LAGOS, Nigeria — During the biggest demonstrations in Nigeria’s recent history, 13 women came together to support their fellow citizens risking their lives to march against police brutality.
The women were all in their 20s and 30s. All at the top of their fields. Many had never met in person. They found one another through social media months before, and named their group the Feminist Coalition. They jokingly called themselves “The Avengers.”
“We decided that if we don’t step in, the people who suffer the greatest will end up being women,” said Odunayo Eweniyi, a 27-year-old tech entrepreneur and a founding member of the Feminist Coalition.
repeatedly been voted down by Nigeria’s male-dominated Senate.
And then there’s the matter of being proud feminists, in a country where the word feminist is commonly used as an insult.
For years, identifying as a feminist in Nigeria has been fraught. The coalition’s decision to use the word in the organization’s name, and the female symbol in their yellow logo, was pointed. Many of the protesters benefiting from their assistance were men — and not all of them had been supportive of women’s rights.
Ms. Ovia, 27, co-founded a company with friends in 2016 that aims to try to make sure that health care across Africa is driven by data and technology. The company, Helium Health, has helped hospitals and clinics set up electronic medical records and hospital management systems.
She said she hadn’t expected the work of the Feminist Coalition to be so serious, supporting protesters as they risked their lives to try to change a police system that brutalized young people.
“I thought it was going to be a lot more fun than this, let me not lie,” she said, laughing. “I thought we’d meet up, we’d drink, we’d bitch about men. We’d do some work. I didn’t know that lives would be threatened.”