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Peacefully, Nigerian Women Win Changes From Big Oil
Posted: Monday, August 12, 2002

Last Thursday, women blocked the entrances of two oil company facilities, the latest in a month of protests.

by Michael Peel

LAGOS, NIGERIA - The town museum in Calabar, southern Nigeria, contains a striking section on a 1929 Niger Delta protest known as the "women's war." The conflict, which stemmed from opposition to British colonial rule, escalated after villagers in the Owerri province clashed with a mission teacher carrying out a tax assessment. Local women sent folded fresh palm leaves to neighboring communities as a signal to begin attacks against buildings symbolizing the imperial presence.

Hundreds of Ijaw women protest inside a fuel station in Abiteye, Nigeria in this photo taken on Tuesday, July 16, 2002. The Ijaw women took over the flow station soon after the Itsekeris had taken over the ChevronTexaco oil terminal in Escravos, to ensure that their tribe got a better deal from Chevron and did not have to lag behind the Itsekeris. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

"The white men should return to their own country," says a piece of contemporary propaganda quoted at the museum, "so that the land in the area may remain as it was many years before the advent of the white man."

More than 70 years later, the women of the oil-rich delta are stirring once more. On Thursday, hundreds of women blocked the gates of ChevronTexaco and Shell offices in the southern port of Warri. For several hours, workers at the two locations were kept from entering or leaving the facilities. By Friday, the protest had ended peacefully. MORE

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