Arewa women are changing narratives and this time it’s on sexual assault and harassment. Men in northern Nigeria have always had it easy and the patriarchy has blossomed, forcing females to suffocate in marginalization. The patriarchy gave them the upper hand and made northern women into people stereotyped as intimidated and voiceless. The Arewa woman has taken the backseat when it comes to integral issues in the society. There are reasons most northern women haven’t spoken and here are some of them:
Kina so ki bamu kunya? (You want to bring shame to us?) This is what a lot of survivors are asked when they report their perpetrators to their loved ones. Your family places more importance on their place in the society than on your traumatic experience. You are told to seal your mouth to avoid being the topic of discussion in your neighborhood. The sad reality is that victims abused by their perpetrators are mostly family relations, and this has led to perpetrators roaming around freely, giving them more power. #ArewaMeToo is here to end that.
As survivors are speaking up, some are asking why they visited their perpetrators, why they dressed a certain way, why they did not stay locked at home, why she slays. Every time women speak up, they get blamed one way or the other. They are asked why they chatted with their perpetrators or why they were too cordial. The perpetrators are never questioned. We are tired of been shamed and feeling shamed. No one deserves to be assaulted or harassed sexually.
The self-esteem of the average Arewa girlchild is built to stay low. Now, imagine the assaulted/harassed Arewa girlchild — a ticking time bomb. A victim narrated her experience and what she was told by her aunt was, “No one is going to blame the guy because you have given away your integrity and that of your family, so better keep mute about this because it is not part of our culture and you don’t want to remain single for the rest of your life.” Fear is always an obstacle.
Another reason why survivors don’t speak up is because they haven’t seen abusers suffer any consequences. They also haven’t gotten enough support from past experiences. “What if I get thrown out of the house?” Amira asked during a session. Most victims are asking for support — shelter, protection, safety, therapy, justice. Most survivors said they are sure others will open up when there is a strong support system.
All we are saying
Enough is enough. As survivors are speaking up, we should try as much as possible to support, believe, and make them feel worthy. Arewa women are articulate.
This is an encouragement for other women to know their rights. Victims are pushing away the shame to their perpetrators. This is a big step for Arewa women. They are changing the ancient definition of what a lot think they are. Arewa women are speaking up for silent marginalized voices. Everyone’s participation is essential for a world free from abusers. This is for all Arewa women and we are
just getting started.
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