Calls for protection of women, girls

Says ‘Nigerian Lives Matter’

ActionAid Nigeria joins Black Lives Matters protest, organizes rally

 

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

Addressing participants at the rally that was held at AAN’s premises in Abuja, the Country Director, AAN, Ene Obi, explained why the rally was held and said that the essence of the gathering today was to create awareness on the killing of an African-American, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, by four Minnesota State Police officers, and also to call on the government in Nigeria to understand that women and girls live matter in Nigeria on the heels of rising gender violence including rape, battery, trafficking, oppression, and others.

The participants and media observed eight minutes of one-knee on the ground with placards with various inscriptions including ‘African Life Matters; ‘Black Lives Matter’; ‘I can’t breathe’, and others.

They also chanted ‘I can breathe’ several times in solidarity with late Floyd’s family, African-African Americans, Brown-skinned people, rape victims, sexually harassed and assaulted women and girls, victims of gender-based violence and called for a state of emergency as 299 rape cases recorded from January till date, especially in states AAN has projects and programmes.

AAN is an affiliate of ActionAid International, a global alliance of organisations working towards achieving a world without poverty and injustice in which every person enjoys the right to a life with dignity.

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The organisation works in 45 countries spread across Africa, Asia, Europe, and America, working with the poor and excluded communities to promote respect for human rights of all.

Their humanitarian services extend beyond the people in communities to relevant authorities with a view of empowering the people to take necessary action to end poverty and injustice. Since 2000, AAN has focused on social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication using the Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA).

She said: “The essence of our gathering today is to create awareness on the wicked acts that recently occurred in America, some parts of the world and Nigeria as we celebrate the day of the African Child.

ActionAid Nigeria joins other activists and protesters, both in and outside of the country to say that “Black Lives Matter,” and we also say“Nigerian Lives Matter” slogan adapted from the advocacy movement that originated in the USA to campaign against violence and brutality against Black people.

“More than sloganeering, Black Lives Matter functions as a dense political statement that encodes the urgency of acknowledging the Black race, the decades of history of advocating for it, and the yet-to-be-resolved issues that continue to give the declaration of Black humanity currency.

While the primary focus of the Black Lives Matter movement has been on the afterlife of slavery, that is, systemic racism, racialized criminal justice system, racial violence, and particularly, police brutality—the campaign has had a resonance with ethnic and racial minority groups outside the US.

“The intensity of the statement, Black Lives Matter, reverberates across locals outside the US. From the United Kingdom to Canada, Taiwan, Australia, Ghana, Israel, Nigeria (and its diasporas), Black Lives Matter is an anthem of resistance that has been variously diffused with locals angst and which has spawned different versions that articulate different issues to different audiences.

“This rally is about a determination that the Black race in its ramifications is a language and a universal one at that. Not merely titular, Nigerian Lives Matter is shaped by a cultural stencil that samples the Black protest flagship against oppression and injustices.

“George Floyd, of blessed memory is a huge reminder of what African Americans are going through and sad reminder of what is going on in terms of leadership on the continent of Africa.

Today, we celebrate the African Child (the actual date is June 16) and reflect on what African children are facing across the world and what they are facing on the continent.

“How does the continent prepare itself to respond to the needs of the black race? African leaders need to stand upright for the continent, instead, most of the countries are led by corrupt leaders and politicians with so much selfish interest. It is time for leaders to change and build sustainable development and pay respect to the lives of young Africans.

I celebrate all colleagues here present, celebrate all young people in Nigeria, Africa, and across the world.

“Black struggle is political, and it authorizes the codes that provoke the articulation of deeply sedimented attitudes and world views, particularly among subaltern populations.

These codes construct the social world and make both situations and the framed responses to them mutually comprehensible. By saying “Nigerian Lives Matter,” rather than any other locally generated expression, the violence against women and girls becomes more amplifiable, but also allows us to shape the ideas that connect Black history across space and time.

“To say Nigerian Lives Matter is to appropriate the conscientization embedded in the gravity that Black Lives Matter carries and understand oneself as a Black subject connected to historical struggles elsewhere.

“Third, despite the immense potentials of framing issues within a global explanatory paradigm, the curves of the contemporary wave of Black social movements are only still emerging.

For now, the proponents of racial dignity across national borders have yet to consciously connect as comrade-advocates to produce a grand narrative of global Black liberation similar to previous Black self-determination groups such as the Black Consciousness Movements, Independence and African Nationalism Movements, Pan-Africanism Movement, and Negritude Movements.

“This rally is also organized to amplify the Nigerian catalog of miseries that are not yet remedied, though we appreciate the modest efforts being made by the government at all levels over the years.

We cannot but address these recurring issues which include: infrastructure deficit, corruption and the cynical ways it sometimes manifests, insecurity, electoral malpractices and violence, ineffective leadership across some tiers of government, sexual assault, cultism, and the workings of a neo-liberal economy that seem to portend women as sex workers.

“The abduction and forced marriage of Chibok girls in Borno State, and yet another incident of 110 girls kidnapped from their school in Dapchi, Yobe State are still largely unresolved with Leah Shuaibu still being held.

We remember them as we commemorate the Day of the African Child 2020. Thus, we demand the immediate release of the outstanding girls.

“In light of this, we take it back home that Nigerian Lives Matter. We need more purposeful gender responsive investment in education, employment schemes, real, comprehensive, and equitable health care services and less expenditure on public offices.

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“Our core messages on this day are that: Corruption is choking Nigerians, we cannot breathe. All states need to domesticate the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act Now! Fathers are violating their daughters, Women and girls can’t breathe! Child marriage is child molestation; we must end child marriage now. We also demand maximum sentences for rapists and pedophiles.

“With 21 years of democracy experience, Maternal and Child Mortality are still on the rise. We must get children off the streets. Almajiri System must also be stopped now, we commend the efforts of some Governors, these children are Nigerians, and among them are leaders of tomorrow!

“The lives of Persons with Disability matter too matters. No one must be left behind. We must also put an end to the insecurity ravaging our communities! The life of Nigerian Women and girls matter.

The Abuse of one girl or woman is the Abuse of all girls &women in Nigeria. We still call on the President of Nigeria, to declare a state of emergency on Gender-Based Violence for justice delayed is justice denied! Democracy must be made to work for the people, particularly, those at the bottom of the pyramid. We demand electoral reform to ensure people’s votes truly count!

“She also called on Nigerians in Diaspora to join Nigerians back home in the struggle to let the world know that ‘Nigerian Lives Matter’ as they show solidarity with African-Americans to protest ‘African Lives Matter’.

“We also want to add that the waves of global Black migration will also critically contribute to the dynamics of these Black social movements. We call on Nigerians, regardless of wherever they reside now to join people back home to say, ‘Nigerian Lives Matter.’

“With that mindset that acknowledges that despite the artificiality of geographical and national borders and the ways they separate us, our home soil still unites Nigerian & African people across locations, there might be a hastening of consciousness of global Black identity and anti-Blackness.

“Each person that encounters violence, whether in form of racism or postcolonial African context, serves as an intuitive reminder that one way or the other, our fates as Black subjects are interlinked not only by a history that is past but also an ongoing one as well. This is because we are effectively touched by others’ situations”, she added.

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