Gender-based violence manifests in Nigeria, as traditions, actions, or just views that slide down the throat of one generation to the next. These issues reared their heads at the screening of Femi Amogunla’s The Bargain at American Corner, Ibadan. This event was part of the United Nations 16 Days activism against gender based violence, a yearly international campaign that runs from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), to 10 December (Human Rights Day). The screening was followed by a real life narration of domestic violence; a presentation on sexual assault and a lively conversation with the audience.
Femi Amogunla introduced his media project which adds his voice to the #16Days Activism. He introduced the audience to his ongoing online photography exhibition where he shared one picture a day from November, 25 through December, 10, 2015.
“It was my way of putting faces to the statistics. Giving voices to women who the society only wants to see but not hear their voice. The project is their faces and their voices, on issues around gender based violence,” Amogunla said.
He showed some of the photographs from the exhibition; then, he introduced the audience to the short film The Bargain. The film captures a narrative that many women are familiar with: abuse of all kinds; and the society’s efforts at repressing abuse. It is not enough that a woman is abused but her voice must be silenced. No one must hear her talk about it, or else, she becomes asewo. That Yoruba word for prostitute was a constant one throughout the short film.
The Bargain is apt to raise awareness about these issues because it chronicles a woman’s life, from childhood to adulthood. It captures the many ways that the society victimizes women and captures the tools of silence. The film is in fact this character’s narration, of her experience, of the different lessons that women should learn—or unlearn.
Performer, Soji Gbelekale, also known as Ajankorodugbe thrilled the audience with two performances, one in Yoruba, and the other in English. Both poems were about the value that we place on women. It is men who do not feel capable that beat their women; they feel that by beating, they will be complete, equal, bigger than their women. However, Ajankorodugbe emphasizes that abusing a woman makes the man a lesser being, a beast.
After the screening, the panelists—lecturer and author of Dazzling Mirage, Dr. Yinka Egbokhare; OAP and author, Ifeoluwa Adeniyi; lawyer and founder, Edem Ossai; lawyer and founder, MAYEIN (Mentors Assistance for Youths & Entrepreneurs Initiative); Abiade Olawanle, lawyer and founder, HOSEI (Humans of Substance Empowerment Initiative); and lecturer, Soji Cole—took the stage.
Abiade Olawanle told a chilling narrative of her ex-husband who never laid a hand on her but abused her in every other possible way. She said that towards the end of the marriage, she was already mentally disturbed.
“Everyone told me to be patient, to endure. One day, I just realized that marriage is not meant to be endured but enjoyed. Plus I’d endured so much: embarrassment, heart break, again and again. I left and I’ve never looked back since then.” She said.
The questions from the audience made it obvious that the issues captured in the film were right there in the hall: what did you do to make him angry enough to beat you? Does our culture not permit some “punishment” to correct women? Is it not the woman’s duty to raise the children? Is a man raising his voice a good sign to run? What does the law say about domestic violence? Why is it difficult to prosecute? The many questions that one reads on comment boxes on blogs. Questions that hardly get answered. However the panelists tackled the questions one after the other.
Olayinka Egbokhare responded with her presentation on assault. The presentation was laced with several examples of domestic abuse, of ways that one can be an abuser. It was a presentation that many could relate with. She told stories that many are familiar with—of perfect couples without issues in public. She told the story of how she used to admire a couple that always wore anko, same clothes. Only for the wife to show her the fresh wounds beneath her gorgeous buba lace one day. If abuse must stop, everyone must be ready to be called a rabble-rouser, she said.
Several things stood memorable from the event. First, gender-based violence affects both sexes, male and female. Second, gender-based violence is not the battle of the sexes; it is not men against women; women abuse women; men abuse men. Third, it is not just a gender issue; not about treating women like women and men like men, but about treating human as humans. Fourth, it is important to keep talking about the issues until everyone begins to respect the other as human beings. It will not just happen: laws will change; prosecutions will happen. It will take time but it will not just easily slide from one generation to the other without those bold enough to question their humanity.