For the first time in our 8 years relationship, I heard the words “I am scared” from the mouth of the one I love. A word she never used while we were outside of Nigeria. My sister, on the other hand, went out yesterday and I was scared for her, I kept calling to make sure she was ok out there until she got back home. In her mind, her brother is concerned and caring. True I am concerned and very caring but the calls yesterday was one from fears. Fears because Nigeria is not safe for our sisters, daughters, and women. It has not been save for a long time and some are only becoming aware of it right now whereas some have been in this state of fear for long.
I have been dealing with different types of emotion during this period, contemplating and sometimes not knowing what to do. It’s been a difficult week with the rape of Uwa, the 22-year-old University of Benin student who died 3 days after the incident, police brutality that has resulted in the death of Tina (16 years old shot by a police officer), Floyd in the USA and many other people. All these amidst fighting the coronavirus pandemic. These are difficult days. I want to however in this article focus on the plight of girls and women.
It is a big shame that some men have failed to take responsibility and foolishly decide to create unsafe space for the women and girls in this country. There is no excuse whatsoever to justify rape. A rapist is a rapist. There is no excuse to lay hands on any lady. Shame on you that condone rape. Shame on you for disrespecting women. Shame on you for hitting a woman. Shame on you that require sex for grades or a job. Shame on those that make excuses for rape. Shame on you that finds fault in the victim. Shame on you for every time you stay quiet and not do something to fight for women and girls. For every time you penetrated even if she said yes at first but said stop in the process but you refused, shame on you. Learn more about what consent is. What she chooses to wear and how she wears it, is her choice, stop the stupid excuses.
The case of Uwa is an opportunity to ensure justice and make a scapegoat of the perpetrators that will be an example for rapist out there. If this dies down with no transformative action taken, it will be shame on us all. Stop and evaluate what’s going on and how it can affect you. I don’t have all the answers to help automatically create a safe space but I know God can through us as individuals work to create a safe space for our daughters, sisters, partners and mothers. The government is not going to fix this and even if they tried, it is still up to us as men to do and be better. The change we seek does not start with the nation; it starts with individuals who make up that nation. The fight for safe space must begin with you.
It is time to take responsibility and correct the spoken and unspoken experiences that we know are there. We must allow love to flood our hearts as men. Value and respect the women in your life. They are not objects but full humans just like you with purpose, dreams and aspirations. Do everything in your power to create a space where they can thrive. Until we get to that point where we allow compassion and empathy for people going through experiences we’ve never had, the cycle will continue. Let’s not stop at making this a hashtag or trend alone. Let’s take it further and ensure real change by 1. Taking personal responsibility as men to always do and be better 2. Train boys that will respect girls from childhood. 3. Speak up and confront other men that make women feel unsafe or objectify women.