Margaret Ekpo, Activist, Feminist
Margaret Ekpo (1914-2006) was a Nigerian women’s rights activist and social mobilizer who was a pioneering female politician in the country’s First Republic and was a leading member of a class of traditional Nigerian women activists, many of whom rallied women beyond notions of ethnic solidarity. She played major roles as a grassroot and nationalist politician in the Eastern Nigerian city of Aba, in the era of an hierarchical and male dominated movement towards independence, with her rise not the least helped by the socialization of women’s role into that of helpmates or appendages to the careers of males.
Margaret Ekpo’s awareness of growing movements for civil rights for women around the world prodded her into demanding the same for the women in her country and to fight the discriminatory and oppressive political and civil role colonialism played in the subjugation of women. She felt that women abroad including those in Britain, were already fighting for civil rights and had more voice in political and civil matters than their counterparts in Nigeria. She later joined the decolonization leading National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, as a platform to represent a marginalized group. In 1953, she was nominated by the N.C.N.C. to the regional House of Chiefs and in 1954, she established the Aba Township Women’s Association. As leader of the new market group, she was able to garner the trust of a large amount of women in the township and turn it into a political pressure group. By 1955, women in Aba had outnumbered men voters in a city wide election.
She won a seat into the Eastern Regional House of Assembly in 1961. A position that allowed her to fight for issues affecting women at the time. In particular, were issues on the progress of women in economic and political matters, especially in the areas of transportation around major roads leading to markets and rural transportation in general.
After a military coup ended the First Republic, she took a less prominent approach to politics. In 2001, the Calabar Airport was named after her.
Most of my references have come from the Nigerian Nostalgia Project’s personal archives. Please feel free to visit their Blog for more deep Nigerian History at http://nigerianostalgia.tumblr.com