‘From the Aba women’s riot of 1929 to the #ArewaMeToo movement and now the #EndSars Protest movement, women in Nigeria have always been vocal activists on behalf of the nation’.
The Feminist Coalition, an organization founded and co-founded by fourteen women who saw the need to create a safe space for the average Nigerian women to congregate and discuss issues pertaining to them.
In July 2020, Damilola Odefuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi, founders of the Feminist Coalition in a bid to establish a one stop shop for all things ‘women aid’ —women’s rights & safety, financial equality for women; and political & legislative power for women, came together with their fellow co-founders and formed the Feminist Coalition
In October 2020, after several images and videos had circulated the internet showing the gruesome harassment, assault and even death dealt on several Nigerian Youths by the special anti-robbery squad which was created to avert the same afflictions they have now been allegedly inflicting on the people, the youths had had enough and decided take to the streets to protest. These protest broke out simultaneously in 17 states across the country without a leader. This wasn’t a deterring factor because The feminist coalition stepped up adequately and promptly not to lead, but to aid as one of the most important tool in the protest, ‘Dispersal’.
‘Finance is a very integral part of any effective protest, we understood that and we decided to make it happen through crowdfunding. The cause was genuine and we expected that people would donate to it, we just didn’t know they would donate this much’ *Stella told me.*Stella
The sum of about Seventy-four Million Naira was raised in the course of a weeks for this protest through the feminist coalition donation site. The funds raised were dispersed in various sectors of the protests which included Legal Aid, hospitality and Emergency Rapid response team. This quickly grew into a national network offering social services to citizens of Nigeria – including providing food, shelter, healthcare, physical security and legal aid.
In 14 days, this organization and its members successfully established a system that works. Hospitality headed by Feyikemi Abudu, a member of the Feminist Coalition, handled the distribution of food to protesters who needed them across the country and canopies to shield protesters from the scorching sun. She and her team of vendors made sure that the longstanding wait under the 32-degree heat was bearable for protesters at all hours of the day.
Legal Aid which was also an integral aspect of this movement was handled by the rapid response legal aid team headed by Feyikemi Abudu and Moe Odele, both members of this organization, who helped bail out arrested peaceful protesters by mobilizing lawyers across the country and can be credited to bailing out over 50 number of protesters with over 700 volunteers.
The Emergency Rapid response team which involved ambulances, fire service and private security agencies had a toll number and center which took the calls of protests in need of health or security aid across the country.
Backlash on the involvement
Stella, a member of the Feminist Coalition, stated that the organizations input in the end sars protest was not premeditated.
‘If I am speaking truthfully and like we’ve mentioned in several interviews, we came up with this system overnight, Dami (a co-founder) got the website and logo ready in less than 24 hours and the rest was history. We wanted to help, we needed to help and so we did’ she said.*Stella
During the course of the protest, the donation link for Feminist Coalition was blocked allegedly by the Federal government. Stella said a repercussion was expected but they didn’t think it would be aimed at their finances.
“This is Nigeria, we understand the system, it’s a failed system, so we were prepared. But I personally didn’t think they’d stoop so low. The central bank of Nigeria? The one arm of this nation that isn’t supposed to be biased? It’s really easy to lose faith but No revolution has happened without a hard hit”.
Furthermore, Moe Odele, a member, and the individual who oversaw the bailing and release of illegally arrested protesters was arrested at the airport on her way to Dubai for reasons she was never made aware of, her passport seized and her trip cancelled. Her passport was seized for ten days pending an investigation into her for unknown reason. Also, account of persons who made donations and received donations for the protests have been blocked.
Stella, my primary source for this article, because of this major propaganda against members of the coalition by the Nigerian Government, preferred to remain anonymous for this interview to avoid any backlash as she is a mother of two and refuses to be subjected to any form of targeting by the government.
“the government seized Moe’s passport and hasn’t till today cleared her from flying, Eremosele was also illegally detained and our accounts are being shut down all because we said enough is enough”.
The threat of harm from the forces set up to protect the youth and citizens of the country have forced the vibrant and confident Nigerian youths to retreat. However, the coalition will not stay silent for that long, Stella stated that the organization has seen the error in how they dealt with issues in the first wave of the protest and are making concrete plans on how to reemerge stronger and willfully.
“we are back to the drawing table, re strategizing, collaborating with other organizations and best believe, this time around, we will get results”.