Nigeria is rated the 9th Most Dangerous Country for women in the world. With several cases of rape, sexual assault, kidnappings and even the Boko Haram abduction of girls, it has been made clear that the women need to learn to protect themselves for whenever the need arrives. Beyond the society not realizing that women need protection, and not even wanting to hear it.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement in the US and across the world, Nigerian women are taking a stand against sexual assault and gender-based violence through self-defense training.
Human rights group Women Impacting Nigeria has partnered with a local gym to offer free self-defense classes to women in Nigeria. The country has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.
While violence against women may be a common occurrence in Nigeria, everyday assaults are seldom spoken about.
“For us, the idea of a woman learning to defend herself is revolutionary,” Adeola Olamide, a student at the gym, told Reuters.
Olamide, a mother of three who has endured multiple assaults, said that while she first felt ashamed about being assaulted, the continued attacks made her realize she wanted to know how to defend herself.
“As a woman in Nigeria, you’re not supposed to have a voice. Every tribe has this in common,” she said.
In the monthly class, students learn standard blocking, striking, and escaping techniques from boxing and karate instructors for two hours straight. They also practice jabs and uppercuts on weighted bags.
“I had never heard of a women’s self-defense workshop in Nigeria,” said Tope Imasekha, the head of Women Impacting Nigeria. “It’s just not done. But the #Me Too movement we’ve seen around the world has prompted people to ask how we can prevent violence.”
A 2014 survey on Violence Against Children in Nigeria found that 1 in 4 women reported having experienced sexual violence during their childhood and around 70% have reported multiple incidents.
“There’s something about doing this with other women, reclaiming our dignity outside of a traditional therapeutic process,” Olamide said. “It’s different from sitting in a circle and telling our stories.”