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This week, we honor the late Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, well revered for her role as a vocal leader for women’s rights in Nigeria and also known as “The Mother of Africa.”

Looking at a snapshot of her life, there are lots of lessons to be learnt from this woman. Primarily, her bravery in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds has given women in Nigeria the right to vote and be voted for.

Unsure about who she was? Read on and be enlightened.

1) Funmilayo Ransome Kuti (nee Thomas) was born to the family of Daniel Olumeyuwa Thomas and Lucretia Phyllis on the 25th of October 1900 in Abeokuta , South Western Nigeria.

2) She attended the Abeokuta Grammar School for secondary education, and later went to England for further studies. She soon returned to Nigeria and became a teacher.

3) At age 25, she got married to Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti who was one of the founders of both the Nigeria Union of Teachers and the Nigerian Union of Students.

4) Throughout her career, Funmilayo was known as an educator and activist. She provided dynamic leadership for women’s rights in the ‘50s. She founded an organization for women in Abeokuta, with a membership of over 20,000 individuals, spanning both literate and illiterate women.


Funmilayo with Ahmadu Bello (Credit: Take Me To Naija)

5) She is well renowned as the first woman to ride a bicycle and the first woman to drive a car in West Africa.

6) Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti received the national honour of membership in the Order of Nigeria in 1965. The University of Ibadan bestowed upon her the honorary doctorate of laws in 1968. She also held a seat as one of the few women in the Western House of Chiefs of Nigeria as an Oloye of the Yoruba people.

7) Kuti was the mother of the activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, a musician, Beko Ransome-Kuti, a doctor, and Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a doctor and a former health minister of Nigeria. She was also grandmother to musicians Seun Kuti and Femi Kuti.


With her son, Fela (Credit: Genevieve NG)

8) During the Cold War and before the independence of her country, Funmilayo Kuti travelled widely and angered the Nigerian as well as British and American Governments. Hence, in 1956, her passport was not renewed by the government because it was said that “it can be assumed that it is her intention to influence … women with communist ideas and policies.” She was also refused a U.S. visa because the American government alleged that she was a communist.

9) In 1978, Funmilayo was thrown from a third-floor window of her son Fela’s compound, a commune known as the Kalakuta Republic, when it 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.

10) On Thursday, 30 August 2012, one of her grandsons, musician Seun Kuti, responded to questions from fans and friends on Channels Television, Nigeria’s hangout via Google+ Saying that his grandmother was murdered by the Federal Government.

Seun Kuti asked the Federal Government to apologise to his family for the death of Funmilayo Kuti, before considering immortalizing her by putting her picture on the proposed N5,000 note.
She’s such an inspiration, right? Let us know your thoughts below.



Display photo credit: Genevieve Magazine

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