Eliminating violence against women at launch of George’s saints and scoundrels
It was a gathering of writers, literary critics and scholars at Emerald Hotel, Port Harcourt last Sunday, when Ekaete George, who describes herself as ‘poet, gender development advocate, entrepreneur, superpower, and single mom’ presented her debut poetry collection, Saints and Scoundrels.
Book reviewer and lecturer at the Department of English Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Margaret Nutsukpo, affirmed that Saints and Scoundrels is a collection that dissects the environmental problems, which are peculiar to the Niger Delta region and the pains of the constantly exploited and violated African woman and girl-child. She added that every woman should brace herself to be a nightmare to patriarchy.
A panel discussion with ‘Saints versus Scoundrels: Protecting Girls from Sexual Violence’ as theme corroborated Nutsukpo’s view of women and patriarchy. One of the panelists, a multiple winner of Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) prizes in poetry and drama, University of Port Harcourt don, Dr. Obari Gomba, suggested that groups and movements should be formed to curb the problem of violence against women and girls in the society.
Another panelist, Joy Esuku, admonished parents to be vigilant and sensitive to the needs of their girl-children. She also charged parents to dissuade their daughters from running errands for single males so they do not fall victims of sexual violence. Esuku also tasked parents to create enabling environments for discussion with their children so that they could easily detect when their children are about to be sexually abused or have been abused.
In the same vein, Tijah Bolton Akpan, also a panelist at the event, asserted that men violate women and girls as soon as they are born. According to him, other issues like female genital mutilation are painful and dehumanising experiences that confront girls in the Niger delta region apart from rape. He stressed that economic power has become a powerful tool men use to violate women and girls in society. As a solution, he urged the society to provide economic empowerment for women and girls to arm them against male manipulation and exploitation for sexual purposes.
During the conversation, George urged all writers to make the sensitisation of ending violence against women and girls a major focus in order to prevent the cankerworm from eating too deeply into the lives of women. She added that a platform called ‘Red Eyes’ has been created to act as a watchdog to violators of women as well as sensitise people about putting an end to violence against women. She insisted that campaigns of ending violence against women could never be too much as sexual violence is ruining the lives of many women every day.
Executive Director, Centre for Development Support Initiative (CEDSI), Dr. Mina Oganga, encouraged parents, teachers, religious leaders, and non-governmental organisation (NGOs) to be fully involved in the campaign and advocacy of stopping violence against women to make the lives of the female folk a pleasant one so they could happily contribute to society’s wellbeing.
George concluded that the saints are those who constantly work for the development of the individual and the society, while the scoundrels are those destructive agents to the healthy aspirations of the individual and the society. She quickly averred that launching her book in the same period with the ‘16 Days Orange the World’ campaign is her best way of joining other human rights activists and various organisations to eliminate violence against women and girls.
A guest and poet, Mr. Obiorah Momife, immediately drew the attention of the audience to how the male child is brought up, saying the socialisation of male-child as being superiority over the girl-child is an aberration that should be discountenanced, as it reinforces patriarchy as a negative social index, adding, “The boy-child that you ignore today becomes the one you fear tomorrow, as a sexual violator and pedophile”.
Momife said most of the discussions had focused only on the girl-child and left out the boy-child, who would turn out to be the rapist tomorrow. He added that parents needed to create time for their children and ensure that they are active in sports in order to reduce their chances of focusing unduly on their sexuality. He also advised parents to closely monitor their children’s activities with smart phones and other media to prevent them from being exposed to pornography and other vices on social media.
In response to Momife’s views, George said another day would be set aside for the discussion of the challenges facing the male child as the event’s focus was on women and girls.Also, Emeritus Professor Otonti Nduka charged those present at the presentation to get copies of the book based on its vitality to the individual and the society at large, as it is a campaign against violence to women, girls and, by extension, the vulnerable segment of society.
• Azaino is an MSc student of mass community, University of Benin, Benin City