Women’s human rights are essential to democratic, equitable and sustainable development on planet Earth. I promote this belief through research, policy formulation, advocacy, campaigning, and facilitating training and empowerment so people can engage in constructing and demanding gender-fair entitlements. My work covers women’s rights in religious, customary and secular laws and social practices as well as developing feminist analysis. In a current action-research project, I work with non-governmental organisations in francophone West Africa to engender citizenship, focusing on women’s access to justice, political participation, and rights to land and other resources. Other projects include researching African feminist ancestors, and reclaiming and redefining culture so women can assert their rights.
As a feminist I recognise that patriarchy and other forms and relations of oppression, exploitation and marginalisation which inter-relate with patriarchy (such as class, race/ethnicity, imperialism and hetero-sexism) must be ended. Relationships between people and in society and the economy need to be transformed, so that women, men, girls and boys have the possibility of living life with choice, autonomy and freedom from want. Hence I endeavour to bring feminist analysis to other arenas of struggle (and vice versa), for example as a board member of Greenpeace International or as the first Chair of the African Democracy Forum.
With other feminists, I work to advance feminist theory and activism. I conceived of and organised the first meeting of what became Women in Nigeria (WIN), the first post-independence feminist organisation in the country. In 1994 I planned and facilitated, together with Fatou Sow and Amina Mama, the first Gender Institute in Africa at the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. It has been held annually since. We also edited the book Engendering African Social Sciences. I co-founded BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights in Nigeria with Hajara Usman, and have collaborated in various capacities over the years with the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws.
As a feminist I try to live my ethical principles daily, respecting and encouraging people I interact with. I resisted marrying for many years (and was inadvertently a role model for many young women in Northern Nigeria, according to their fathers who complained to me!), until I chanced to find a partner who believed in feminist principles of equality, sharing and cooperation, and wanted to live them with me.
While there is always need to expand feminist activism, I think that we can celebrate how many feminists there are in Africa now; both old and young, in different locations and from different experiences compared to the very few when we started WIN in 1982. I am also encouraged that my sons assume automatically that they share equal responsibility for domestic work and childcare.