IWD 2022: Indigenous women – Struggle and resilience

Indigenous women have always been part of their peoples’ struggles, whether nationally or at international fora. There has been a legacy of extraordinary women that have interfaced between indigenous women’s movements and the international women’s movement.

Not always were they close, most of all due to particularities in the situation of indigenous women who live in communities in struggle. However, in recent years indigenous women are now raising stronger voices in claiming the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Despite their enormous assets and contribution to society, indigenous women still suffer from multiple discrimination, both as women and as indigenous individuals. They are subjected to extreme poverty, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to ancestral lands, non-existent or poor health care, and violence in the private and the public sphere.  This violence is exacerbated when indigenous communities find themselves in the midst of conflict and women become the target of violence with political motives, when going about their daily work, fetching wood or water for the family.

The indigenous women of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja have suffered both socioeconomic and political neglect since the capital of Nigeria was moved from Lagos to Abuja, and their ancestral land was taken from them which were their major source of income as they depend on farming to earn a living. These women had to bear the brunt of the pain of societal issues and gender bias, with vulnerability given the extent of statutory rights and other forms of discrimination that often apply in relation to gender. From the brunt of demolition to the socio-economic marginalization and political right entrenchment of original inhabitants of FCT, the women have been most affected by these issues.

Even in their vulnerability on these issues that affect them, the indigenous women of FCT have remained the backbone of their families as they play a vital role in the social-cultural, political, and economic development of their communities.  Their contribution to fostering and promoting socio-economic development can never be overemphasized as they exhibit tenacity and resilience as their male counterparts. Without the active engagement and participation of indigenous women and other women in various social-economic, and political frameworks, the progress of the country will remain stagnant. FCT original inhabitant’s women have been homemakers right from the stone age using their strength and energy to contribute to family needs and social development. They engage in farming and trading which are critical factors in nation-building efforts.

They have played an important role in addressing societal issues and have demonstrated their optimism, motivation, and resilience in leading positive changes in their societies through their resilience. They have significantly contributed to the activities and movements that promote sustainable development, advocating for equity and equal opportunity at local, national, and sub-regional levels. Encouraging their fellow women to transform issues in their communities and build their capacity and resilience with the necessary competencies to become agents of change.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated injustices and inequalities in societies, resulting in detrimental impacts on the lives of people, especially women, who are much vulnerable. Therefore, it is ever more pressing and ethical to create equal and equitable opportunity for women in the society and empower them to meaningfully participate and engage in the social-economic development of their countries to respond to the transformation of their societies. There are several issues and challenges that women face today, from gender bias, unequal pay, security, mental, sexual, and gender-based and physical harassment, and lack of proper family support

As the world commemorates international women’s day, the gender bias women face is a call for urgent attention. Women worldwide, particularly in Nigeria, face horrific challenges in their quest for equitable and equal opportunity. Therefore, it is imperative for government at all levels to engage, empower and provide equitable and equal opportunity for women aimed at enhancing their ability to contribute to a better society and drive social-economic transformation.

Indigenous women of FCT, the likes of Lady Kwali and Hon. Maryamu Isa Barnabas broke gender bias.

Today Lady Kwali is a celebrated Nigerian potter, ceramicist, and educator Ladi Kwali, who helped show the world the beauty of Nigerian art through intricately decorated earthenware designs. She was a great potter that broke the bias through pottering making with her mastering work as home decoration. Lady Kwali shared the secrets of her craft with the local community as a university lecturer. She received a doctorate from Ahmadu Bello University in 1977 and the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award in 1980, which is among the nation’s most distinguished academic awards, in honor of her contributions, and she is always remembered with each exchange of Nigeria’s twenty Naira note, the first and only Nigerian currency to feature a woman.

Honorable Maryamu Isa Barnabas is an indigenous woman of FCT that built resilience and broke the bias to become the first female councilor in 62 wards in FCT and face male opponents for councillorship election in Usafa ward in Bwari Area Council in FCT and suffered gender disparity as the only woman candidate for the election but with determination and resilience, she was able to break the bias and won the election and became the only female councilor in the 62 wards in the FCT political ward. Maryamu is an exemplary woman who has broken the bias and has proven that there is no limit to what a woman can achieve.

ABIODUN ESSIET has built resilience and led her voice on issues that affect women and have proactively engaged and participated in changing the narrative and stereotype women face. It is therefore imperative that the Nigerian national assembly reconsider its stand on the gender bill and ensure that the bill is passed, which will give them credence and put Nigeria on the global map for gender equity and equality.

The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place from 14 to 25 March 2022. It should be a time to engage critical stakeholders and policymakers to commit to gender equity and equality for women at the local, national, and global levels.


Igweshi is a gender and peace advocate, He is currently working on a project; Promoting the Rights of Original Inhabitants of the FCT as a Program Officer at ABIODUN ESSIET FOR GIRLS and Team lead at Center for Peace Advocacy and Sustainable Development (CEPASD