If you are a human being with a beating heart, then the past few days have been hard for you. If you’re a Nigerian woman, who is dealing with news about the effects of racism and gender-based violence at the same time, you’re exhausted and feeling entirely hopeless.
This weekend alone at the end of May, we heard about the tragic rape and murder of 22-year-old Uniben student, Uwa Omozuwa, and also the rape of 12-year-old Jennifer by 11 men, whilst we were still recovering from the death of 16-year-old Tina who was killed by police brutality. All around the same time, we saw a man brazenly announcing to the entire internet (in a bid to absolve himself) that he had raped his girlfriend, without even realising that he was doing so. All this goes to show is that the society needs to be cleaned up and we all have to pick up a broom.
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In 2017, it was Obiamaka, and hundreds of others who we don't know. In 2018, it was Ochanya and thousands who were murdered in private. Now, it is Uwa who was violently raped and her life cut short in its prime. This is not okay! Nigerian women have a right to exist without fear. They deserve an existence that doesn't involve constantly looking over one's shoulders, wondering where the next strike will come from. They deserve justice. #JusticeforUwa
We already explained why it’s important to hold perpetrators accountable, and now it feels like it’s time to be doing even more. UNICEF says that one in four Nigerian girls will experience sexual violence in her lifetime, and we have one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the entire world. Given how deeply woven misogyny is in our society, there’s a lack of accountability which emboldens perpetrators to continue to harm women because they know they are protected and will often get away with it.
While we fight to ensure that there is justice for Tina, Uwa and Jennifer, we must also work to change the casual societal attitudes towards violence against women. Looking at all the many problems which are engulfing our society today, especially in light of the past week where the entire world seems to be toppled on its head, it’s easy to feel inconsequential and helpless in the bigger picture.
Well, whether we realise our impact or not, we all collectively contribute to the way the world works, and if we don’t like what’s going on we have the option to either try and change things, or we can sit back and watch things get worse, hoping that we’re safe from the ills of society in our comfort zones. So, given the state of affairs at the moment, here are some things to consider doing if you’re looking to clean up the streets and create a safer world for women and girls to exist without living in constant fear of being abused.
1. Educate yourself and others about rape culture
Ignorance is not bliss if you’re feeling upset about the way women are treated (as you should), and the first line of prevention is education. We live in a society with dangerous attitudes towards sexual violence towards women, and given the societal teachings, there’s always more to learn about dismantling rape culture. A good first step to take, which seems obvious enough, is to educate yourself about consent, how it works and how to prevent any possibility of sexual assault or inappropriate behaviour. When you’ve learnt enough, you should also spread the word to your friends, on social media and to anyone who will listen. Here’s a video from The Consent Workshop explaining very carefully what you need to know about how consent works, this is a good start:
Need a refresher on consent?
Consent can be withdrawn.
Unconscious people can’t consent.
Minors cannot consent to adults
— The Consent Workshop (@ConsentWorkshop) August 29, 2019
2. Having zero tolerance
It’s definitely easier to wave something off as a joke than it is to confront the inappropriate behaviour of people close to you. Unfortunately, the price to pay for that is that we’re leaving room for cases like the aforementioned, and to ensure that there’s none, we must tackle the issue from all angles. When things are trivialised, it gives perpetrators even more confidence in their wicked decisions, which is always to the detriment of their victims. It might seem inconsequential, but it definitely goes a long way. It’s important to always call out flagrant behaviour towards sexual violence and create an environment with zero tolrance for it in any form.
3. Lend your support and open up your purse
We know how little help the system which is put in place to protect us offers when we really need it, and also how common victim blaming is. Only last year did we get an official sex offender’s registry, and until today, there have been less than 100 convicted cases of rape in the history of Nigeria. While the system fails to protect us, there are several youth-led NGOs, which are set up to ensure justice and also safe recovery for survivors you can support by either volunteering services, or donating money to help their cause. In doing this, you can help provide survivors with tools they need to empower themselves, whilst also ensuring that they gain justice.
Here are some details of a few trusted NGOs you can donate to and possibly contact to volunteer for:
Unfortunately, Jennifer & Uwa’s cases as horrifying as they are, aren’t unique, and given the unrest that the pandemic is causing in general, it does not feel fair that we should still have rife cases of such injustice. Any case is one case too many, and we’re demanding change and safety for women all over the world. Gender-based violence is pervasive and deeply entrenched in our society, and given how rife cases of sexual assault are, it’s not enough to just sit back and hope anymore.
Since it’s clear that there is no urgency to protect the people of the world, we must all fight to create the world we want from every angle possible.
Featured image credits: Instagram/