In my 16 years in re-evaluation and co-counseling, I have found that Nigerian women find it difficult to speak up about their oppressions because cultures and religions have subjected most of us into thinking that our oppressors are king. A second fear is the fear of being labeled, of infamy and of shame. We felt it was time for Nigerian women to rise up without fear or shame to “BREAK THE CHAINS” that is why we decided to do One Billion Rising.
For OBR Nigeria we highlighted the OBR theme: ‘Exploitation of women at the workplace”. We also took an insight into exploitation of women in education and religion institutions. Organizations in my country give female employees specific targets to meet yearly which include the amount of customers they are expected to attract and convince to invest in these companies and huge amounts of cash expected for them to generate. This leads to compulsory prostitution of working women. These female employees are not allowed to get pregnant for specific number of years after they are being employed. The religious and education institutions are places with high standards, and “go to” sources for moral and other forms of education but the hidden truth is that these institutions are places that harbor rapists and pedophiles in our societies. These perpetrators get away with such crimes because society sweeps news of such activities under the rug to maintain standards.
The biggest impact OBR has given is the raising of consciousness and awareness on our issues of violence against women. Our OBR saw the involvement of women activists, market women and community women – in a global movement in solidarity against the exploitation of women and girls. Lawyers were also involved in the event, and women’s rights in marriages, society and workplaces were discussed in a manner comprehensive enough for women without higher education to assimilate. The V-day event has made our OBR work popular among women and men.
This was despite the challenge of convincing community and market women to get involved in the rising as Nigerians have lost hope in the judiciary system, and have moved on believing there’s no justice for the masses and poor. To meet this challenge we met weekly with women groups leaders and market women prior to the V-Day week to make them understand that they can be that voice they seek and also influence other women positively only if they rise up, raise their voices and demand justice in a non violent manner. We also held a one day workshop event, and we encouraged participants to voluntarily take turns to co-counsel on childhood memories which is the beginning of the conditioning of our minds. We also held sessions on hurts and exploitation. Participants were encouraged to express what they were rising against on cardboards, and all danced to OBR’s “BREAK THE CHAIN”
The news of the rising has really spread into our communities. I have to express with joy that women would stop me and other OBR activists on the road and say “Thank you”!
The event has served as an eye opener. It brought participants to the realization that the change we desire starts with us as we RISE for justice, towards making the world a safe place for us and for generations to come. One never stops learning, and I myself have also learnt new things and have become more courageous.