As the President of the Women’s wing of The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C) and a member of the Regional House of Assembly (1961-1965), Margaret Ekpo is considered a pioneer of women’s rights activists in Nigeria. Today, her distinguished name graces the Calabar International Airport, the Ekpo Refectory at the University of Nigeria Nsukka along with multiple buildings and structures throughout the nation.
Margaret Ekpo was born in 1914 in Creek Town, Cross Rivers State. She earned a diploma in domestic science from Rathmines School of Domestic Economics Dublin (now Dublin Institute of Technology), and on her return to Nigeria she established a Domestic Science and Sewing Institute in Aba.
In 1945, Margret Ekpo organized a Market Women Association in Aba to unionize market women in the city. She used the association as a platform to promote solidarity for women to fight for their economic rights, protections and expansionary political rights.
Margaret Ekpo was one of three women appointed to the House of Chiefs in the 1950s. In 1957 and 1958 during her appointment, she was selected as one of the delegates of the NCNC to the Nigerian Constitutional Conference, which took place in Lancaster House, London. She worked with nationalist heroes, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and many others who were at the forefront of relentless fight for the nation’s highly desired independence from Great Britain.
In 1962, Mrs. Ekpo became the first woman to be elected in Aba after she contested with seven men in the Eastern House of Assembly election. She performed her role till 1966, when the Nigerian Civil war broke out.
A few of her prominent roles were:
- Delegate – Nigerian Constitutional Conference (1953, 1957, 1959)
- Women’s Interest Representative – Eastern House of Chiefs, Nigeria (1954 – 1958)
- Women’s Interest Representative – Nigerian Constitutional Conference (1960)
- Member – Eastern House of Chiefs, Nigeria (1948 – 1966)
Margaret Ekpo expanded the scope of liberal women’s rights in Nigeria and opened up doors for more women to participate in political arenas and discussions especially in the 1950s and 1960s; a period when women rights was disregarded and when a woman contribution was an afterthought.