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On the podcast this week, we talk to Fakkriyya Hashim, one of the prominent voices behind the #ArewaMeToo movement. The climate of the lack of accountability for perpetrators of violence against women inspired her to join the cause.
Growing up, Fakkriyya saw a culture of sexual violence against women and children. In secondary school, male teachers and students sexually assaulted boys in the school, an Islamic school.“You would think there would be a degree of moral high ground as opposed to a normal school but, that was never the case and there was always that culture of silence. It was beyond silence; the priority was ensuring that the school’s reputation was never damaged.” Talking about it was never an option and the same culture of silence applied to violence against women so, women could not speak of their experiences.
“Even as a sixteen-year-old, I was very aware of what girls even younger than that were going through. It’s hard for you to go through life growing up in Nigeria or Northern Nigeria and not pick up on the little and bigger discriminations against you just because you’re a woman and for some reason, I’ve always been conscious of that.”
Things like cooking may seem trivial in the grand scheme of feminist business, but here, women are expected to do all the domestic work while men are not required to help or even learn how to perform basic skills because they see it as a woman’s job. Women’s refusal or reluctance to do as they’re told often results in violence.
The #ArewaMeToo movement was in defiance of the characteristic culture of silence. Fakkriyya says, “I have been known to make a lot of noise that I tend to be heard. I’ve dabbled into the whole noise-making thing”.
Younger women now have access to the internet and spaces where they can safely have conversations about society, culture and religion and how it affects them. The internet fosters a community even where it’s absent physically.
“There’s only so much you can do to protect yourself as a person when you’re faced with structural and systematic issues. Sexual violence is a systematic problem in Nigeria because it is engrained within culture and religion.” There’s always a justification as to why it happened or should be silenced. You can usually trace these justifications to what society is built on; culture and religion used to oppress women.
In Nigeria, there is no system to protect women and to grant justice. There is also a culture of shame and the sexualisation of victims. The sexualisation of the violence that happens to victims forces them to share responsibility and accountability with the perpetrator of violence against them.
People protected by privilege feel less threatened by these things (but they experience them also). This is because due to the power imbalance and inequality of poverty poor women suffer more structural problems.
“We are a very unjust society and that lack of justice manifests itself in every aspect of our society”. It manifests in the treatment of women, children, disabled people, poor people and other marginalised groups.
She speaks about the need to dismantle oppressive systems and the need to “discard the harmful traditions that reduce our agency, capacity as human beings and our individuality. If traditions do that then, by all means, burn it.”