At the tender age of 9, I witnessed my uncle beating his wife as usual, as I had witnessed that scene an uncountable number of times. On this fateful day, I could no longer hold myself back, I felt strongly that I had to do something before my aunt would be sent back to the hospital again. I looked around and I saw a stirring stick that we normally used for stirring Yam ﬂour on the ﬁre. I started hitting my uncle with it with all my strength. At one point he had no choice other than to stop beating his wife and look back to see this person who had the audacity to attack him and then he saw me look up at him with a challenging look with the big stick in my hand. His wife used that opportunity to escape and then and there I took the decision that I would always stand up for any woman or girl facing violence. Ten years ago I was able to form a group in my community. We called ourselves Vigilante on Violence against Women. This group later developed into an NGO that is working with women and girls facing domestic violence. To date, I have helped thousands of women to say NO to oppression and violence in their lives through several empowerments. I work as gender focal point person at Center for Gender and Social Policy of Obafemi Awolowo University. I am part of the committee that formulated the Gender Policy and Sexual Harassment Policy of the University.
With my experience in the last 10 years, I found out that Agency based empowerment is a key solution to eradicate Violence Against Women and Girls.
Women Inspiration Development Center organized the Agency Based Empowerment Workshop for 250 women in 5 different rural communities in Nigeria in 2017. Based on data collected by our Monitoring and Evaluation team before the empowerment workshop, 95% of these women were jobless and no business that can bring money to them, they just relied on whatever their husband could give them. Also, (80%) were facing one form of GBV or the other while 20% were not sure whether they have experienced GBV before. It was also discovered that 90% of these women could not read and write while the remaining 10% could write their names and other simple words. We also gathered that 65% of the women were facing domestic violence especially wife battering, 100% had gone through female circumcision, 20% had experienced rape at one time or the other.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE WORKSHOP
Immediately after the Empowerment Workshop, 65% of the women developed clear vision on owning their economic power and their freedom from abuse. Before we left the villages, WIDC established the women into “Support Groups” where they were meeting weekly to monitor each other’s growth. During their meetings they were also contributing money no matter how small inform of “Table Banking”. This money they are contributing, they were borrowing each other weekly and the person that borrows the money must use it to start a small business.
SIX MONTHS AFTER THE WORKSHOP
Six months after the agency based empowerment workshop and economic empowerment through participation in support group and table banking, Women Inspiration Development center visited the villages again to see how the women were doing and how they were growing in their visions. We then found out that 68% of the women have established viable businesses and were making money, 45% said they were receiving more respect from their husbands than before, while 5% was ready to leave their abusive husbands and start new lives on their own.
A year after the empowerment workshop, Women Inspiration Development Center visited the women again in their villages to check their growth and how their businesses were moving. We found out that 12 of the women now have large farms of cassava and plantation of their own. The businesses of the 68% of the women have doubled what it was during our first visit.
The study also has shown us that the agency based empowerment workshop has helped the women to develop the courage to speak out against their abusive situations, they were able to own their powers and also have vision to be economically viable to take their rightful positions in their homes and community at large.
Recently, four of our women have been invited to the leadership meetings in their villages. They are now part of decision makers in their communities which is a huge success for us.
When we were going to the villages for the first time to organize the empowerment workshop for them we were the one taking food, clothes and other materials to them. The last time we visited them the women filled the booth of our car with plenty food that we had to leave the ones we could not carry behind.