At the peak of the #MeToo movement around the world, Khadija Adamu, a young woman from Kano in Northern Nigeria, shared the story of her harrowing, near-death experience at the hands of a man. This revolutionary feat (given Northern Nigeria’s conservative nature and the culture of silence that plagues Nigeria as a whole) birthed the #ArewaMeToo movement, inspiring numerous women from Northern Nigeria to share stories of their experiences under the hashtag created by another iconic woman from Northern Nigeria, Fakhrriyyah Hashim.
The movement received overwhelming backlash and antagonism from many northerners on Twitter who deemed such topics taboo and in the same vein, it received emphatic support from people eager to uplift the victims and create a safe space for them to unburden. The ArewaMeToo movement gave many northern Nigerians the platform to share stories that larger societies would rather they didn’t.
The culture of shame and silence surrounding sexual violence help absolve perpetrators of guilt while alienating and dehumanising their victims. Gender-based violence is deemed a family issue that women must bear to save face and protect the family unit. The hush-hush nature of these events robs victims of safe spaces in society, furthers the perpetration of violence against them and gives their abusers the chance to continue to abuse them and other people.
The ArewaMeToo movement and its conveners continue to face antagonism to the extent of threats of violence. Many northerners see their advocacy as harmful to the culture of northern Nigeria, exposing them to outsiders. No acknowledgement of the harm done, prioritisation of optics over the wellbeing of victims. The antagonism mostly stems from men bent on continuing to silence and oppress women.
The notion that men are infallible superiors and women and children, humble subjects, leaves them vulnerable to harm especially in a country like Nigeria where the legal framework to tackle these problems is flawed and inefficient.
The power of the Nigerian people across the board lies in expression, our willingness and our ability to speak about what our oppressors (from the government to abusers) would rather we shut up about.
For further reading:
Nigeria MeToo movement shook up north with ArewaMeToo — Quartz Africa