DISCUSSING THE POLICE RAID ON WOMEN IN ABUJA WITH ANGEL
In recent times, the police carried out a raid in Abuja, in which quite a number of women were arrested, molested and raped by the police. This led to a march on the police headquarters, protesting against gender based violence and the inhumane treatment meted out on this womenf. My guest today is Angel Nduka-Nwosu, one of the organizers of the march, co-founder of As Equals Africa, a feminist, a poet and a blogger
Thank you Angel for coming back on the blog. For those who don’t know, Angel had been featured on the blog before, you can check out that blogpost here.
These days, it can be terribly exhausting to be a woman living in Nigeria because, hardly a day goes by without the news of some gender based oppression or the other trending all over social media, or even in our domestic neighbourhoods. How does it feel to be a woman living in our society?
It feels both good and bad. Good because due to the internet, feminist ideas spread faster and women are organizing and demanding more than ever. Bad in the sense that, as an African woman there is still a lot to be done, to remove structural inequality. So sometimes, I find it painful that I may have a daughter who would still have to fight these same battles that I am fighting and I sincerely don’t want that. I wish liberation would happen in my lifetime but research as shown that it may take 108 years to fill. I find it scary that I may not get see free world for women.
108 years? really? That is a really long time and it’s sad that many of us may not get to see the kind of world we are fighting for. In light of this, do you think women of this generation are doing enough to end this hate, are we raising our voices enough?
Honestly, I don’t know. There are times I feel like we are doing much more than our fore-mothers did and I feel proud that we are utilising social media to our benefit. However, the truth is that feminists are in the minority and radically minded feminist are even a much smaller group. Radically minded feminists who don’t negotiate their humanity and who seek to remove oppression from the root are labelled “extremists.” But, they are the ones who would get true and complete equality to happen. So, to answer your question, we are raising our voices louder than has ever been recorded but we need to do more.
Speaking of social media, how did #SayHerNameNigeria start? Was it as a reaction to the Abuja Police Raid on Women, or something that has a life of it’s own?
Yes, it was the Abuja Police Raid that triggered it but more importantly, the fact is that at the onset of the news, a lot of consensus was that “good women don’t go clubbing and so whatever they see they get.” It was also triggered by the fact the assault of the women received little attention, compared to when SARS terrorized young men. So, I decided to tweet and basically calling out all forms of police discrimination – including discrimination towards police women – under the #SayHerNameNigeria. I chose this hashtag because #SayHerName is a leading hashtag against police brutality towards black women in the US. So, I added the “Nigeria” to localise it and most importantly, to seek solidarity across borders. Though, it was inspired by the Abuja raid, it has now grown into a movement calling out gender based police violence against Nigerian women. So yes, I would say it has a life of it’s own.
How long after the raid did the protest happen and being one of the organizers how easy was it to pull that off?
The raid happened on a Saturday and the protest happened the next Saturday. Although, I created the hashtag and I am one of the founders of the movement, the protest was actually the idea of another brilliant feminist Damilola Marcus who is the founder of Market March. She decided she couldn’t pull it off alone so she contacted five organizations and we formed a coalition. It wasn’t easy, we got threats that we would be arrested and it was difficult to get police permission especially in Abuja. But eventually we pulled it off due to a collective effort and a determination to not give up.
What are your thoughts on the protest, do you think effective changes are being made or is this another one of those matters the Nigerian Government will sweep under the rug?
Well, I can’t speak on what the Nigerian Government will do because they can’t be trusted. But what I can say is that the march(es) have been effective in opening up a larger conversation about women’s safety, agency and sex work in particular. I feel that changing mindsets is where the real work is because even if the Nigerian Government does make it illegal to arrest women in clubs, if we as a society look down on women who go to clubs as “promiscuous”, this same thinking would affect the police men so, the laws would not be enforced.
It is my hope that the NG will make structural changes that would kick-start the general safety of women at night.
Were there any highlights of the protest that you think would bring about the changes we need?
I protested at the Lagos march. For me, the highlight was seeing a wide range of women coming out to march. We had young and old women, Christian, Muslim and irreligious women, married and unmarried, queer and straight women. Just seeing the diversity in the types of women who came out to march really encouraged me not to give up. This is because I’m really big on women collaborating across whatever boundaries we think divide us. Men bond over our oppression even if they are fighting each other. So women too should bond over the need to radically take back our humanity.
What was the reaction of the police like during the raid?
Generally, it wasn’t good. We were made fun of, one of our organizers, Ebele Molua was even threatened by a police officer, who told her he would “press her breast.”
Will the protest be a one-off thing or are there more actions under way?
No, the protest is not a one-off thing and there are definitely more plans under way. Right now, we are collaborating with other groups to get justice for the women and to also put better laws in place.
Who are the people you would like to thank for making the protest a reality?
I really would love to thank everyone. From the marchers to Dami Marcus, to the photographers like Lade Folabi and everyone who trended the hashtag on social media.
Finally, what words do you have for women who feel oppressed, alone and who feel they are protected by the society for some reason or the other.
To women, I would say use your voice. Speak up wherever you find yourself. All women face misogyny so don’t think your wealth and/or silence would protect you. Finally, another woman is not your competition. What we should be focused on is creating a world where women won’t have to fight each other for the left over crumbs of opportunities that men leave behind.