Two years ago, the Disney movie Black Panther reminded the world of how invaluable women are in fighting for freedom in Africa. The female warriors from the movie portrayed the Dahomey Amazons who were frontline soldiers in the army of the Kingdom of Dahomey, a West African empire that existed from 1625 to 1894. Its remnants lie in modern-day Benin, which occupies a sliver of the coast between Nigeria and Togo. Whether conquering neighbouring tribes or resisting European forces, the Amazons were known for their fearlessness.
There has been a turn in activism and advocacy approach in recent times. People are beginning to believe in the “collective power of the people being greater than the people in power” statement. These has been harnessed and subsequently amplified by social media use. Alicia Garza, a 39-year-old black woman who is an American civil rights activist and editorial writer curated the hash tag #BlackLivesMatter which within its first 3 years had over 11.3 million tweets before spreading to the streets and gaining solidarity from all parts of the world. According to the New York Times, the Black Lives Matter #BLM movement, a decentralised political and social movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people may be the biggest protest that has ever been recorded in the United States as polls and researches from Kaiser Family Foundation, Civics Analytics, N.O.R.C, and Pew recorded an estimated 15 to 26 million protesters (up to 10% of the country’s population) participated in the #BLM.
Similarly, in Nigeria, several young people have been lending their voices to the issue of rape and police brutality since 2017 with hash tags such as #EndRape, #EndSARS #ReformPolice. In the last 13 days however, the #EndSARS protest which is calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Force alleged to be oppressing and brutalising Nigerians through social profiling, illegal bridge of privacy, stop and search and Rape. The Hashtag has in the last 13 days attracted up to 28 million tweets globally, with these 5 demands:
- Immediate release of all protesters
- Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families
- Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days)
- Psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed
- Increase in police salary so they can be adequately compensated for protecting lives and properties of citizens.
There are laudable contributions from several young people in Nigeria, (celebrities and non-celebrities) and camaraderie from Nigerians in diaspora, and friends of Nigeria. However, some of the notable women who led activities that helped amplify and authenticate the #EndSARS protest include:
The Feminist Coalition Group (FCG) – a Nigerian feminist set established to oppose injustice through peaceful protests, fundraising, and social media organised a crowdfunding platform whose donations would be used to provide first aid, masks, bail, hospital bills, food, water, glucose, and the provision of legal aid to protestors who have been arrested on the frontline. The FCG made the impressive move of transferring their donations to crypto-currencies shortly after their bank account was deactivated, in order to keep the protest funding running.
Aishat Yesufu, a 46 year old Nigerian activist, whose iconic photo became a symbol of hope and motivation during the #EndSARS protest at Abuja. In the photo, Aishat stood with her legs apart and her right fist in the air – symbolizing defiance and resolve.
Other notable mentions are @savvyrinu, a twitter influencer who also moved across different protest locations using her social media influence to gather protesters to speak against police brutality while coordinating the distribution of supplies to these locations; Ananya Ndidi, a lawyer who works at the National Assembly went on a solo protest at the National Assembly Complex with a placard in a viral video making rounds on the internet; and DJ Switch who was capturing the entire protest and helping those who were being attacked by securing forces in an attempt to dispatch the protesters.
These brave acts strongly depicts the strength of the black woman, and how much more can be achieved as a nation when we use our diversity to pursue a common course. The #EndSARS protest is rounding off as government have agreed to the demands of the protesters.
Posterity is looking forward to the first Nigerian female president as there are several young people already talking about this. Women inclusion, whether in an organisation or the society in general, is the way to go if we want to experience unhindered progress.