks justice for women, an end to violence against women and the end of sexual harassment in public and in the workplace. It causes also include stopping, body shaming, workplace discrimination, and closing the gender pay gap.
The fourth wave also aims to end misogyny and demolish patriarchal standards. The manifestation of the fourth waves includes the #MeToo movement, the continuation of the slut walk, the promotion of the Men Are Scum slogan, and Free The Nipple movement.
Feminism waves in Nigeria
1) First Wave (late 19th century - mid-70s)
The first wave of feminism in Nigeria occurred during the same period when many African nations were fighting for independence from their colonial masters.
The female activists during the first wave did not solely identify themselves as feminists. Rather they were in the forefront of the nationalist movement and within that movement, they fought for the economic and political rights of women. A lot of feminists within this era were members of nationalist movements.
In 1929, the Aba Women's Riots was a revolt against the restriction of women in government. The riots took place in Eastern Nigeria.
Nationalists such as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti advocated for the economic and political rights of women. She fought against price controls that were affecting market women negatively. Mrs Kuti who was Fela mum's played an active part in abolishing separate tax rates for women. In 1949, she famously led women's protest against the traditional ruler Alake of Egbaland for abuse of power. This made the traditional ruler abdicate the throne for a few years.
Margaret Ekpo was another prominent feminist in her time. She was very active in politics and from 1953 she started taking political positions in the country.
In 1948, women in the Southern part of Nigeria could vote in elections. Suffrage in Northern Nigeria would not be achieved until 1978.
With the right to vote and dream of independence achieved, the first wave of feminism in Nigeria gradually made way for the second wave.
2) Second Wave (the mid-70s - 2005)
1975 was declared as the International Year of Women. Also, the United Nations declared 1976-1985 as the decade for women.
During this period in Nigeria, there was an increased drive for the education of the girl child, especially in the North.
1982 would witness the first feminist movement in Nigeria with a national conference held at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Ayesha Iman, Bene Madunagu, Bilkisu Yusuf, Renee Pittin, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie and Therese Nweke made presentations.
The iconic event would give birth to the establishment of Women In Nigeria, "a female run, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to positively affecting the socio-economic development of Nigeria, through the empowerment of women."
By the 80s, feminism in Nigeria would focus on family planning and speak up against polygamy.
The second wave would see the governmental contribution for feminist causes with the Better Life Programme for Rural Women in 1987 and Family Support Programme in 1994. Within this period, safe sex, the eradication of harmful cultural practices and HIV/AIDS would be major issues for women.
3) Third Wave (2006 - circa 2014)
In 2006, the Nigerian Feminist Forum was created which more or less marks the beginning of the third wave of feminism in Nigeria. This wave would focus on issues such as the right of a woman to have an abortion and the support of LGBT rights.
4) Fourth Wave (circa 2015 - till date)
Just like the fourth wave in the Western World, feminists have relied heavily on social media and the Internet to pass their message across.
Rape culture, sexual assault and molestation, gender equality, consent, gender pay gap, sexuality, and the elimination of patriarchy
This wave also put a spotlight on the rape of minors, sexual molestation in universities, marital rape, and gender fluidity.
Body shaming, misogyny, workplace discrimination are also key issues within this wave.
It should be noted that the fourth wave of Nigerian feminism coincides with an increase in feminist literature most notably Chimamanda Adichie's 2014 essay 'We all should be feminists'.