VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS WILL IT EVER STOP
“The unfinished business of human history is the full emancipation of women and equality of women. And women empowerment is a universal right, not just a western idea” – Hillary Rodman Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State.
The question is: are we moving forward in the emancipation of women? I don’t know of other countries but in Nigeria up till today, at least one out of three women will be beating in her life time and one out of five girls will have history of rape. The society including women and girls when interviewed believes it is one of those things. The church and mosque believes the women are the one that should be careful so that they will not be beating and raped. The talks are on dressing properly, walk properly, don’t entice men with your dressing, talk and the way you carry yourself. There are hardly talks on men controlling themselves, respecting women and girls.
The police however, when you report cases of abuse and assault to them you hear them telling you, “we are peacemakers; we need to make peace between people not to encourage a wife to send her husband to jail for assaulting her”. You now wonder where you then turn to for justice. The police continue to make their peace yet the cases of husband beating their wives to death happens every other day, the cases of child rape on the increase and Domestic violence between lovers continue to plague our society.
I was at the police recently on a case of wife battering; the woman is my hair dresser. Immediately I saw her I knew she had been beating mercilessly day before but when I asked her she first denied it before confessing later that the husband beat her. This woman hardly was able to breathe and stand but she still needs to make my hair because she needed the money to take care of herself and her children. The husband who beat her has nothing to offer her and the children since he had no job he is doing. Before we spent two hours at the police station, five similar cases met me there. The most pathetic of the cases was the woman that was beating the third day she delivered a baby because she went to grind pepper to cook soup for her husband with grinder and not with her hands. I became so angry and overwhelmed in my spirit. The reason for the increase of these cases is not far from the reasons I mentioned above. Here is a dialogue at the police station:
Me: I am here to complain that I have noticed and confirmed from neighbors that the husband of this woman beat almost every day and if care is not taken, the life of this woman is in danger. Therefore I want the husband to be arrested, taken to court so that he can write the undertaken that he will not beat the wife again.
Police Officer: Well, before we can file anything let me take you to my boss and if he gives me the go ahead, then madam you can write your statement
Getting to boss, the D.P.O.: Madam we are peacemakers and he face the women that was beaten in the presence of the husband and said, “my advice is that you should not send your husband to court because if you do you know his family will not think well of you and it will be a story in future that you sent your husband to jail.”
The husband that was afraid before but now see the way the Divisional Police Officer was talking received strength and also faced the wife and said “ Do you want send me to jail, think about it very well o, what are you going to tell our children?” At that point the woman became dejected and perplexed.
Me: I became so angry and told the D.P.O. and said, have you forgotten that I am the complainant and not this woman, I want you to stop this sermon, I want to write my statement and you put this man behind the counter and take him to court on Monday. I then faced the husband and said, this is beyond your wife, as a woman right activist, I am taken you court and make sure you pay the price for what you have done.
At that the whole attention now shifted on me, the husband of the woman, his relatives and friends now see me as a threat and as the person that want to send the man to jail. They started threatening me and when saw that I was not going to bulge, they then started begging. They brought all the elders in their compound to my home to beg me, went to the palace to bring the chief to come and beg me. At that point my family also started becoming afraid for my life and they also started appealing to me to withdraw the case. This is always the scenario on every cases.
You can now see the reason why violence against women and girls continue to be on the increase. Another thing I found out is that many of our men don’t know where their rights stop and of course many women don’t know where their rights begin. I went to a place recently for a wedding; it is about 600 kilometers to my place at the eastern part of Nigeria. The women are facing horror in that community. At the traditional wedding, the mother of the bride was driven away from the hall where the wedding was taking place; she has to be peeping from the window to watch the wedding of her daughter whom she gave birth to. Without her giving birth to that girl, there wouldn’t have been wedding at all, yet she has no say at all and she was not even allowed to be seated at the wedding. Also in the community, all the work are done by the women, they are the farmers, they are the one to do the house chores and of course the one to give birth to babies. Their men just need to wake up in the morning and started drinking till night and as they are drinking their must always be prepared to put food on thir table at every point in time.
I think what we need to do now and fast is first look closely at the definition of “empowerment” and I believe as rightly said by Gail Straub, co-founder of Empowerment Institute, New York, U.S.A in her article on “The Missing Piece in the Empowerment Equation” that, “the most pertinent definition of empowerment is one that describe empowerment as an expansion of one’s capacity to create positive behavioural where efforts are needed that foster women’s sense of self, resulting in greater self esteem, motivation, self respect and self reliance.” In this definition two important components of empowerment are taken care of, Resources and Agency. However, women would be empowered economically and in self worth.
The grass root women right activist also needs support to move forward in the emancipation and equality of women. For example in my case, I know these problems are there, I see them every day, I know the steps to take but the resources are not there for me to take steps. Fighting for women’s right will take your time, will endanger your life, will cost money and energy. I have been doing this for the past five years without any major grant, you are ask the abusers to help with money to fight them and it will get to a stage one will become so overwhelmed and tired you will want to quit or ignore cases happening around you. International donors and NGOs should find a way of letting their supports get to the Women Right Activist at the grass root if we want to make any head way as far as Eradication of Violence against Women and girls and gender Equality are concerned.