Feminique

Ubajekwe: I was eight years old when my uncle violated me

Mrs. Florence Ubajekwe is the founder of Women and Children Against Child Sexual Abuse Initiative, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which helps victims of sexual and domestic violence to speak out. The organisation also directs victims to specialists who can talk to them, to make sure they are able to get justice after being violated. Ubajekwe, who also works with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (Radio 103.5 FM) as On Air Personality (OAP), anchors the programme, ‘Story for town.’ She confessed to have become involved in advocacy work because of a terrible and haunting personal experience in the hands of a close male relative.

She narrated: “I was sexually abused at the age of eight by my uncle. He would place me on his lap and insert his fingers into my private part. He did this all the time and then he would warn me not to tell anyone. My parents were strict and didn’t have time for their children; they were not always around and they only cared about working and bringing money home. I never knew it was an abuse. “It was when I got older, at the age of 16 that I started to recall what really happened, and that was while I was being taught about sexual abuse at school.

The experience started giving me psychological trauma, depression and fear. It took time for me to really work on myself.” According to her, she brought her story up to teach parents to have a healthy relationship with their children. She said: “I’ve always wanted to be the voice of the voiceless and thank God I have been able to achieve that through radio. I’ve used the microphone to help a lot of people. I have been anchoring the programme since 2021, although the programme has been in existence since 2014.

The programme helps people to get solutions which they need. “Most violated victims do not speak out so as to avoid being stigmatised, shamed or threatened by their husbands. Most of these women are housewives, so they depend on their husband’s income. A woman may keep quiet after witnessing her husband abusing their child, because she doesn’t know how to survive without him. The husband may even be beating a woman daily and she still will not speak out because of the fear that her husband will not provide money for the children’s school fees or food.” Ubajekwe explained that Sex and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) was directed against a person because of his or her gender, and it includes physical, sexual or mental harm being inflicted on the person. She stated that the issue of SGBV was widespread and continues to happen in schools, communities, homes and religious places. She also said: “Gender-based violence involves both the male and female.

The male is also a victim, but the female is mostly affected, especially in Igbo land. In Igbo land, when a husband dies, a woman is forced to stay in a room and her hair shaven. Meanwhile, if a wife dies, nothing happens to the husband. Also, during land disputes, only men are allowed to resolve the issue. My husband is late, so my seven years old son will go and represent the family if a land dispute arises. What does the little boy know? “In Igbo land, the girl-child doesn’t get any inheritance; everything goes to the male-child. Rather, the girl-child is sold through marriage, and this is because of the belief that the female should be economically dependent on the male.

If a fowl is killed, the gizzard goes to the man; the woman is not allowed to eat it. In Anglican churches, you can’t see a woman preaching because they are not allowed to. There is this mentality in Nigeria that women cannot be in high places; they can’t be governors, senators or president.” Ubajekwe has handled several cases, but there are two cases she will never forget.
She recalled: “The first case was that of a girl who was defiled by her father. The father said he wanted to have his way again, but she refused. He got angry and used a stick to hit her; unaware that it had a sharp edge. The stick pierced the girl’s head and she was seriously injured.

What got me angry was the father threatened the mother not to say anything. “The second case was of a woman who was abused by her husband. The woman came to me, showing injuries on her body. She told me that she didn’t earn enough to take care of her family; her husband works and earns more than she does, but he refused to contribute to the upkeep of the family. Her husband instructed her to use her income to take care of the family, but she refused, saying they should both contribute a particular amount of money instead.

He got angry and started beating her, and he eventually drove her out of the house naked. “It was their neighbour, who saw her crying outside and shivering, that brought a wrapper to cover her. She was directed to me by someone and I took up the case. I called other agencies, which I sometimes partner with and informed them about her case. We worked together to get her justice and we did.”

Ubajekwe, who maintained that parents needed to do more about the issue of SGBV, said she was shocked that some fathers were still against teaching their children about SGBV because they believed it was immoral and could make their daughters have boyfriends and become wayward.

“In a house where they have three girls, and a boy, the boy-child gets overly pampered and treated like a king. He’s not allowed to work or do anything and when he does something wrong, he’s not corrected, but patted on the head by his parents. And then by the time he grows up, he will look and treat women like they’re nothing because he has been placed on a high pedestal. In fact, such a boy has the tendency of becoming a rapist, thug, cultist, alcoholic and he can pick other vices.” According to Ubajekwe, the psychological effects of SGBV are depression, anxiety, stress, suicide, self-harm and fear. She said: “A woman that is often beaten by her husband and driven out of the house naked will be pointed at by the society, rejected and shamed.

Same thing goes for a woman or girl that has been sexually abused. The society believes whatever rumour they hear and broadcasts the same. Society doesn’t care whether the story is true or false. This can make the woman go into depression and commits suicide eventually, especially if she has no one to support her. Victims of gender-based violence can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death.” She argued that SGBV can be eradicated in Nigeria if the government works towards it by enforcing laws. “There should be gender equality in schools; both the male and female should be treated equally.

Gender inequality is the primary cause of gender-based violence. Victims should be listened to and believed; this way it encourages other victims to speak out. Lack of governance should be worked on. Support should be provided for advocacy of gender-based violence. Awareness should be raised in all the states in Nigeria. Educational programmes for children should also be conducted. Parents should bring up their children properly and the foundation of children matters.

Perpetrators should be punished severely. They should be used as scapegoats so others will not be able to commit such acts because of the fear of such punishment. We women should stop fighting ourselves and support each other; we should believe that another woman can do it if we can’t do it,” said Ubajekwe Ubajekwe recalled the time Goodluck Jonathan wanted to run for the position of the president of Nigeria under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). She said: “It was during the primaries and I watched it on television. Nobody told me about it.

A lady called Sarah Jubril was also running for the position of the president. Many women backed her and even danced with her during the primaries, but when it was time to announce the results, she had just one vote. Where were all the women that were dancing with her during the primaries? We women fight against ourselves, and do not help one another because of jealousy, inferiority complexes and hatred.”

 

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