“I am a survivor of domestic violence. I survived gender-based violence from left, right and center and I have decided to turn my struggle into a success story for other women in my community. Ending violence against women is a task that must be done; for other women and girls, for my daughters, and for me too.”
Imagine a woman laying helplessly in a hospital, her 28 day-old baby beside her. As she was gazing into the space, the male doctor moves close to her bedside and whispers to her ears ”Lady, either you find a way to stop your husband punching you or you live with it all your life. It's a never-ending journey for women in this country”.
This happened on the 22nd of June, 2002 and that woman was me.
My grandmother’s and mother’s story was not so different; just a different face, a different phase and a different generation. When I faced my personal domestic violence, I knew that I must do something about it fast because I have given birth to daughters – will they continue to suffer like us? No, in order for the not to, I must stand for them; otherwise they will be fighting for the rest of their lives.
What is the issue you are trying to solve? Domestic violence is a daily occurrence in Nigeria. Culturally, when girls grow up, they learn that it must be tolerated and can even be expected once they get married; to be lived with or endured as the case may be. A common proverb is that “marriage is like school where the husband is the teacher and the wife is the pupil but unlike a school, she cannot graduate” till death do they part.
As a survivor of domestic violence, I can attest to the fact that the husband acts like a teacher in the home; his word is the law. According to a demographic health survey released in Nov 2009, 2/3rd of the women interviewed revealed that they are abused, mostly by their husbands or partners, while 43% of the women believe that their husband or partner has the right to beat them. This was affirmed in March 2016 when Nigeria threw out the Gender Equality Bills, the fourth time in twenty years. Men can beat their wives because we are not equal. Even the Nigeria penal code allows it.
What is your solution? Instead of brooding over my experience of violence, I decided to turn my struggle into a success story for other women in my community. Therefore I founded the Star of Hope Transformation Center, a healing space where women are trained about their rights, equality and can also acquire skills.
In 2014, we piloted the first TTTTT (Tosin Turns Trash To Treasure), a new idea that targets turning abused women to community assets. The project aims to empower women by using trash to make treasure in order to encourage abused women to add value to their lives, walk out of abuse, learn new skills, be economically empowered and jump back into the community to become mentors, community leaders and voices for the oppressed. Trash to treasure empowers and educates abused women about their rights, changes societal mindset about violence against women and helps them to produce and easily market their products.
In what way will the lives of specific individuals be improved because of your work? Turn Trash To Treasureis a double-edged sword that deals with ending violence against women, while producing Treasure that is sold to generate income while at the same time protecting the environment from waste. In our programme, we teach women that nothing is nothing, everyone is a treasure and nobody is above anybody.
The program aims to change mindsets in three ways; psychological, social and financial. Women are empowered to resist, report and recover from abuse while identifying and supporting other abused women in the community – and the cycle goes on. They also learn how to turn trash into treasures creating unimaginable and beautiful objects that generate income.
Women who were treated as trash become empowered and regain their lives back. I would love to spread this idea to every part of Nigeria and all over the world because abuse of women happens in every community, in every country.
Impact Goal: To train 170 women in each of the 36 states of Nigeria, one state per month (36 months), totalling 6,120 abused women in 3.5 years. The plan is to run two trainings concurrently in each state each month with women I have trained as trainers.