October 13-17, 2014 , Lagos, Nigeria
The week of action Against Domestic Violence in. Lagos state, a project of Lagos State Gender Advocacy Team (LASGAT) has come and gone but some unforgettable experiences that has made indelible imprints on mind will continue to linger.
Coordinating the week of action against domestic violence in Lagos state is really a momentous and intriguing experience that was full of thrills and admixture of frills and chills. Moving from one local government to the other, interacting with different groups of men, women, girls and boys, listening to their stories and concerns and encouraging or empathising with them made me feel like a gypsy on a voyage of discovery.
The thrills started from the media forum to flag off the week on the first day. The launching of the stickers and directory of institutions and organizations providing support services on domestic violence was the high point of the media forum. The awareness raising forum with over 600 traders in Lagos state gathered at the Iyaoloja of Nigeria‘s place the second day was a resounding activity which set the tone for the other activities throughout the week.
The third day was at Kosofe Local Government, Anthony stadium. A highly emotive discussion and experience sharing session was sparked off with artisans, hairdressers, community leaders and politicians. The participants bared their minds on domestic violence and offered fresh insights into combating the menace. On the same day, about 300 primary school pupils on Lagos Island celebrating the Global Hand washing day had the opportunity to understand what domestic violence means and how they can identify and report cases of violations when it occurs around them. Their enthusiasm in collecting the anti – domestic violence stickers for their parents at home was so intense that I was almost felled in the rush for the stickers.
The fourth day, was the climax of the actions, it was the turn of women at Yaba Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and Lagos Mainland Local Government. Over 500 women who gathered for skills acquisition had the opportunity to receive information about support services available to victims of domestic violence in Lagos state. It was exciting to see many women breaking the silence and recounting their ordeals in the hands of their husbands, mother in laws and neighbours. They were encouraged to take measures to protect themselves through accessing available support services in the directory.
The traders at Oshodi market were not left out of the campaign on the fourth day. The Iyaoloja (The female leader of traders in the Market) of Cairo, Ajewole and Folashade Ojo markets with the Babaoja (the male leader of traders in the market) were on ground to raise awareness with their fellow traders. They moved with us from stall to stall distributing stickers and directory and giving information about helplines to call when domestic violence occurs.
On the Fifth day, the Community Development Committees (CDCs) and Community Development Associations (CDAs) on Lagos Island had their day. Over 200 men and women gathered at the Ahmed Bola Tinubu Hall for a speaker’s corner where the community leader, representatives of the Nigerian police and coordinator of the Lagos state Gender Advocacy Team took turns to speak on provisions of the Law against domestic violence in Lagos state and available support services.
The crowning activity which brought the week of action to a close was the action of the Empowering women of the Future (EWOF) Girls at Ajegunle. The EWOF girls displayed rare courage in their community by naming acts of domestic violence such as the use of slippers, iron and turning Gari ( wooden spoon) to beat children, dousing the private part of girl children with grounded pepper, inserting broom sticks into boy children’s penis and using razor blade to cut children in the name of punishment. The EWOF girls called on the Ajegunle community members to stop these acts of violence.
Of course the frills and the chills littered the different activities of the week. We had a bad experience when some men actually told us to mind our business and desist from telling them to stop beating their wives. In Kosofe, some women and men felt that women deserved to be beaten by their husbands because they are not submissive enough.
The most chilling experience of the week that almost knocked me off was the orgy of blue films being shown in communities to young girls and boys to initiate them into the practice of the act of obscene sex for money and the dousing of girls private part with pepper by their mothers.
From one local government to another, it was loads of gruelling stories of men beating their wives to death, 70 year old man raping a 5 year old girl, a woman mal treating her house help or a mother maiming her child in the name of punishment.
The incidence of domestic violence is staggering; the enormity of the problem is unimaginable. We need to address it fast and now ! or else our family and community life stands the risk of being irreparably disrupted.
Domestic violence is a threat to healthy family relationship and so we need to stand and act together to quench its fire! We owe it to our family, our community and our nation!!!
Ms Titilope Akosa,