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.
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.
Self-defense is not just a set of techniques; it’s a state of mind, and it begins with the belief that you are worth defending. The essential thing is to bear in mind is that trouble can appear at any time.— Women Impacting Nigeria (@womenimpactnig) January 8, 2020
Be aware. Be ready. Be alert.#BREAKINGpic.twitter.com/MTlUHsFaMR
“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.”
Nigeria is the ninth-most dangerous country for women, according to a 2018 report from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which polled 193 countries.
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.”