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Breaking the culture of silence on rape in Nigeria

Meet two brave women who are challenging norms and making their voices heard

Part of the pledge is to educate yourself about women’s experiences of inequality around the world and learn how they are using their power to create change.

We would like to introduce you Grace and Hadiza, two graduates of our programme from northern Nigeria who are fighting back against gender-based violence in their community.

Clockwise from left: Grace and Hadiza at the radio station, Hadiza at home with her sons, Grace with her family. Photos: Women for Women International
Clockwise from left: Grace and Hadiza at the radio station, Hadiza at home with her sons, Grace with her family. Photos: Women for Women International

Grace shares, "I used to be unable to speak up in the face of oppression. But after completing the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme, I was presented with the opportunity to train as a Change Agent and advocate for others – and I grabbed it."

My decision was borne out of a passion to help women.

During the training, Grace met Hazida, who had a similar goal: "I wanted to reduce the incidences of rape, early marriage, and gender-based violence, by being vocal and actively advocating for change."

Women are trained as agents of change to tackle issues affecting women in their communities. Photo: Monilekan
Women are trained as agents of change to tackle issues affecting their communities. Photo: Monilekan

We were taught advocacy, effective communication and how to take action to change harmful norms in our community.

Hadiza, Women for Women International-Nigeria Change Agent

Grace and Hadiza are regular contributors to a radio programme- ‘Voice of the Change Agents’ – where they discuss issues affecting women and get people involved in their campaigns for change. Recently, they aired a show on breaking the culture of silence on rape.

“The issue of rape in our community is worrying,” says Grace. Change Agents found that women could not plant or harvest their crops without risk of violence. Girls were being forced into early marriages or trafficked. Hadiza explains:

It’s normal for families to cover up rape because of the impact it would have on the survivor’s marriage prospects. Men are warned against marrying a woman who has been raped.

Change Agents are trying to shift those attitudes. “We have taken it upon ourselves to advocate for survivors,” says Grace. “We follow up with the police on cases that might be dismissed, using communication strategies we learned during our training.”

Hadiza continues: “We encourage women to speak up when they are physically abused by their partners. We tell them that violent behaviour can never be excused or justified. We let women know how to report rape cases to the authorities, and we help them get medical and legal support."

She adds, "There is a Chief in our community who attributed rape cases to girls dressing indecently and we had to challenge him on that. We went to the Village Head to complain about how his statements condemned victims and fuelled support for perpetrators. The Village Head stood strongly in our support and decreed that rape would be prosecuted under the law."

Through speaking out against injustices, Hadiza and Grace have become more confident in their own power and ability to create change.

“People in the community now view us with respect. It was a totally new experience for us and an eye-opener too,” says Hadiza.

Grace is working to support survivors and change attitudes towards rape and sexual violence in her community. Photo: Women for Women International
Grace is working to support survivors and change attitudes towards rape and sexual violence in her community. Photo: Women for Women International
Grace agrees:

A year ago, who could have thought that I would be on the radio? Who could have thought that anyone would want to hear my opinion about issues affecting women? That experience will live with me forever.

THANK YOU

We are deeply grateful to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their continued generosity. Funds raised by players are supporting women like Grace and Hadiza to find their voice and use their power to transform their communities.

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