Sexual Abuse in Nigeria: The Uwaila Vera Omozuwa story

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As an African entrepreneur who has spent the past 16 years advocating for the rights of young African women who have fallen victim to diverse forms of exploitation and sexual abuse in Europe, I could not hear Uwailas story and not share it on my blog. Uwaila’s story happened right within the same period when the world was devastated by and justly turned its focus to the George Floyds incidence. It was the first time, thanks to the pandemic shutdown, that many had the time to “see” injustice right before their eyes. That many had the time to take action, like going out to protest. Welldone!

But it is not the first time that violence has occurred nor the last. Unfortunately. Sexual abuse might not gain the caliber of attention George Floyds incidence brought, but still, it is all happening before our eyes. Uwaila is a young Nigerian woman who was murdered in a church as she did the one thing society expected of her – study for a university degree.  

Uwaila Vera Omozuwa, that is her name. 

Say her name. 22-year-old undergraduate student died three days later after being raped and beaten to a critical condition in a Redeemed Christian Church of God auditorium in Benin City, Edo state. Edo State is located in southern Nigeria. A state I am at the same time very proud of and also ashamed of. I am proud of its rich cultural history. I am proud of the people building and redefining its image. I am proud to call it home.  But I am also ashamed about its deep sexual abuse history that is reflected in human trafficking to Europe. I am ashamed bitterly because of the love I have for Edo State. That is story for another blog. 

Sexual abuse is troubling the Nigerian soceity

Sexual abuse is one depravity that has become very prevalent in the Nigerian society since the pandemic started. According to the news report Nigeria has recorded over 700 rape cases in 5 months in 2020.  Yet another number in the statistics. After Uwailas  incident, there have been several shocking rape cases in Nigeria, like the case of Barakat Bello who was raped and killed in her own house in Ibadan. In Jigawa state 11 men were arrested for raping a 12-year old girl at Limawa in Dutse, the state capital. Then most shocking,  a 16 month old baby was not spared. What are we becoming?

When is the church liable?

Uwaila was with the dream to attain a degree in Microbiology. On the 27th of May 2020, reports said that she seeked the serene environment of her Church to read her books. Naively thinking, why does a student have to seek quiet to study in the church? What happened to the university library? Did Uwaila die as a result of a failed educational structure? Well probably, if it was not her, it might have been someone else as those scavengers are out there looking for a victim. However,  when the church open their doors to offer informal services to their members, substituting the government’s responsibility to offer a quiet space for students to study in school, what responsibility does the church put upon herself? Safety? Liability?

The stupidity of patriarchy justification

Two rumors about possible backstory behind her death have begun to circulate – 1.) Uwa is dating two roommates, 2.) that she was pregnant for a pastor and in the bid to have the pregnancy terminated, he arranged for her to be killed. No matter the back-story, rape, murder is not acceptable. If she chooses to date 2 roommates, the consequence cannot be justified to be rape. If she is pregnant for a pastor, the consequence cannot be murder. Was the pastor murdered too? Because it takes a whole lot of effort for one person to impregnate herself.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria this is the norm, every rape victim always have their image maligned. The normal belief that when a girl is raped she either offended someone, dressed and acted suggestively, was proud (Imagine this as an excuse – proud?? Gowing up in Edo state, I experienced this kind of hatred from young men justified  by this excuse), or had a dirty secret that resulted in the rape! This is why most rape victims don’t report the incidence as a large part of the Nigerian society is primitvely ignorant and blinded in their quest for patriarchy justification. The result? Rape cases do not exist, because why would a sexually abused person embrace victimisation and reinvention of the abuse from primitive males and broken females who let it happen? 

We have to make sure affected persons get justice

“With the backing of the general overseer pastor E.A Adeboye, the police have been working hard to resolve the case”. This is a quote from the internet reports. Maybe it had to happen in a church to prompt actions towards justice, for the church of all institutions cannot adopt the Nigerian authority attitude in such a case, or can they? A national survey on violence against children in Nigeria, conducted in 2014, found that one in four women had experienced sexual violence in childhood, with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident. Only 5% sought help, and only 3.5% received any services.

Educate yourself, sit in your pain for this is real.

It hurts so much to hear, read, see the pictures online that one could choose to ignore this topic entirely, for the sake of one’s sanity and peace. We must learn to sit in this kind of pain as fellow humans as the experience of sexual abuse is real for many. The fastest way to heal out of this pain is to take action. Action could be as simple as supporting those activists putting their lives on the line to bring awareness and justice, to bring comfort and empowerment to the families affected. 

We can support these activists if we do not choose to confront the problem directly. Here are some quick things you can do. 

  • You can follow the hashtag – #justiceforUwa to find those post to share and increase awareness. 
  • You can sign this petition – http://chng.it/dZ5F5TyS4W
  • You can support activists like Her Excellency Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the First Lady of Ondo State and organiser of the “ Bemore summer boot camp” where over 200 girls were exposed to the basics of taekwondo. 
  • You can connect and ask how to support Priscilla Usiobaifo, who works to combat gender violence with the BraveHeart Initiative in Edo state.
  • There are hundreds of other activists within Nigeria, Africa, that might need your support even more. Take time to do some research. That is the action we all need now.
3 takeaway from this blog
  1. Sexual abuse is real, especially in a society eager to condole patriarchy justification. 
  2. We must educate ourselves and call the perpetrators out. 
  3. We must sit in the pain to educating ourselves and support those creating change. 

I know this is not a business blog. But this blog is a voice for a young woman who could have either joined the workforce or become an entrepreneur. Building businesses can only happen effectively if the environment for women is conducive because we simply make up about 50% of the worlds population. Conducive business environment comes if men take up space as responsible men, where they are shown that masculinity is a social construct that can be redefined. And I congratulate many young men who have embraced their masculinity and femininity as a simple human trait. 

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading through to the end even if this is not your usual business talk. I really appreciate it, becauseI know it is important to talk about social justice. Remember to share this blog on social media to help me raise awareness. More free business training and social topics will be published on my YouTube channel, so do not miss out. Subscribe and turn on the notifications to stay updated. It would be nice if you follow me on instagram as I share daily strategies and personal fun stuff. I am on facebook as well but to get it all in one place, subscribe to my free newsletter. Drop your comments, questions, feedback beneath using the comment section and I will be happy to answer your questions in my next video or blog

Look forward to hearing from you soon!

Cheers, 

Joana

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