FROM #16DAYS TO 365
One in Four, One in Two, One in Six.
These are the current statistics on Sexual and Gender Based Violence against women in Nigeria. One in Four girls has experienced sexual violence in their lifetime; one in two girls has experienced physical violence, and One in Six girls have experienced emotional violence.
I’ve realized that while statistics play an important role in passing across a message, and creating awareness, sometimes they cause a detachment from the reality. While ‘one in two’ is an alarming statistic, it doesn’t specifically mention Tope, Chioma or Hauwa, and so is easily glossed over.
It doesn’t speak about Khadijat who was sexually assaulted at 9 months old, or Ochanya who was sexually abused until her death. It doesn’t mention by name the young girls and women who have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused as a result of the insurgency in the North East, or the 886 women who reported cases of sexual violence between January 2016 and August 2017 in Kano state.
Statistics don’t tell the stories of the young girls who are brought to different homes to serve as maids or ‘house girls’ and are beaten and raped in the process. They don’t tell of the women who are sexually harassed at their places of employment, and physically abused by the men in their lives.
To end violence against women in Nigeria and across the world, every citizen, irrespective of gender must contribute to the fight. There are many ways to do this, and these are but a few:
- Don’t look away
Do you know that family that has an underaged girl as a househelp and the child is constantly being beaten or verbally abused? Do you know that neighbour who always beats up his wife? Do you have a co worker, neighbour, freind, aquiantance in the mosque, church or any other social gathering who is being beaten, psychologically abused by her partner? Stop looking away! Take steps contact the relevant agencies including the Nigeria Police Force or NGOs in your locality. If we are serious about ending the violence, we must learn to speak up and take action.
- Don’t perpetuate abusive culture
A lot of our cultural practices are rooted in patriarchy. As a result, people unconsciously encourage violence against women. If you teach your sons that girls/ women are always in a position of servitude to them, they will see women as possessions and treat them as such. It is the duty of families to imbibe in children values that will make them well rounded persons, and not ascribe gender roles.
- Avoid victim shaming
Of all the factors that contribute to violence against women, victim shaming in my opinion is the most dangerous. Victim shaming encourages the secrecy that surrounds rape culture, domestic violence, emotional manipulation, and other forms of discrimination against women. It discourages women from speaking out against their perpetrators, thus putting other women in harm’s way.
The victim is never to blame, no matter the circumstances. So if a woman speaks up about any form of violence she has experienced, do not ask ‘what did you do?’, ‘why did you go there?’, or the most famous one ‘what were you wearing?’ It is not a ‘domestic issue’ or ‘family matter’, as is the usual parlance in this part of the world. Violence against women is a crime punishable by law, and an infringement on the fundamental human rights every person is entitled to.
In honor of the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender- Based Violence, and International Human Rights Day, I would like to put forward a new statistic; One of One.
Be the one to speak up against harassment in the workplace; against a husband beating up his wife and children. Be the man to educate your male friends against rape culture, and the ways they might unknowingly be encouraging it. Be the lady that encourages her friend to speak up about abuse, and not cover it up. Be a listening ear for victims of abuse, and help out where you can.
Let’s turn #16Days of Activism to 365.
This post is written by Toluwalase Ojeshina– Program Officer PWAN and IVLP fellow. She is passionate about ending all forms of discrimination against women, and promoting youth participation in good governance. She can be found on Twitter (@ToluO_), Instagram (@tolu_oj) and her personal blog.