3 February 2013

Nigeria: A Vocal Campaign Against Assault On Women

Lagos — An international report on violence against women said one in every three Nigerian women and girls aged 15-24 have been victims of violence. The unfortunate trend is what some Nigerian artistes and actors vowed to reverse at a recent event held in Lagos in conjunction with Heinrich Boell Foundation, a German Non Governmental Organisation in Nigeria. Sunday Trust was there.

O'jez entertainment, a moderately furnished relaxation spot within the ambience of National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos was recently enlivened when a combined team of entertainers comprising known faces in Nollywood and music stars stormed it to join Heinrich Boell Foundation Nigeria in launching a campaign against Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Although the organizers termed it a media launch of a four-track album, "Singing Against Violence", the passions with which Waje and Omawunmi, two female artistes who sang in the album marshaled their points showed how emotionally attached the celebrities were.

Waje, the young female artiste appeared to be more touched. In a recorded video interview beamed to the audience, the singer said as someone who hailed from a broken home herself, she had a first-hand understanding of what the issue at stake was all about. According to her, her personal experience was a series of nasty events she was not even ready to recollect.

"I know how it feels like. I come from a broken home. My parents are divorced. You don't want to remember series of events that led to that," Waje said.

Waje who sang the track, "New morning" in the album further advised men who engage in domestic violence to desist from it as it does not portray them well. She warned that those who chose to be recalcitrant stood the risk of being arrested and prosecuted as the next phase of the campaign was to ensure how the long arm of law would be used to deal with men who engaged in the barbaric acts.

Similarly in her remark, Omawunmi the second female artiste in the album said it is regrettable that women voices are being subsumed in Nigeria. She observed that when women are being maltreated by their spouses, they hardly enjoy any publicity or assistance from the media but when such women out of frustration take law into their hands; they get spaces on the front pages of newspapers.

"We have instances whereby some men maltreated their women; nobody heard the cries of such women. But when such women out of frustration revolted back, you will have headlines on the front pages of newspapers, such as 'woman stab husband to death', 'woman cut husband's genital with knives', among others," Omawunmi said.

The singer who sang the track, "enough is enough" in the album added that what the artistes have been singing about is indeed a daily occurrence in Nigerian society. She however advised any woman who is a victim of domestic violence to get out of the relationship as no amount of "love" is worth losing one's life for. She promised that Nigerian artistes will continue to sensitise the populace on the danger inherent in gender based violence.

El Dee, who sang the track "Good man", in his recorded interview, said he got involved in the project through some of his friends, while MI Abaga, the fourth artiste who participated in the album with his track, "real man" urged the male folk to devise another strategy to drive home their points while having issues with their wives. Both El Dee and MI are also producers of the album.

The album executive producer, Christian K, who also doubles as Director, Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Nigeria office, said the foundation which has been in Nigeria since 1987 believes there cannot be a responsible society without the preservation of women rights. She said the foundation wants to raise awareness against domestic violence and that is the purpose behind sponsoring the album.

"Based on Nigeria NGO Coalition report in 2008, one in five women in Nigeria reported that she has been subjected to some form of violence, including battering and verbal abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, marital rape, sexual exploitation or harassment within the home. However something has been changing, we hope other things will change as well," Christian K said.

She cited a number of reasons why the foundation is sponsoring "Singing Against Violence". These she said, include; the need to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels, demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world, resisting against violence against women, encouraging women to come to that point when they realize that they deserve more than they are getting and giving them the strength to take necessary steps towards recovery.

Other reasons include, encouraging women to realize and insist that they will no longer accept violence in marital and non marital relationships, building women's self esteem and inner strength and giving a voice to their feelings, among others.

The foundation director further noted that there is nothing wrong in men being the leaders of their respective homes, but that there has to be a reduction in the battering of their women, a fact, she said must be gotten right. She implored Nigerian media especially the electronic to give wide publicity to the album by playing it on the airwaves on regular basis.

"We may not have large sums of money to push this around, but I think this is an opportunity for radio stations to play the album on their musical programmes. If we are lucky to enjoy wide publicity on the airwaves, I think that will be okay," she pleaded.

A tract in the album which seemed to thrill the audience most goes thus;

Love her like a mother,

Love her like a sister,

Treat her like a lady.

You don't have to hit her,

You don't have to beat her,

Be patient and be faithful.

Showing a brief clip from a yet-to-be premiered movie, "Kill the abusive partner" was the high point of the event as it got virtually all members of the audience glued to the TV screen. The clip was a prologue of an engrossing movie that captured the miserable life a house wife who was often abused by her husband. Anytime her husband went gaga, the woman would run for refuge in a neighbour's apartment. Oftentimes, the rampaging husband would chase her to the neighbour's apartment, threatening to break into the room if the neighbour failed to send the woman out. The neighbour, out of fear would be left with no choice but to push the woman out.

The development became a recurring decimal until one fatefull day after the usual battering; the husband started chasing his wife with a gun. Though the woman managed to escape to the neighbours house, all her efforts to convince the neighbour that her husband was out to kill her this time was rebuffed as she was pushed out to go and settle her scores with the rampaging hubby. But hardly had the neighbour slammed the door behind himself that he heard the sound of a gunshot. That was to be followed with a loud bang on the door, few minutes later. The neighbour, terrified, tip-toed to the door and managed to open it, surprisingly, he was confronted with the battered woman whom he thought had been shot. And in a hush voice, the woman whispered to him; "I killed him".

The movie and music interlude according to the organizers was meant to acquaint journalists with the practicality of the task ahead. Ejike Asiegbu, a popular Nollywood actor who was also identified as a facilitator of the event urged media practitioners to contribute their quota to the campaign. A campaign he described as a "joint effort" for all.

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