Women and the Nigeria-Biafra War: Reframing Gender and Conflict in Africa

An International Conference in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the War

May 8-9, 2018

University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, Maryland, 21250

The civil war that broke out in Nigeria on July 6, 1967 between the seceded Eastern Region, which adopted the Republic of Biafra as its name, and the rest of the country, often called the Nigeria-Biafra War, is regarded as a watershed in African continental affairs and global order. It came at enormous human and material costs, carried implications for ethno-nationalist movements and political stability in Africa, and unleashed a wave of humanitarianism in postcolonial conflict. As a phenomenon, warfare is usually preconceived as an exclusive male preserve, a sporting exploit for displaying masculine virility or winning local/national honor, and even women’s admiration. Nearly fifty years after the Nigeria-Biafra War ended in January 1970, the complex experiences of Nigerian and foreign women affected by the conflict have yet to be told and adequately recorded. There has been no conference focused on the role of women in the war or how the conflict affected them, a void which demands to be filled. This international conference is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war and to highlight the cost of the conflict on Nigerian women, their participation in the hostilities, and their contributions to the survival of families, communities and the country.

Fictional and nonfictional accounts of the war, especially those written by men, often peripheralize or stereotypically represent women as passive spectators or helpless victims of the armed conflict. Such works tend to promote a form of heroism drawn directly from the involvement of men just as they highlight and exaggerate women’s moral laxity and sensationalize their marital infidelities. These narratives obscure the fact that women and girls disproportionately experience sexual violence in war times. The valiant and gallant ways women carried out old and new responsibilities occasioned by the war have often been minimized or even ignored. Thus, this international conference serves as an important platform to present and discuss women as embodiment of vulnerabilities and agency, active participants and survivors, who demonstrated remarkable resilience and initiative, waging war on all fronts in the face of precarious conditions and scarcities, and maximizing opportunities occasioned by the hostilities.


1. Women, ethnic politics and conflict in pre- and post-war Nigeria

2. Women, religion and conflict in pre- and post-war Nigeria

3. Women and the military in pre- and post-war Nigeria

4. Women militia and combatants in the war

5. Comparative studies of starvation and rape as weapons of war

6. Women’s life stories and personal accounts of the war

7. Women and humanitarian activities during the war

8. Women in diplomatic missions during the war

9. Women and war economies (Nigerian and Biafran)

10. Women and war crimes during the hostilities

11. Women and inter-ethnic marriages in pre-, war, and post-war Nigeria

12. Women and post-war reconstruction, reconciliation and rehabilitation

13. Women, war memories and counter-memories

14. Comparative studies on women, genocide, and international criminal law

15. Theorizing gender, refugees and returnees

16. The war and the representation of women in literary and other genres

17. Comparative studies on women in conflict, conflict resolution and peace-building in Africa

18. Methodological issues in researching and writing about women and war in Africa

All proposals should be submitted online.

Please follow the instructions and the links below to complete your registration.

Research Submissions

The Department of Africana Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County welcomes panel, paper, and poster presentations that will contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of women and gender in the Nigeria-Biafra War.

Papers presented at the conference will be peer-reviewed, and those assessed to be of high quality will be included in an edited book. Interested participants should send a 250-word proposal for paper or roundtable no later than Wednesday, February 28, 2018. The Local Organizing Committee will review the proposals as they are submitted and you will be promptly notified of their decision. If your proposal is accepted for the conference, a full draft of your paper should be submitted by Monday, April 16, 2018. Proposals should contain the following information and in this order: (a) title of paper or presentation, (b) author(s), (c) affiliation, (d) email address, (e) phone numbers, (f) abstract of maximum of 250 words, and (g) 5 keywords of your proposed presentation.

Click here to submit a proposal. For more information, please see the conference website.

Conference Registration and Payment

The conference is free to the public. However, in order to receive the conference meals and materials (Program, bag, name tag, writing pads, pens), you have to pay the conference registration fee. Click here to make your payment.

The Payment Link closes at 11:59 pm (US Eastern Time) on March 31, 2018Please make sure you make your payment on or before this date.

General Public: $150

African-based Participants: $100   (Required Verifiable Institutional Affiliation and Photo ID)

Students: $50  (Required Verifiable Institutional Affiliation and Photo ID)

Registration is based on individual participation. It is important to pay the correct amount for the category you fall into in order not to be asked to pay the balance at the check-in desk. Only those who officially register for the conference by March 31, 2018 will appear on the program. We need the headcount after March 31st in order to plan for the conference materials and meals.


We recommend the following hotels for those who require accommodation:

  1. Hyatt Place Baltimore BWI Airport
  2. La Quinta BWI Airport
  3. Sheraton Baltimore Washington Airport

More information regarding UMBC campus access and parking can be found here.

Contact Us

All conference inquiries should be sent to the Local Organizing Committee at afst2018conf@umbc.edu.