Yes, women are here too. The photos circulating on the web depict roaming bands of angry young men in protest, and they do constitute a large portion of mobilizers, but women have emerged strongly as well. I received a text about the powerful presence of hijab-clad female demonstrators in the large northern city of Kano. This is the first time in anyone’s memory that women in the conservative Muslim city have taken to the streets. Another source sent me photos of topless women reportedly marching through the streets in Benin City, using their power of the curse of nakedness to shame the government into reinstating the fuel subsidy.
Here in Port Harcourt, the number of demonstrators has not grown but the proportion of women in the movement has certainly increased. On the first day there were less than a dozen women, the following day a few more, whereas 1/3 of today’s marchers were female. The women I spoke with were from the nascent Princewill Political Assocation. Most of them were first acquainted through selling goods at the market and then they drew in new members outside of work. They had no identified leader because they said they wanted to maintain equality among their members. When they spoke they emphasized the ways that increased fuel costs affect women’s interests in the home. They argued that they were the ones who would no longer be able to afford meat in their family’s soup or to travel to the hospital with sick children. As primary caregivers in the home they felt that even a slight increase in the cost of living burdened them more than it did men. They didn’t take up the bullhorn as often, nor did they chant very loudly, and they marched together in back of the procession behind the men, but they were there and said they intended to return tomorrow.