Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was one of the most respected African feminists of the twentieth century, whose legacy has also lived through the twenty-first century. She was a Nigerian feminist and political leader who spent a majority of her adult years advocating for women’s rights. As the first female student in her secondary school and the first Nigerian woman to drive a car, Ransome-Kuti not only inspired but also empowered hundreds of thousands of Nigerian women to empower themselves socially and politically.

The theme for International Women’s Day this year was #PledgeForParity and there are several lessons that we can learn from Ransome-Kuti regarding equality if we want to achieve Global Goal Five by 2030.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was one of the most respected African feminists of the twentieth century.

1. The notion of ‘second class citizens’ does not exist if we do not want it to exist

For many years, as women, we have been classed as ‘second class citizens’ in different corners of the globe. Nigeria is a rather patriarchal country and it is also the motherland of Ransome-Kuti. As a woman with high aims for herself, Ransome-Kuti refused to accept the notion and saw herself as a Nigerian citizen before letting the system of oppression that is set up against her gender defeat her. As women, we need to go the extra mile to pave a way for other women to follow because once we get to the top floor in our chosen careers, we must always send the elevator back down for other women to rise. Your current position may be someone else’s desired position and we need to break the glass ceilings to begin the trend of a generation of millions of civically engaged women. That is exactly what Ransome-Kuti did and the pathway that she has helped to create for millions of Nigerian women is one that we must appreciate!

Photo: We Rise Initiative

2. We should all be feminists

Several iconic feminists in current times such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Justin Trudeau believe that we should all be feminists. Feminism is not a word that we should be afraid of, as Trudeau once said. He is most definitely right. Today, millions of young girls around the globe are not given their right to education and this has caused our world growth to stall drastically. For example, if we enrolled one percent more girls into education in India, its GDP would increase by billions. We also don’t have enough women at the forefront of law-making decisions in countries like Nigeria. If we did, bills such as the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill wouldn’t have been rejected in the Senate, as was the case very recently. Ransome-Kuti was a strong feminist who found her duty in empowering several Nigerian women through business and politics and her leadership has definitely had an impact today.

Laila is passionate about girls' education and sustainable development. She is also a Nigerian Youth Ambassador who has founded two organisations – Our Vision NG and the We Rise Initiative.

3. Don’t stop looking for opportunities to grow

As Global Citizens, we all have the potential to grow. Regardless of barriers that may obstruct us, we have to learn to use our privilege to knock them down. By knocking down the barriers, we are not only helping ourselves but 62 million other girls who have had their right to education taken away from them. Ransome-Kuti grasped every opportunity that she could in order to grow and that was the key to a more prosperous Nigeria for millions of women. Many women and girls cannot speak up for themselves, so let us use every opportunity that we can to grow, in order to speak up for them!

Laila is an Ambassador for Girl Rising, through which she expresses her passion for the girl child and sustainable development. She is also a Nigerian Youth Ambassador who has founded two organisations – Our Vision NG and the We Rise Initiative. She is a journalist for Africa Rizing, focusing on stories revolving around the next generation of youths and what we need in Africa. Laila is also a student studying Politics and International Relations in London.