Osasumwen Edobor is a social development expert with over a decade of experience as a gender advocate infusing new media and technology to propagate gender inclusion.
She is the Curator of the HERFESSIONS mobile app. She holds a Master’s degree in Managerial Psychology from the University of Lagos, a 2016 African American Institute Scholar with a certificate in Social Sector Management from the Enterprise Development Centre of the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, and also a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow with a certificate in Civic Leadership from Rutgers University, the state of New Jersey, USA. Prior to full switch into the development space, she worked in Media and Advertising producing family content and branding, whilst volunteering with numerous non-profit organization.
She is versatile, exploring the boundaries of social development via her organization-THR Media. Osasumwen is a strong believer that Africans are in the best position to solve the African problem.
A Certified Peer Educator Trainer, Mental health First-aider, and Counselor, she is passionate about lending her voice to initiatives and communities that eliminate gender-based violence, provide a listening ear and psychosocial support for survivors, hence with a team of two co-founded THR Media, a social enterprise using new media and technology solutions in helping women and girls break free, find shelter and recover from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence which includes domestic violence, trafficking and other types of exploitation.
In this chat with Esther Onyegbula, She talks about how the government can eliminating gender-based violence, how her organisation is empowering survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and other relevant issues.
In what specific ways did your childhood prepare you for what you do now?
My father raised me to be independent. Growing up and realizing that, it is not the case for a lot of women triggered me. Also realizing further that some women are physically and emotionally abused to gain their submissions brought me to count this work as my life mission.
What inspired these different projects?
Our projects Tehila, HERfessions app, Community Advocacy Storytelling (CAST) are offshoots of thinking and exploring the best ways to serve victims, survivors, and her community. The projects focus on the core of this goal. We believe if we can influence our community more, we can indeed reduce the cases of rape and sexual violence.
Why is it focused on gender inclusion, domestic Violence, and Sexual Abuse?
Women are the bedrock of society. The ills, that is Gender-Based Violence is stifling women’s voices, we must correct it, one woman per time.
How was the idea of HERfessions mobile app conceived and birthed?
The HERfessions app is an anonymous platform equipped with an online chat room, a resource centre for all support services( legal, psycho-social, health, information on available shelters), and a trigger button to report abuse.
The mobile app serves to map the resources available to women and girls (18 and above) at risk and SGBV survivors; building a community of support, and also providing anonymity. Its features is extended to cover a virtual ecosystem of collaborative agencies, that provide legal aid, vocational/educational, health, psycho-social support, shelter, feeding, and law enforcement.
It was born out of a need to continually engage the women or girls continuously without losing touch with them through their journey of recovery. A lot of the women we encounter do not reside in Lagos, the app ensures we are able to monitor their progress, stay with them through the almost lonely road to recovery.
As a renowned gender advocate, how have you infused new media and technology to propagate gender inclusion?
THR media allows victims and survivors tell their story under anonymity (during Tehila series) – these stories are used (with approved consent ) to develop film scripts, produce short films and documentaries used in advocacy and prevention activities, events and fairs on the impact of sexual and gender-based violence to a cross-section of civil societies, government representatives, women and girls from secondary and tertiary institutions.
We have reached 24 civil society groups, partnering NGOs, government and 3137 women and girls with our network spanning Lagos (South West), and Calabar (South-South), and a growing online presence (YouTube) of over 800 viewers.
Sexual violence seems to be on the increase now what would you advise the government to do to nib this ugly trend in its bud?
The Government needs to domesticate laws surrounding child abuse and sexual violence. There needs to be general consensus amongst our lawmakers to enact and enforce laws that protect the woman and girl-child.
It is worthy of mention at this point that female representation in politics is stifled and hence how can a gender who is not exposed to these heinous crimes be able to speak to the issues of rape, widows’ rights, domestic violence, and sexual violence.
With the current state of emergency on GBV outcry by varying feminist groups, now is the time for the government to stand by her people and do what is right by her women.
What is your organisation doing to empower victims of sexual and domestic violence?
For the empowerment, we focus on Physical and Financial Empowerment. We regularly train our women on self-defense, a skill that fundamentals embody a flight or fight stance. We then empower through soft skills training that is volunteered by partners.
Over the years you have worked with survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse, what would you say is the greatest challenge faced by victims on their road recovery?
A woman who choose to leave has one fundamental thing to contend with- lack of companionship/ loneliness.
It will come in different forms, she will work the road alone, devoid of friends, encourages, and most importantly a companions presence. It will be absolutely difficult to reflect and recalibrate particularly if she has children. Finance is also a major challenge, but the key to succeeding in anything is planning.
In what practical ways can communities eliminate gender-based violence?
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For me, We need to work on the ‘African Magic’ narrative. Women do not object to being possessed, owned, or tossed. We need to understand the differences between subservient and submission in marriage. We also need to make a case for a woman’s ability to possess intellect, desires, abilities and should be treated as such.
Also as women, we need to be able to unite and speak and act together. It is said that patriarchy is driven almost strongly by fellow women.
Over the years how many survivors have project Tehila been able to connect through activities such as group therapy, legal clinics, and empowerment sessions across Lagos, Calabar, and Abuja?
Tehila is our physical empowerment event that supports survivors mental health, well being and financial stability. The series includes story-telling sessions, self-defense training, mobile photography training, as well as graphic design. The meetings venues are carefully chosen – and only admit registered members.
The first pilot was launched in August 2019 (after the march for Busola Dakolo- an event that spurred my women to speak their truth, leaving them vulnerable) with 20 women in attendance. Since then we have impacted a total of 60 women via our legal aid sessions, empowerment sessions, and self-defense training.
How has the journey been since you started twelve years ago?
It has been rewarding to see the women who have become survivors stand and stand tall.