Finding Her Voice; Finding happiness.

Category Archives: SOCIETY

March 8th as usual is the International Women’s Day when we celebrate the past and present women who have fought and sacrificed in big and small ways to make our families, societies and the world a better place.

This year, the theme of the celebration is #BeBoldforChange. To the men who stand with us and against us and to every woman, could you be bold for change? We ask that you be bold for change in attitude towards women’s plight, be bold for change in actions, from negative or lackadaisical to positive and active.

I just want to share a little story about an incident that occurred recently in my local area which made me proud of women all over again. (As told by one of the village women)

A guy impregnated a girl and declared his intentions to marry the said girl. The guy’s family refused even after the girl delivered a set of ‘male’ twins. The family alleged, wrongly too, that the girl was an osu. Osu is a caste system prevalent in the eastern part of Nigeria.  They also were not comfortable with the place of origin of the girl. So for these two reasons, they refused the marriage but their son was bent on marrying the mother of his babies. 

The guy’s mother, to prove her point, chased mother and babies out of her house where they were staying. The youth of the village packed them back in and warned the mother not to try that again.

Then the sister of the guy one early morning brought policemen to thier father’s house, jumped fence, and gave the police access to the house. The police promptly arrested the guy and took him off to their station in another town. All hell let lose at this.

The village women, through their female towncrier went round the community shouting to everybody’s hearing that every woman, old, young, cripple, so far as you are a woman, you must come out to this warring family’s house. Before you know it, the place was swarming with angry and agitated women of various ages and shapes.

These brave women of Umuoji in Anambra srate gave the guy’s family an ultimatum that the guy must be released that same day or they will face the wrath of the women. The women went ahead to go round their community chanting songs of anger against the mother and the rest of the family. By evening of that same day, they accomplished their aim and the guy was released and returned to his father’s house.

I will not bore you with petty details, only want to throw light on the power of a united women. They fined the guy’s mother and sister, excommunicated them till further notice and anybody found communicating with then will be fined too. The entire community stood still for these women. It might seem like a small feat but it speaks volumes. The town as a whole took notice of the case because of their activisim. The case is now in court because the sister alleged that the guy beat up their mother even though the mother said her son did not lay a finger on her. The women promised to continue their agitation till the matter is settled amicably.

How I wish that women will be bold enough to change and begin to stand together more. I wish that women will be their sisters’ keepers, that we will stand by each other through thick and thin instead of hating on each other and pulling each other down.

If the women in the neighbourhood of that victim of domestic violence can stand together with their sister and fight back, if the female judges and law enforcement agents could see themselves in the victims of rape and domestic violence and fight justly on their behalf, if my fellow female passenger could lend a voice when the guy beside me in the bus is sexually harrassing me, if only the female excisor would lay down her blades and knives and stand against female genital mutilation, if the late husband’s sisters could protect rather than join the men to intimidate their late brother’s wife and children, if only…

We can do it. This fight is ours first before the men, they will support us when we get serious about it. Time to act is now, not later, not tomorrow. United we stand, divided we fall.

Kudos to all the women who over the years have fought for their own rights and that of other women.

#BeBoldforChange


Society thinks she has to endure, even unto death.

I did not want to start this year whinning about Violence Against Women (VAW) but I’m so annoyed right now.

Between yesterday and today, I’ve read two stories from wives who were almost battered to death by their husbands respectively. My heart bleeds. My heart bleeds that a human being would want to hurt another who is obviously not as strong as he is and for what reason?

 Both women have been enduring these violence for many years, both have kids with these so called husbands. Which is probably why they stayed on, hoping that they would change, but instead they get worse. Worse to the point that one locked his wife up in a room for two days after beating her to stupor, so that she cannot get outside help. He confiscated her phone too. I’m so spitting mad, Kai!

Now, when both issues came up for discussion, women, WOMEN for goodness sakes, were encouraging these ladies to pray and endure! Duhh. One suggested we hear from both sides before we can judge. What is there to judge abeg? Who is even talking of judging right now? What could a man who intentionally set out to murder his wife tell us? He did not stop at hitting her with matchetes and sticks but had to isolate her to await her death. What could possibly justify that behaviour?

These women have been married for like ten years each, four and three kids respectively. The battering did not start last week or last month. It has been going on for as long as they were in that marriage. Why stay? For the sake of your kids? For fear that society will see you as a failure or a wayward woman? Or because you have no family to run to? One of these ladies said that the first time she ran to her father’s house with her kids, that her dad sent her back on the grounds that he has received bride price and drank wine on her head. Therefore he cannot harbour them. What is that?

Maybe I’m feeling this way because I am single. Maybe I have no right to advice anyone on this issue, but I’m gonna say my mind anyway.

  1. PLEASE ladies, this is your life, it has no duplicate and you have the power, in fact, you are mandated by God to protect it. I do not think God will shake your hands if you die at the hands of a husband. Protect your life!
  2. Seek outside help from reputable Non Governmental Organisations, from the judiciary and from the law enforcement agencies if you are a victim, before it is too late .
  3. It is best to get yourself empowered no matter how little so that if push gets to shove, you can pick up your life and sojourn on your own.
  4. There is no worthwhile reason to stay on in an abusive relationship because if you die, people will find some other topic to gossip about. They will pity you at death and what use is that? Besides, if you die or become vegetable, what do you think will happen to your children?
  5. As for those on lookers that believe the victims should stay on in the marriage just because it is supposed to be for better for worse contract, I salute una! While you encourage her to endure and pray, be a little more realistic. That man is not going to change. He will make promises, he will beg and plead, he is still same inside.

Sisters please take control of your lives and your children. If we do not take care of ourselves, who will? NOBODY!
STAND UP AGAINST


All images are courtesy of shutterstock

For more on one of the cases, visit  

http://www.tushspot.com/domestic-violence-beaten-and-stabbed-multiple-times-read-ifeoma-okeke-orjiakors-ordeal-in-the-hands-of-her-husband/


November 25th to December 10th should remind us not just to say NO to violence against women and girls but to also protect them whenever and however we can.

Often times we erroneously believe that violence against women is limited to physical abuse like battering and rape. But when a woman/girl is abused to the point of causing her trauma,psychologically, emotionally or financially, it is an act of violence against her. The effect of the abuse qualifies it as one. 

“ He told me that if I hung up, he’d do it. He would commit suicide. He told me that if I called the cops he would kill every single one of them and I knew that he had the potential and the means to do it

Sierra D. Waters, Debbie.

Typical example. It may sound simple but I guarantee you that it has far reaching effects on her.

I was at the salon this evening when a little child was almost run over by a bike if not for the vigilance of the driver. But what surprised me was that the ladies in the salon did not say one unkind word against the mother. She was walking in front, heavily pregnant with a huge bag of corn on her head and other market wares in both hands, leaving the child on his own behind her. Now here is the conversation that ensued,

Hairdresser:But why can’t the hubby take care of the boy since he cannot help otherwise?

Customer 1: When he is busy drinking local gin at the bar all day?

Customer 2:Chai! Women and marriage. 

Hairdresser: He will stay there all day not contributing to the family upkeep and if she complains, she gets the beating of her life.

Customer 2: So if he stays there all day, how does he get the money to pay for his drinks?

Hairdresser: Probably taking/stealing from the wife.

And I was wondering why the hell she takes all that shit from him.

“ An abuser isn’t abusive 24/7. They usually demonstrate positive character traits most of the time. That’s what makes the abuse so confusing when it happens, and what makes leaving so much more difficult.

Miya Yamanouchi

As the world marks this 16 days of Activism on violence against women and girls, may we all, male and female, victims, survivors, and spectators be that change we want to see. Speak up, educate, protect, finance the cause. 

In what way would you help to STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN/GIRLS?

What would you do differently today to help STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN?

#IstandforzerotoleranceonVAW.


 

The black gold, alias crude oil, the savior of the Nigerian economy has over the years, enriched the multinational oil companies and the government while further impoverishing the land owners. Oil is being drilled in large quantities from the region, money is made in quantum from the petroleum products, companies and government smile to the banks, the host communities get poorer even as their environment is polluted and degraded.ogb-plant1

A trip round the Niger Delta region which is the oil producing area in Nigeria shows a part of the country richest in natural resources yet poorest in every other way. The marginalization is so acute that one is shocked into anger and disappointment. The confounding thing is that these multinational companies are rich enough to improve the lives of their hosts effortlessly, considering the amount of profit they make from the oil in the land. So why is it such an uphill task to give these people jobs, healthier environment, potable water, electricity, good roads, hospitals and other forms of amenities and compensation for their land being degraded?

Writing from my first experience in the region as a Youth corps member in 2009 in Bayelsa state, to my recent 2016 experience in Ogboinbiri community of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of same Bayelsa state, it was shocking to note that the situation, rather than improve seems to have worsened in this seven year interval.

Oil exploration has been going on in Ogboinbiri since 1986 with Agip being the dominant oil company operating in the community.

ogb-aerial

Ogboinbiri community

Taking a trip through this community, there are many striking factors that left me wondering what is wrong with the whole system. The poverty level is appalling to say the least. Farming and fishing used to be the major source of livelihood for these indigenes. But with the advent of oil exploration came the problem of pollution and degradation of the rivers and farmlands. They are forced to seek alternative means of survival. The aquatic life is non-existent, the soil infertility is at stake as a result of the oil spillages, gas flaring and other forms of pollution.

In the face of this prevailing situation, the oil companies hardly employ members of the host community. My chat with the Chairman of the Ogboinbiri Community Development Committee (CDC), Mr. Eseimokumo Ben-Okosughe, revealed that Nigerian Agip Oil Company has only three permanent staff of Ogboinbiri origin in their employ. While they have less than ten working as contract staff in Agip. They (Agip) recently agreed to employ four more contract staff from the community. These four have undergone the necessary tests and have been offered the employment. Yet, even as I write this, they are yet to resume duties at the Company, with the Company giving one excuse after another. The companies initially based their not employing natives on illiteracy, so the youths started going to school and began acquiring certificates. But are they getting the promised jobs? NO! Again, this baffles me. Could it be that none of these graduates are eligible? None is intelligent enough?

This takes us to the issue of education. Ogboinbiri community has one secondary school built years ago by Agip which is now dilapidated and no longer fit to function as a 21st Century secondary school. It has no library or laboratory whatsoever. How can it boast of those when it has no doors and windows? On the other hand, the scholarship scheme from Agip this year took care of twenty one secondary school students for the year, the highest figure so far as against the usual four or five students per anum.

In the whole of Ogboinbiri community, there is only one dilapidated and abandoned health center.

ogb-hosp2

Abandoned health center

Since the inception of this present regime of the Community Development Committee, according to the Chairman, the Committee has been soliciting with the Nigerian Agip Oil Company to rehabilitate this health center. This effort is yet to bear any tangible fruit, it has been promises and promises and promises. After several futile attempts at getting the Company to renovate the health center, the Community resorted to locking up the Agip wellhead, but so far, the renovation of the health facility remains a mirage. I was informed that it is the traditional birth attendants that deliver babies and carry out other health related duties in the community when there is an a;ready existing health center waiting just to be renovated and refurbished.

ogb-hosp3

The health center

In the case of a health emergency, the only option is to get to the state capital which takes about two hours using a speed boat. And I began to wonder if these people are living in the Stone Age or the jet age. I shudder to imagine what the pregnant women pass through during delivery.

 

 

The impacts of oil exploration on the environment seem to be the most disturbing problem facing the Niger Delta region. I remember the first time I came in contact with water body polluted by oil spill in 2009. It was at our NYSC orientation camp in Kaiama. We were shocked to discover films of oil atop the water we fetched in the buckets and upon enquiry; we were informed that the water was polluted by oil spill. The rivers in the Niger Delta are polluted by oil spills, and these rivers serve as the main source of water for the communities. They drink, cook, wash and bathe from same river which often times double as incinerators and toilets. These oil spills occur as often as four to five times yearly. The last one that occurred in Ogboinbiri in June 2016 is yet to be cleaned up by the oil company. ogb-riverThe result is that flood washes the spills via the creeks and canals into the same river that the people consume.

 

The  picture below depicts the typical Ogboinbiri community during rainy season. The inhabitants and visitors alike must paddle canoes to get from the road to their destinations, sometimes using makeshift wooden bridges to get inside their homes.

ogb-flooded

Flooded Ogboinbiri

The floods are this bad due to the activities of the oil companies.

ogb-flare2

Gas flare

 

The gas flare, despite all the hullabaloo against it still goes on, in fact in Ogboinbiri, it occurs just across the community, about 120 meters away from the people.

ogb-flare1

Gas flaring

As a result of the gas flaring, there is the problem of acidic rains, death, diseases and many other hazards. Recently, there have been increased cases of cancer, constant respiratory problems, high fever, convulsion, anemia (especially among children of 1-10 years), and etcetera. Yet the government and the multinational companies do not yet see the need to act. What will be the fate of these communities in the next ten to twenty years if nothing is done to salvage the environment?

 

There was an MOU signed by both the Community and the oil Company but it expired in 2012 and since then, according to Mr.Ben-Okosughe, there has been no new one. All efforts to get the Company to sign new one has been abortive. Thus, there has been no new project undertaken by Agip in Ogboinbiri since 2012. Yet oil exploration has been going. Too many promises and pledges all still in the pipeline, I just hope they will not all be pipe dreams.

I further questioned the C.D.C Chairman on the efforts of the Government to alleviate the Community’s suffering or to get the oil companies to do their own bit of Corporate Social Responsibility to the community. I was informed that the Government is well aware of their plight but chose to ignore it. The recent peace talk between the Federal Government and the Niger Delta Leaders would be a welcome development if only it would be backed by positive actions.

ogb-plant-4There has been too many avoidable agitations and crisis in the Niger Delta region for as long as we can remember. I have no doubt in my mind that this scenario will continue to play out unless the multinational oil companies and the Government do what is right by these people. It feels like robbing Peter to pay Paul if you ask me and no Peter will be happy to be marginalized so. The oil revenue accruing from the abundant natural resources in this region is being used to enrich and develop other regions and peoples. It feels just very unfair and inhuman. I mean, how difficult can it be to just give these oil producing communities basic amenities, employment, safer environment and better opportunities in compensation for lifting their oil and destroying their ecosystem? I AM BAFFLED!



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