The Women’s War

The women’s war of 1929 or the Aba women’s riot was a revolutionary rebellion that happened in 1929 led by women in the south eastern region of Nigeria. It was the period of the Great Depression when major economic powers were in turmoil so to compensate for that the British forced labor on the men and women of the region. They decided it wasn’t enough and began taxing the market women. This had never happened, women didn’t pay taxes. They feared that this new rule will disrupt the supply of food and drive many women out of business.

To collect these taxes, the British government appointed local men as warrant chiefs to collect taxes and oversee the employment of forced labor. These men were paid very little for their work. Women were also excluded from local politics something that was unheard of in the region prior to colonialism. Drunk with new power the warrant chiefs became overbearing and abused their positions to enrich themselves. The women decided enough was enough and rallied together to protest against these new policies and the British government. In November of 1929 the rebellion began, the women chanted and danced and in some areas forced warrants chiefs to resign. They attacked European owned stores , Barclays Bank and also broke into prisons to release prisoners. Courts ran by colonial officials were also burned to the ground. To calm the chaos Colonial police were called in , they fired into the crowds killing some women and wounding others. The uprising carried on for two months and was a scene that had never been witnessed in any part of Africa.

Finally in 1930, the British colonial government gave into their demands and agreed to abolish the warrant chiefs system. One of the warrant chiefs was jailed for two years and women were brought back into local politics. The women’s war is seen as the first major challenge to British rule in west Africa and Nigeria and preceded movements calling for independence from colonial rule across Africa, starting with Ghana gaining their independence in 1957.