BeingFemaleInNigeria: The viral hashtag, the tweets and my take on it

#BeingFemaleInNigeria is a hashtag that went viral in Nigeria just barely hours after it was first tweeted by members of a small book club. The hashtag started trending in many countries including UK. I would have loved for the hashtag to read ‘BeingaWomanInNigeria’ because the word ‘Female’ has its own social construct problem. However, i am over the moon that this very important conversation, which got the whole nation talking, was started by a very small book club.

The book club members had gathered to read their book of the month, an essay titled ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Nigerian award winning author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. According to a member of the book club, Florence Warmate, the discussion got very interesting and members started sharing their personal experiences of sexism in Nigeria. They decided not to leave it there but start a conversation on social media about what it is like being a woman in Nigeria.

Florence Warmate posted her first tweet on the subject using the agreed hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria. Hours later, it was trending on twitter. It was interesting that a small group of women could ignite a national discussion via social media in a matter of hours. Clearly, it was a discussion Nigerian women (and some men too), were dying to have.

The hashtag resonated with almost every woman in Nigeria and outside too. It was an opportunity to talk about the things that bug us, tie us down, stands in our way and oppress us every day.

It was a golden opportunity to make our voices heard about the everyday sexism we encounter as Nigerian women in Nigeria.

It presented an excellent forum to share the casual sexism we have learned to accept as normal even though we know there is nothing normal about being treated as breeders, blamed for being raped, thrown out of our marital homes for only giving birth to girls and not boys.

Women are the ones who are asked to grin and bear it when husbands constantly cheat and we are the ones who are told to stay in domestic abusive relationships for the sake of the children.

We are the ones who are called ashewo, prostitute, ashi, runs girl, slut, judged by the way we dress or the type of cars we drive.

We are the ones whose career successes are attributed to sleeping with our male bosses.

We are the ones who are told to stop aiming for PHds because it would be intimidating to potential suitors and the only qualification that matters is how good we are in the kitchen department.

Yes, Nigerian women had a lot to say about being a woman in Nigeria and heck, did we say it!

From my personal experiences, I would say being a woman in Nigeria means-

1- #BeingFemaleInNigeria Having to conspicuously hold my Hilton cardkey every time I stepped out of my hotel room to avoid being called ashawo.

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Yeah, the last time I visited Nigeria and lodged at the five star Hilton Hotel, I had to always display my room card. I could not even go alone to the hotel bar to get a drink for fear of being harassed by security and all these roaming judgemental eyes!  BTW, I made sure to speak to the porters in a fake British accent and left my Heathrow bag tag on my luggage, so they know I be Tokunbo (from abroad). Anything not to be stopped and queried by those securities who assumed every woman around Hilton is a commercial sex worker.

BTW, I am a staunch supporter of sex workers. I have written about stigma and abuses they face and will continue to campaign for Rights for sex workers not Rescue and the need to organise sex workers within mainstream labour movement.  Sex worker, prostitute , Ashewo should not be used as a slur.

2- #BeingFemaleInNigeria- Unaccompanied woman in a hotel = Ashawo, never mind that you are there to present a paper on Global economic crisis!

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As an international trade unionist, I have stayed in hotels all around the world but there is something so uncomfortable about staying in hotels in Nigeria. You are an ashewo or ‘runs girl’ (Lady looking for sugar daddies to fund her lifestyle) until you are proven innocent.

3- #BeingFemaleInNigeria – Taxi man tries to swindle you, you complain, he screams ashawo at you as you alight outside your hotel.

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This happened to me during my last visit, I was so aghast and furious, and the only thing I could think to do was give him the middle finger as he drove off.

4- BeingFemaleInNigeria – Not having the luxury to go clubbing or drinking alone unless you don’t mind being called ashawo by judgmental eyes

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The number of times I had to beg my male colleagues to abandon whatever they were doing and escort me to our drinking joints or clubs! I guess their wives and girlfriends were not too happy with me.

5- BeingFemaleInNigeria- You must be sleeping with your married male boss, cos career success, nice car and promotion means pussypower!

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Even your family assumes this must be the case especially when you announce your new promotion or buy a new car. Your boss is male, rich and popular, it is expected that you sleep with him to get ahead, never mind that you are smart, one of the best in your field and of course who cares that your boss is very much married!

6- #BeingFemaleinNigeria Your married boss takes it or granted that you are gonna sleep with him

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Yeah, it is actually expected of him to sleep with his female employees, especially if he is rich. Not sharing the goodies would be considered selfish. He could be seen as less of a man and derogatorily called a ‘Born again’ Christian. He also knows if he does not at least make the move to get into your pants, tongues would wag and his virility would come into question. No man wants to be called impotent, not even Sheldon Cooper!

7- #BeingFemaleInNigeria Your female colleagues gather around to chastise you for wearing mini skirt. You wan tempt their office sugardaddies?

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True story, on my first day at work and from fellow female colleagues who identified as feminists too. What a joke!

8- #BeingFemaleInNigeria- “You are a man” becomes a compliment. Did i change sex cos women can’t be spectacular achievers while being women?

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Please understand that calling a woman “a man’ because of her achievements or courage is NOT A COMPLIMENT. Those words are nothing but an insult to the woman, her achievements and gender identity. You do not honour me by calling me “A Woman like a Man“, in fact with such words you deny my gender identity and degrade my biological sex. I am a Woman and Proudly so.I already made a post on this vexing issue, check it out here

9- #BeingFemaleinNigeria You are put in charge of food and drinks while your male colleagues are assigned important contracts for conferences

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Story of my work experience in Nigeria.

10- #BeingFemaleInNigeria- How can you call yourself a successful 30 something year old woman when you never marry?

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I will be 40 this August, an accomplished human being in my professional and personal life. Nevertheless, my personal life success would be questioned because I am an unmarried single mum. Never mind that my son, a lovely 20-year-old undergraduate law student in UK is set to be graduating with a first class in a few months. I am considered a failure for being an unmarried single mum at 40. Being a woman in Nigeria means, I am now officially a bitter old hag who turned into a lesbian because she could not get a man who would accept her big mouth, godless soul, and highly opinionated arse!

11- #BeingFemaleInNigeria What do you mean you never marry, abeg follow me to my pastor, we must rebuke the demons that are disturbing your life

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The fact that I am an atheist only makes them want to pray louder for me!

12- #BeingFemaleInNigeria What do you mean you don’t want children? That is not your portion o, not in this family! Wa bi mo we re! (You will give birth to many children!)

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Consciously deciding not to have children rank as one of the worst things any woman in Nigeria could say in public. Even your family member would scream at you and take your case to their pastor, imam and babalawos to find out if some demons have taken over your mind!

It is not surprising that some reactionary men have decided to make their own hashtag ‘BeingMaleInNigeria’, because ‘What about the Menz’! However, it is interesting to see that some men do get it and are indeed contributing positively to the discussion.

Below are some of the interesting, hilarious and thought provoking tweets. Read, enjoy and remember, we could make a difference by being the change we desire.

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The curious case of Rachel Dolezal

When Rachel Dolezal was outed as a Caucasian woman in blackface, the story almost broke the internet. Several daystumblr_inline_npu43mC6mM1qfb043_500 later, we are still trying to put the pieces together. So far, the story has served as a platform to discuss racism and cultural appropriation. However, it has also served as a platform for transphobes to pontificate on gender and redefine transracial.

Rachel Dolezal, 37 year old part-time professor in the Africana studies program at Eastern Washington University, was outed by her Caucasian parents, Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, as a white woman pretending to be black. Following the social media attention, Rachel Dolezal handed in her resignation as president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She tendered her resignation without any sign of remorse, later followed by an exclusive live interview with NBC News where she insisted-

I definitely am not white, I’m more black than I am white. That’s the accurate answer from my truth.

Rachel seems to think her chosen truth trumps facts. You can choose your truth but you can’t choose your facts. She seems to have a history of choosing her truths with total disregard for facts.

On several occasions, Rachel Dolezal has claimed to be the victim of hate crimes. However, Investigators have not been able to find evidence to substantiate her claims. In fact, it was an effort to connect the dots in her latest hate [Read more…]

South Africa and Xenophobic Attacks: Simply No Justification

On March 20, 2015, xenophobic attacks broke out in Durban, South Africa, some disgruntled South Africans turned on their neighbours, viciously attacking foreigners, mostly immigrant black Africans. This set in motion a wave of anti-immigrants attacks. The locals accused migrants of taking local jobs. They wanted the foreigners out of their country. Since the attacks, many deaths have been recorded and thousands of foreigners have fled for their lives, with many rendered homeless and in hiding.

A Mozambican man, Emmanuel Sithole was stalked, stabbed and murdered on the streets by vicious South Africans, According to reports, many including policemen watched while he pleaded for his life.

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The Nigerian consul-general in South Africa, Uche Ajulu-Okeke said  – [Read more…]

Free and Equal Naija campaign should be without a BUT.

To mark this year’s international human rights day,  a group of Nigerian individuals and organisations came together to adopt the Free and Equal Naija campaign todownload promote inclusiveness of LGBT rights as human rights.

I am a firm believer in equal rights; therefore, the Free and equal Naija hashtag appealed to the human rights activist in me. However, when I got the memo and guideline that came with the concept note, I was once again, disappointed. The memo came with the guideline-

Important Notice:

The #FreeAndEqualNaija Campaign is not a marriage equality campaign. All advocacy outputs should be directed toward inclusiveness and accountability in the promotion and protection of human rights of all Nigerian citizens.

Once again, marriage equality is being treated as the taboo words that must not be uttered if we are to win the support of Nigerian human rights activists and organisations.

There is this growing stigma attached to marriage equality campaign especially amongst African LGBT activists. Although i appreciate the effort to speak up for LGBT rights in a country where it is a crime to do so, but as a staunch supporter of Marriage Equality, I could not fully get behind the Free and Equal Naija campaign because i did not wish to be part of anything that stigmatises marriage equality campaign. [Read more…]

#Ferguson: Mike brown and the “It is not a race thing” Apologists.

I have been unable to bring myself to write a blogpost on ‪#‎Ferguson for weeks now. Reading the updates is overwhelmingly heart wrenching. However, my sadness and pain won’t shield me from the myriad of stupid, wilfully ignorant and racist comments and memes that pops up on my newsfeed. If anything, those comments, status updates and memes contribute to my pain and anger. Michael Brown, 19, was unarmed when he was shot eight times in the middle of a street in Ferguson. And now, there is the case of Eric Garner, an African American choked to death by a white police officer.

It is disheartening when in an attempt to deny the racial aspect involved in Mike Brown’s murder, people who should know better post things like:

“This is not a race thing”

“I married a white person, my in-laws are white and they are not racists “

“All black people are not criminals; All white people are not racists”

“What if Mike brown was white?”

“Can’t we just move on?”

“But all lives matter!”

Those comments expose the comfortable ignorance people maintain on race related issues. Many white people are quick to deny white privilege. Some black people are quick to exclaim in unison with their white in-laws, “Not all white people are racists, can’t we just move on?”

An atheist black friend who should know better posted a video purportedly showing Mike Brown shoplifting, without any clarification and the first commenter, another black person, immediately wrote, “He shoplifted, he should be shot.” [Read more…]

Jamie Olivier; Hands Off My Continent’s Jollof Rice! #Jollofgate

 

Like many West Africans, I was aghast when I saw the picture of what Jamie Olivier tried to pass off as Jollof rice. Twitter was set ablaze by the B1aijQDCEAApYGlrighteous fury of West Africans, protesting the audacity of an international white celebrity chef, who dared to plagiarised (and badly so too), West Africa’s much beloved dish, Jollof Rice. To an outsider, this might seem like much ado about nothing, but hey jollof rice is not just any rice, it is a national treasure, a national signature, and as #Jollofgate fury has proved, it is an African pride. Touch our Jollof rice; we will come at you with united fury! [Read more…]

Culture is not an excuse to perpetrate injustice; LGBT Rights are about Human Rights not Culture.

As part of the celebration marking Black History/LGBT Month, I was interviewed by  Tundun Adeyemo, presenter of the program ‘Outspoken’ BookCoverImage new vistaon www.africaukradio.com. Below is a text of the interview, also available on her blog.

October is Black History/Lesbian Gays Bisexual Transsexual Month. In parts of London, people have been marking this in various ways. To help us give that some perspective is author Yemisi Ilesanmi who joins us from London to talk about her book and why homosexuality is not just an European concept.

Hello Yemisi, Many thanks for joining us.

 1- You have written this book ‘Homosexuality is not unAfrican.’ Why did you write this book?

Thanks. I wrote this book to counter the erroneous impression that homosexuality is Un-African. This is a rhetoric that many African politicians keep sprouting in their bid to defend the discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and Transsexuals. With the upsurge of anti-gay bills springing up in many African countries, it became imperative to provide necessary information and create awareness on the issues of sexual orientation especially homosexuality and bisexuality. Information is power and education is key to human development.

In this digital age, where information is easily accessible, it is sad to know that many people especially Africans still fall for the homophobic, biphobic and transphobiic rhetoric that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. In the book Freedom to Love For All; Homosexuality is not Un-African, I put together a collection of my essays debunking the myths that Homosexuality is Un-African.

First, I started by clarifying the meaning of sexual orientation and providing accepted definition of the different kinds of sexual orientation and gender identity that we [Read more…]

London Black Atheists Celebrates 2nd Anniversary In Style!

London Black Atheists (LBA) celebrated its 2nd anniversary on Saturday, 25 October 2014 at Conway Hall, London.  It was also an opportunity to mark Black History Month. It was a fabulous evening with fantastic people, amazing talents and delicious food and drinks.

Clive Aruede and a few other atheists with the aim of bringing together black atheists in London founded London Black Atheists two years ago. LBA provides a nurturing atmosphere for black atheists to come out of the closet and interact in a safe environment.

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London Black Atheists organises meetups including talks and social outings. It announces scheduled meetups on its Meetup page. Its ‘About info’ states: [Read more…]

Sensationalising the Plight of African LGBTs

I am often approached at LGBT events especially at protests rallies by filmmakers and journalists who want to write a piece or make a 04338_yemisi_ilesanmidocumentary on the ‘horrible’ situation of African Lesbians and gays (they hardly take cognizance of bisexuals and Trans).

There is no doubt that African LGBTs who reside in countries where their sexual orientation is criminalised face a daunting task. Living a closeted life or choosing to face the consequences of being out and proud in a society where one’s sexual orientation is criminalised is frightening and dehumanising. I have been there, I am still there, and I know how horrible the threats can be. So yes, I understand why the filmmakers and writers are fascinated with telling this horror story.

However, a recurring theme makes me cringe every time I am approached by filmmakers or journalists demanding that I tell the horror stories or at least provide them some graphic pictures of violence suffered by African LGBTs. There is this fascination with the horror stories and abused bodies of African LGBTs that I am beginning to wonder if it is a voyage into morbid porn and/or just another way to portray Africans as victims.

When I inform these filmmakers and journalists that I do not have pictures of abused African LGBTS to share with them, they are immediately crestfallen. It is my opinion that most of them haunt African LGBT activists protest grounds not because they are interested in the fight for African LGBT Rights but because they see the plight of African LGBTs as a way of furthering their career in Journalism or film industry.

A heart-wrenching, graphic documentary on the abuses suffers by African LGBTs and why African LGBTS need white saviours could turn a [Read more…]

“We do not learn about our history by sitting in cages or sitting in slave ships and re-enacting how many lashes we had and seeing our skins with all those abrasions.” On Exhibit B-The human zoo. A great talk by Esther Stanford-Xosei.

The Barbican center is yet to cancel the awfully racist, dehumanising and traumatising exhibition titled ‘Exhibit B’ by white South African, Brett Bailey. Exhibit B- the human zoo, is a dehumanising, racist voyeurism in the name of art.

Below is a video of a great talk by “Reparationist, Jurisconsult, dynamic community advocate and radio Broadcaster Esther Stanford-Xosei” courtesy of London Live 360 TV  It is a must watch interview!

  [Read more…]

LGBT Rights in Africa: Why we need international solidarity- Interview on SkyNews

Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals from countries where their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is criminalised need international solidarity. What we do not need is seeing international leaders who claim to support our fight for LGBT rights wine and dine our oppressors.

When we watch international leaders who are supposedly LGBT allies frolicking with our oppressors, the message we get is that we do not matter. In the long run, it is all about their politics, not their words. International leaders should please WALK THEIR TALK.

Below is a video of my interview on SkyNews on the topic LGBT Rights in Africa and why we need international solidarity. [Read more…]

Nigerian Trans woman, Ms Sahhara, wins Ms Super Sireyna Worldwide: Eat your heart out Transphobic Nigeria!

I was delighted when the beautiful, multi- talented Ms Sahhara was declared the winner of Super Sireyna Worldwide, 2014 at the grand finale in 10513314_162106167322674_1317010551276969853_nPhilippines. She also won the best Talent award and her national costume was fabulous!

Ms Super Sireyna is the most watched Transgender Beauty Pageant on Philippine Television, Eat Bulaga. The pageant aims to showcase the beauty of Super Sireynas and to foster camaraderie amongst contestants and Sireynas worldwide. It grades contestants on looks, talent and wit.

Ms Sahhara is a Nigerian Trans Woman who resides in UK. She is very visible on social media. She uses her social networks to advocate for LGBT Rights and promote Trans visibility. She entered the pageant as Miss Nigeria.  Her interview section was great! She answered her questions with poise, intelligence and was witty to the core! She also used the platform to highlight the problems LGBT Nigerians face due to criminalisation of their sexual orientation, gender identity and the negative societal attitudes towards LGBTs.

In her entry video for the competition Super Sireyna Worldwide Nigeria 2014, she explained why she was competing. She stated that if given the chance to wear the crown, she will use the opportunity to enlighten people about Trans’ issues. She believes if people don’t understand things, they should ask questions. The video was made as part of her preparation for the competition. She obviously prepared with passion and dedication for the pageant. It wasn’t just about beauty, it was also about talent, creativity and passion. The video is quite informative and worth watching. [Read more…]

Hurray, Ugandan Court strikes down the Anti-LGBT Law!

I woke up to some exciting and progressive news today. Ugandan court strikes down the Anti-LGBT law that was passed earlier this year!

According to ABC News

 A Ugandan court on Friday invalidated an anti-gay bill signed into law earlier this year, saying it was illegally passed and is therefore unconstitutional.

The panel of five judges on the East African country’s Constitutional Court said the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections over lack of a quorum.”

The court in its ruling said:

“The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum,”

“We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.”

Ugandan lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, an attorney for the activists, said the ruling “upholds the rule of law and constitutionalism in Uganda.

Kosiya Kasibayo, a state attorney, said a decision had not been made on whether to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court.

 

[Read more…]

Video: LGBT Rights activists demonstrates at Nigerian Centenary Awards, UK

Speaking during the demonstration, Yemisi Ilesanmi said:

We are here to speak out on behalf of all oppressed Nigerian LGBTs who have been denied a voice in Nigeria. We are here to put a face on Nigerian LGBTs. We are here to remind you that LGBT Nigerians are not criminals and are worthy of celebration. We are here to remind all those who criminalised us and are turning us into asylum seekers that we will not be silenced. We are LGBT Nigerians and we are proud.”

The demonstrators left the guests with the message “Nigerian LGBTS and LGBT rights supporters are not criminals and we will not be silenced in our fight for our human rights. We hope as Nigeria celebrates its hundred years of existence, its people will also celebrate diversity and do away with homophobic, biphobic and transphobic laws.”

Blogpost  link– http://wp.me/p3uryi-AZ

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