Personal Story That Led Me to Build Non-governmental Organization, Support Women And Children In Nigeria (SWACIN)
My name is Hideko N, a Japanese origin. I stayed in Nigeria, Akwa Ibom state from 2009 to 2012 for four years. During this time, I experienced serious domestic violence committed by my Nigerian fiancé. He was planning to bury me alive in the village and sacrifice my daughter for God. He blamed all of his business failure on us. He had uncontrolled temper. He used a machete, belts, sticks to beat my daughter and me, and frightened us with many lies and abusive words for years.
Despite of several police reports, the police virtually did nothing. I was forced to stay with him because foreigners could not legally seek their own accommodations without permissions from the inviters (my fiancé) and he never allowed us to go out. It was also dangerous to be my own. Nigeria is known for kidnapping, embezzlement, murder committed against foreigners. For the very first time in my life, I felt totally helpless. I don’t remember how many times I cried. My daughter thought that I would cry to death.
Frequently, out of frustration, he demanded huge amount of money from my mother, 80 years old, and mostly he took it for himself, never allowed me to spend even 5000 naira for myself. He used to take away my telephone, and lie to my mother so that she would send money to him; in Nigeria, I never had bank account of my own. My mother could do nothing but send the money to his account. The money he took from my mother past four years amount to 23 million naira ($145,000).
Everyday my daughter and I lived in fear because we never knew when he loses temper for any trifle reasons and start beating us. None of the other foreigners there we contacted; they were unreachable because most foreigners stayed in safe company accommodations with high fences and tight securities. I contacted my fiancé’s family, they never rescued us when I informed about his violent behavior. One day, a group of religious people, Jehovah Witness visited us to preach, and after they found out that we were in trouble, they informed to the lawyer in the Governor’s office.
Through their contact, finally my daughter and I were rescued by FIDA (International Federation of Women Lawyers) in Uyo. A Judge took us and relocated us to a lawyer's home until they raised enough money for me to return to Japan. Through FIDA I learned about the abuse and violence frequently committed against women and children in Akwa Ibom state; especially, the brutal treatment against children witches tore my heart. While I stayed with them, I developed project, shelters for battered women and children; the project is to confidentially transport the victims to live in the safe shelter, provide food and clothes. Last year, in November, when I finally returned to Japan, I established NGO called Support Women and Children in Nigeria and started raising fund and send journal Survival Gadget to donors and supporters in Japan informing them about violence against women and children in Nigeria.
Apart from my own domestic violence case, the burning, drawing and throwing of witch children always brings shock to them since Nigeria is very little known to Japan. More and more Japanese corporations and industries are interested in investing in Nigeria aiming to capitalize the huge market. Many people wonder why the huge amount of revenue from oil and the donation from the Japanese Official Development Assistance or ODA, (approx. 150 million naira per year) doesn’t do much to help the poor and needy in Nigeria. As I write this article, there still are no lights, and no welfare scheme to help the poor in Nigeria. Police do not come rescue the victims even if someone regularly suffers from violence, but instead, they’d ask for bribes.
My daughter still waits for me with the barrister’s family days and nights. I will go there again in 6 months to win the custody over her in the court. It is still shivering to think how we survived and how helpless and hopeless many women and children must be feeling there in Nigeria because of the weak law and lack of security. I was not particularly strong but I was encouraged and empowered by so many individuals while I was there as I was voiceless and helpless.
A Nigerian widow gave me a box full of food despite that I demanded nothing. A young woman gave me freely a mobile telephone when I had no access to contact anyone. A shop lady every time put eggs and indomies (noodles) into a bag and handed to me when I didn’t buy them. Others regularly came to visit Anietie and me to encourage us and empower us or even gave us money…and I am afraid there were too many to mention who have helped my daughter and me directly or indirectly without knowing us.
There are good people and bad people in any nations. In Nigeria, it is no exception. Next time when I visit Nigeria, I hope to give back what I was given. I look forward to going back to Nigeria for Support Women and Children in Nigeria!