Gender-Based Violence: Are we ever going to get the desired change? – By Hyeladzira James Mshelia (Programs Associate)

“Madam if you like dey under this sun dey do training from morning till night if na rape issue, I go rape, my wife. Her body na my own”

I was utterly dump-founded, livid and startled. I was not sure if I heard right or if my mind was playing a fast one on me. Perhaps from the fatigue of trying to get a suitable motor Park in Enugu State to carry out our Project SABI motor park town-hall. 

I thought to myself that this man had some nerve to spew such distasteful words. How dare you openly admit that it is ok to forcefully have carnal knowledge of someone else. More so, your wife!
Statements like these, draw you into the reality of the appalling state of Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria and how these cases keep increasing in Nigeria despite all efforts to stem the tide. Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, the World Health Organisation has stated.   Estimates by WHO indicates that globally about 1 in 3 (30 per cent) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Recently, the United Nations declared Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) as a ‘shadow pandemic’ while calling for urgent, comprehensive, and effective actions by duty-bearers to curb the menace.

What CODE and BQA are doing with support from OXFAM Voice to change the status quo 

Hyeladzira Mshelia CODEs Programme Associate giving a presentation on project SABI

To address these issues, Connected Development (CODE) and Boys Quarters Africa (BQA) with support from OXFAM Voice began a grass-root engagement approach with Men & Boys, on the “Project SABI” to directly impact and empower victims, and especially young people across FCT, Lagos and Enugu, with necessary information on their roles as responders using diverse reporting channels to mobilise mass voices. This project is aimed at seeking new approaches to tackle Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
I bet you are asking why men and boys right? Men and boys are key to promoting gender equality. The focus of this project is on engaging Nigerian men and boys as gender allies in their households and communities. We hope to bring together men and boys to challenge existing gender norms and plant new seeds of thought about the role of women in Nigerian society. Men and boys can shift existing gender norms by engaging with and understanding their privilege.

A driver lending his voice during our motor park town hall in Enugu State

Over the years CODE has led strategic campaigns that address issues affecting women and girls including gender-responsive budgeting, girl-child education campaigns and campaigns to eliminate all forms of violence targeted toward women and girls. I have been privileged to spearhead most of these gender campaigns but for obvious reasons, project SABI stands out.  This specific campaign is urging me to be even more relentless in my fight against Gender-Based Violence, more so, in an insane country like my dearly beloved. Nigeria has sworn to remain a truly complex nation whose growth is double-edged. As we grow in age and population so have we grown in all facets of crime and injustice. I am saddened by the trajectory of this nation and the lack of justice for almost everything and everyone. 

Remember how ​​Blessing Otunla’s unclad body was found in a brackish ditch in Iddo village, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital? How about the Nigerian gospel singer Osinachi Nwachukwu?  Was it not recently that a 22-year-old Oluwabamise Ayanwola, a promising fashion designer’s body was found after she went missing on February 26, 2022? Let us not forget that it has been almost two years since Uwa Omozuwa, a 22-year-old 100 level student of the University of Benin, was raped and killed inside a Redeemed Christian Church of God parish on May 27, 2020. 

You see, these barbaric acts have gone on for so long and I ask myself, Are we ever going to get the desired change? I have sisters and adorable nieces that I will detest if they made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Permit me to say ‘my tired is indeed tired’ 

However, It is time to take greater action therefore, I call on the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders to accelerate efforts to curb Sexual and Gender-Based violence in Nigeria. There is so much work to be done. A holistic and intentional approach by you and I will go a long way in mitigating this menace. Tell the person sitting next to you that it is never alright to rape/ molest anyone and of recent anything. Oops! I said it.

Ten Crucial Points From Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” for Ending GBV

Hyeladzira James Mshelia April 10, 2021 0

By Charles E. Uche Esq & Hyeladzira J. Mshelia

In the view of Socrates, intellectualism allows that “one will do what is right or best just as soon as one truly understands what is right or best.” The virtue is a purely intellectual matter, since virtue and knowledge are familial relatives, which a person accrues and improves with dedication to reason.

Thus, the aim of this article is to make people understand what is right and best, so they can be better in respect to the “gender problem”.

I, recently, read a piquant novella by Chimamanda N. Adichie “We Should All Be Feminists”. With instrumentality of the book, I mirrored our society, cultures, laws, and so forth, as well as my relationship with women and found institutionalised and inherent flaws. These flaws usually require a consciousness to be conspicuous or be noticed. A consciousness which many men fail to have because of “male privilege”. An ignorant privilege.

Just a few weeks ago, a Northern representative in the House of Representatives Chamber, ignorantly commented that women should be allowed to succeed, given opportunities, but not too much and his wife depends on him. As he said this, I anxiously waited for the Speaker of the House to call him to order for the comment. I was disappointed when he let it pass. Albeit, the disappointment was short-lived as soon as I remembered the sad reality that Nigeria is a nation that mostly regards women in general as chattels; and whose laws and cultural practises are oppressive to the feminine gender. A typical example is section 55 (1)(d) of the Penal Code which permits a husband to beat his wife for the purpose of correcting her. Interestingly, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act of 2015 prohibits and penalize spousal battery, but not spousal rape. 

The relationship between gender and violence is intricate. Different roles and behaviours of females and males, children as well as adults, are shaped and reinforced by gender norms within society. Often gender inequalities increase the tendency of women to be susceptible to violence and abuses. For instance, traditional beliefs and social norms portray that men have a right to control women and unfortunately, this  preconditioning also hinders the ability of affected women to come out of abusive situations or seek support. It’s interesting to see a wide range of bilateral, multilateral, philanthropic, and civil society actors – such as Connected Development [CODE] – working towards tackling barbaric social norms that deny girls of the right to education, women of the right to ambition and rape culture. CODE is also advocating for an end to Gender Based Violence in Nigeria.

I had in mind to write an elaborate appraisal of Ms. Adichie’s work vis-à-vis other contemporary issues affecting the female gender in Nigeria, and demonstrating how I am occasionally guilty of this “ignorant bias” as a young male.

In addition to reading Adichie’s “Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”, I’ll attempt to make a much more succinct article on the entire issue.

Without much ado, here are ten (10) points from the book that need imbibing:

  1. Feminism arises from a “consciousness” of being; and Men can be feminists too.
  2. In the quest for equality, men who adopt a hands-off approach; who bask in the comfort of “male privilege” are tacitly promoting misogyny, patriarchy and androcentrism.
  3. Men (and women) must be “actively” thinking about, noticing and discussing gender problems (in the family, work place, cultures, laws, etc) with hopes of devising solutions to them.
  4. The reorientation of the mind, especially in the upbringing of our kids is crucial to tackling the gender problem. To decry gender-specific roles and expectations, we cannot raise boys to be hard and stoic in order to be a “Man” and girls to be soft and courteous.
  5. The fact that males have more testosterone level and thus, are physically stronger than females does not make females the “weaker vessels”.
  6. We don’t live in the stone “survivor of the fittest” age anymore where the physically-stronger exercises dominance over the less physically-stronger. Women don’t need the “protection” or “approval” of men.
  7. A person’s qualifications, ability to be innovative, creative, intelligent and hard-working should be largely instrumental to constructing his/her way to success(regardless of sex).
  8. Bottom/seductive power is not true power. It is just having the “free road” to the person who wields true power. Women must seek to develop themselves and wield that true power.
  9. Women should be true to themselves, challenge themselves, aim above Mt. Everest (there’s nothing like being “too successful/intimidating) and never be afraid of shattering the fragile ego and bloated self-worth of ignorant weak men.
  10. We should all be Feminists. In its undiluted, unadulterated, egalitarianism sense as it pertains to social, political and economic status of sexes.

And to conclude, while Chimamanda’s views on equality and feminism may not necessarily be the standard or all-embracing, she, however, raised and discussed solid points which both sexes must reflect upon as we seek to establish a society where no one is a “Second Class citizen”, as Buchi Emecheta wrote. Hence, we (men and women, alike) must all unlearn the centuries-long gender bias we’ve internalized while growing up; and seek to learn proper sex relations in the path to equality of sexes.

This piece was first published on 22nd March, 2018

Why You Cannot Keep Ignoring Climate Change

Hyeladzira James Mshelia March 5, 2020 0

Hyeladzira James Mshelia

Zira holding up SDG 13 Climate Action card

Greenhouse gas emissions constantly pose significant threats to flora and fauna,  economic development, as well as environmental sustainability. From shifting weather patterns, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, intense drought, storms, heat waves, warming oceans,  rising sea levels and melting glaciers. We do not need soothsayers to tell us the effect of and unprecedented scale of climate change and global warming.

 I remember having a conversation with a well-learned person on the dangers of leaving electric appliances on when not in use. He insisted he had no interest in matters of climate change because it was neither his concern nor did he believe in it. I thought that was sad. How can something so glaring and severe be easily shrugged off.

According to the NOAA 2019 Global Climate Summary, the combined land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880. This is alarming. In 2020, predictions of far warmer temperatures have been made, regardless of which carbon dioxide emissions pathway the world follows. 

As one of the world’s most densely populated countries  with a population of over 200 million people, half of which are considered to be in obsequious poverty, Nigeria is known to be vulnerable to climate change. The sunny days are extremely hot while the rainy days are extremely wet.  The Nigerian agricultural sector depends largely on rain and fair weather–from crop production to livestock rearing to fisheries name it all. How then do we intend to survive when  the rainy season fluctuations and the weather temperature that tends to be unbearable for livestocks? Research shows that livestock mortality has increased drastically. These impacts are already being felt and will increase in magnitude if action is not taken. Despite increasing awareness on the effect and dangers of climate change, scores of people still claim ignorance. Many are ignorant of their adverse contribution they are making to increase climate change and are very much oblivious to the moral significance of mitigating climate change.

No one is asking you to restore beach vegetation to shade marine turtle nests in the Caribbean or Secure access to fresh water for elephants during periods of drought yet. Instead, we need to ask: “what can we do? What little efforts we can make towards mitigating the effect of climate change. Proper education on the subject matter is crucial at this point.

 Healing the planet starts in your living room, kitchen and garages.  Limiting the use of fossil fuels such as oil, carbon and natural gas and replacing them with renewable and cleaner sources of energy. An attempt to switch  to a ‘green’ energy provider and change what you buy and eat, turning off electrical appliances when not in use; are important steps to reducing climate change.