Anuli Ola-laniyi is the founder, HEIR Woman: a women and girls based non government organisation. In this interview with ENE OSANG she discusses the just concluded global 16 days activism on the elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW), and why she patnered Chioma Chuka, TechHerNG founder to empower women and girls with self-defence skills.
You organised a self defense class recently what informed this. How do you intend to sustain it?
Interestingly, thinking through what women go through in general and then drilling it down to GBV specifically is overwhelming. One can either try to do something to help alleviate the issues or not, I choose to. So many interventions are available as well as any advocacy efforts are put in place, and with the global awareness of MeToo, Sex for Grades, Sex for Salvation, Workplace Harrassment, all geared to reveal the devastating harassment that women and girls continually face in many institutions, I remember asking myself and thinking, “what else can one do differently to support our women and girls”? Early one morning, I sent a message to Chioma Chuka, TechHerNG founder and shared my idea with her. This idea, several weeks later, saw both our organisations, partner to have this self defence class for young women, girls in FCT.
Sustainability is inevitable. I say that because, everyday, we still get a statistic that 1 in 3 girls are raped. Women, girls and PWDs still get harassed. Laws that can protect us are yet to be fully implemented or domesticated and become effective to keep women, girls and PWDs as top priority. While all this delays are ongoing, we need to think creatively and equip our girls and women to at least, have some sort of self defence mindset to immediately protect themselves from danger. We have partners who came on board with us in this first edition of the self defence class and we got and still get positive feedback regarding this initiative. We have received requests to run this in other states , with group of women as well and this will happen come 2020. I know that this idea will continue to thrive as we keep looking at ways to reduce violence against women and girls.
16 days of activism on elimination of all forms of violence against women is on globally, is this not rather promoting and encouraging violence?
I do not see it that way. This activism was created because of the need ginger awareness and provide an end to a problem. This activism was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, that is 28 years of active global advocacy. The prevalence of GBV is still reoccurring in our nation and communities with worse case scenarios leading to loss of a life. The call is to end violence, stop rape, eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. And until we reach this standard, we will keep up momentum to raise awareness.
What is your vision with this project?
The vision we have is to prioritize self defence and equip women, girls and PWDs to learn basic skills to help them out of difficult and uncomfortable situation, thereby reducing the number of those who experience GBV. We also want to create safe spaces for women to share experiences, get required and unbiased advice, help and support, tools or resources, that help them overcome and live a fulfilling life
How would you describe the state of Gender Based Violence in Nigeria today?
Devasting and Discouraging. It aches my heart to see that women and girls are not naturally seen as investments. It hurts to see that mindsets and myths aren’t fully supportive of women and girls, as shown by the way legislation has prioritised the issues, how media tells the story of GBV, how Justice is yet to be served to those who commit a crime like rape. It is embarrassing that a sitting law maker gets away with GBV, that people who are enthrusted to sherperd the sheep are breaking trust and doing more harm than good. Places of authority and security are biased to the issue of GBV when it involves a woman or girl. I feel worse that I may raise children in such society that constantly demeans women and girls but I am looking up because all efforts to end every form of violence will reach it’s peak and more prevention routes will be activated
What would you advise victims of violence and parents generally?
They are not victims. They are SURVIVORS. The ones who commit the acts are predators and do need a psychological evaluation. Let us believe their story and provide unbiased help and support. We thankfully have intervention centers and CSOs who are equipped to handle any case of GBV unbiased. There is also the Sexual Assault Referral Centers (SARCs) in 15 States, who are working tirelessly to provide interventions. We also need to prioritize self defence training as a life skill for girls, women and PWDs .
Its been argued that men suffer Gender Based Violence too is this true, what can be done to address this problems?
Everyone suffers from GBV and it is a global issue. We acknowledge that yes, men experience this however it is not as prevalent as what women and girls go through based on available statistics on the matter. You can argue that this society does not necessarily encourage boys and men to speak up against such issues if it happens to them because they may be seen as ‘not being a man”. Unfortunately we live in a culture that promotes silence and shame. This again, is a wrong mindset and not helpful for raising men in this society and as such, boys and men that should receive help, shy away from it because they are silenced.