One of the projects that we are undertaking at CHELD is joining our efforts with existing work against domestic violence in Nigeria. Domestic violence is coming out of the shadows and spilling onto the papers and social media, issuing screams loudly for all to hear. When we began to think about this project, many of us on the team were very enthusiastic about it. We had read many stories in the news, in social media like Facebook and Twitter about horrific things that had happened to women in their homes. Just that weekend, a man in Okota, Lagos, had killed their one year old baby, and ironed his wife’s skin with an iron, like a stiff, unyielding, brocade.
We shared our idea with several people. Many women that we spoke to about the project were also very keen.Some told us about their or others experiences with domestic violence, mostly intimate partner violence. Some had simply been waiting for an opportunity to do something about domestic violence, and were willing to contribute time, money, and ideas. However, there wereothers whowere not so enthusiastic. These were men who would never be violent to a woman, women who had been on the listening end of a domestic abuse tale and found it abhorrent and repulsive, and men who had even helped to remove a woman or child from an abusive situation. They thought it might be too controversial. Someone used the word “undignified.”
The latter reaction is in part what we seek to combat with our project on domestic violence – this silence by those not directly affected, this condoning by non-engagement, this handwringing and reluctance to wade into controversy, this view that engagement is somehow undignified as if hitting another or cowing another into silence is in itself dignified, this feeling of inordinate helplessness in the face of a seemingly overwhelming problem. We would like to engage those men and women in the society who would never participate in these reprehensible behaviours but who would rather keep silent.
We would like to motivate those who have power (the government, the police force, the media, religious leaders) to create change. We want to act as a voice for the ashamed, the hopeless, and the resigned. We want to encourage accountability, law enforcement, law reform and implementation, in short, justice. We want to help women, children, even men, find the resources to help themselves. We would like to provide some of those resources.
We seek to be effective not reckless, and that is why we welcome your opinions on this issue. We are developing a strategy with which we seek to address this issue at CHELD. It includes advocacy for law reform and implementation, a broad education strategy targeted at different audiences in our society, partnering with other organisations working on this issue, providing assistance to affected people, and creating greater and more sustained awareness of this issue.
But we realise that we would benefit from hearing from other people who have given thought to these issues and who may only be seeking avenues to do something beyond exclaiming at another news report or Facebook status update. So we are throwing these questions out:
How can we combat domestic violence in Nigeria?
What can individuals do to limit, if not eliminate, this public health and safety menace?
How can we get governments in Nigeria to address this issue more effectively?
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