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Written by Harper Hill Global Correspondent Daniel Garba, Northern Nigeria

Women Arise Nigeria is an organization under Harper Hill Global, which greatly contributes to building the community’s awareness and sensitization of women’s rights within education, marriage, stigmatization, rape, and other related violence. Amplify their voices by giving today.

Rev. Dr. Rhoda Manzo (l) Mama Doris J Adamu (r)

Women Arise Nigeria is under the leadership of Doris J. Adamu and is assisted by Rev. Dr. Rhoda Manzo, who plays an important role in creating awareness and helping protect the rights of women in Northern Nigeria. 

Within the past year there have been many activities for Women Arise in Nigeria, all while under the leadership of Doris J. Adamu.

Messages of Hope to Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In May 2020, Doris J Adamu and Rev. Dr. Rhoda Manzo sent text messages of health and hope to women irrespective of their religion, denomination, and tribe during the COVID-19 outbreak. The messages were received by many, and many replied expressing their joy and happiness for receiving the messages, thanking God for having someone care about them in times like this. The text messages were sent through UMConnect which helped many lives, and to God be the glory that no life in the United Methodist Church (UMC) Nigeria family was lost due to COVID-19. This was because many adhered to the rules of protecting oneself to reduce the danger of infection.     

Workshops in Nigeria

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Women Arise Nigeria was able to carry out the campaign awareness in some churches in Gombe, a large city in northeastern Nigeria, which impacted the lives of many women and prompted them to urge Women Arise to open more branches in other states in Northern Nigeria.

From January to May 2020, Women Arise Nigeria offered workshops to parents and young adults on different areas of life focusing on issues like addictions, stigmatization, rape, denying women the right to an education, and ensuring the right to choose a husband.

In February 2021, during a women’s gathering held in the village of Jauro Sajo, Women Arise Nigeria invited a professional from the Social Welfare Commission from Gombe State, Mr. Endile Mailafiya, who came and delivered a lecture on the dangers of rape, especially for young girls. Mr. Mailafiya challenged the parents, especially mothers, on sending their children to cities to work as domestic workers. Sometimes parents withdraw their children from schools and send them to cities to work as food vendors or something else, which can leave teenagers vulnerable to rape and early pregnancy. Mr. Mailafiya added that rape can sadly also leave the victim with sexually-transmitted infections, loss of hope, stigma within the community, psychological problems, and sometimes even lead to premature death.

Doris made the second presentation on the stigmatization of rape or sexual assault victims within Nigeria. Sometimes rape victims are stigmatized which can lead to them harming themselves, but Mama Doris warned the listeners to embrace the victims of rape to give them a sense of belonging to society. She also added that young women have a right to an education just like young men, and that girls are future mothers and leaders.

During her paper presentation, t-shirts with the logo of Women Arise were distributed to some women. In attendance were Conference women Leaders, District women Leaders, and Conference staff.

This awareness and teaching workshop was held in several other places.

Dr. Rhoda Manzo bringing healing to community

In May 2021, the workshop was also held in in the Pero Central District in Gombe. During the workshop, one women gave a sad and shocking story of her three year-old daughter who had been raped by an adult man. She wanted to report the case to Women Arise and other related agencies, but her husband stopped her, saying that it will bring shame to the family and the girl will face stigmatization by her peers and the general public when she grows up. I interviewed the woman and we are keeping her identity a secret. She told Women Arise that the incident happened last year, and until recently the girl sometimes screams and cries loudly at night since the time the incident happened. At other times the little girl acts differently than she used to. The worst part of the story is that since the incident happened, her husband did not take the girl to any hospital for a check-up so they don’t know if the young child has any physical injuries or health problems. As I am writing this story, Women Arise is still looking for ways to intervene in the case to see that the girl is taken to hospital for a medical check-up.

The sensitization workshop was also held at Gwandum Raddi District and UMCN No2 Gwandum. Rev. Dr. Rhoda Manzo delivered a presentation on the topic of addiction where she discouraged young men to avoid forming addictions of any kind. Sadly, addictions can make people act differently than they would otherwise.

Women Arise Nigeria did not stop their campaign against rape and stigmatization in churches only, but also extended it to schools. The schools visited includes; Filiya Community Secondary School, Gwandum Community Secondary School, and Government Day Secondary School Filiya.

Radio Broadcast

Women Arise Nigeria also bought time on the local radio stations to create an awareness campaign to the general public. The radio broadcast is playing a great role as it reaches some families who are facing problems of rape and stigma. It was through that radio broadcast that a woman from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in Nigeria, came to see Doris and revealed to her how the cases of rape become rampant in the local areas. The woman came to seek Women Arise’s intervention concerning the cases that are hurting them and their children, especially children that are below five years-old. She shared that, shockingly, most of the time adults rape girls that are three to four years-old for ritual purposes.

In one story, a Muslim woman in Gombe brought the case of one adult who raped her three year-old daughter. Doris went to the family many times and encouraged them not to stigmatize the child, but instead show her love and build courage and hope in her.

Challenges

Despite the progress that Women Arise Nigeria is making, there are still some challenges it faces. Some of these challenges include

  • Limited source of mobility; The Northern Nigeria Annual Conference covers about 15 states including Abuja the Federal Capital territory. Women Arise Nigeria finds it difficult to extend its awareness campaign to all those states, because of limited means of transportation.
  • Cultural/ Religious differences; Some religions and cultures do not allow people to enter their homes even if there are cases of rapes. Other times some feel it is an abomination to reveal the cases of rape to the government, NGOs, or any other related organization. This leads many children, especially girls, to die in silence.
  • Limited resources to buy time on different radio stations in order to widen the campaign.

These are a few challenges that Women Arise Nigeria faces in its activities. Please consider supporting Women Arise Nigeria by donating.

Next Steps

We are planning to extend our campaign to government schools in Gombe and to the 11 local government areas from now to August.

We are also planning to create a forum for dialogue with the religious leaders of both Muslim and Christian communities to let them know the dangers of keeping quiet after a child, a teenager, or an adult has been raped. Rape not only leads to sexual infections and hurts the body in countless ways, but it also hurts the soul. We are not to stand by and keep quiet.

No matter what part of the world we live in, we must act to stop victims from being stigmatized in our local communities. We must welcome them with love and open arms so they can begin the process of healing. The moment is here. The time is now. Join us in our work.