Stand To End Rape – A Youth-Led Organization Advocating Against Sexual And Gender Based Violence In Nigeria

By Lorna Likiza 2 Comments

STER Founder and Executive Director, Ayodeji Oluwaseun Osowobi

Julie Turkewitz, writing for The New York Times in an article dated 2nd November 2019 and titled Nigerian Women Say ‘Me Too.’ Critics say Prove it reports on women in West Africa speaking up against sexual abuse and the support as well as opposition they have faced in doing so.

After years in which silence around rape and sexual harassment have been the norm, West Africa is seeing a wave of #MeToo proclamations.

In the article, we get mentions of West African women including Nigerian Photographer, Busola Dakola, who have publicly confessed in recent times, as having been sexually abused at one point in their lives to mixed reactions. It’s disheartening to learn that even men in the Church Ministry and an Ex-President are among those accused. The writer goes on to state when Nigeria’s #MeToo movement started and what prompted it;

Many people trace Nigeria’s #MeToo movement to February, when a Pharmacist in the country’s conservative north took to Twitter to describe an encounter in which she said her boyfriend nearly killed her. Stories of abuse soon flew around the internet, many of them tagged #ArewaMeToo (Arewa refers to the North in Hausa). Ms. Dakola came out a few months later.

On the September 2019 Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Southern African Tour, The Duchess left a yellow ribbon outside the Clareinch Post Office in Cape Town, South Africa, with the words in IsiXhosa, Simi Kunye Kulesisimo meaning “We are with you, sister” in memory of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19 year old, University of Cape Town student, who was raped and bludgeoned to death in that same post office by a male employee. In November 2019, the perpetrator was handed 3 life sentences.

Uyinene’s death shocked not only South Africa but the rest of the world and prompted the #AmINext protests with South African men and women taking to the streets to express their outrage at Gender Based Violence prevalence in the country. Her story is indeed proof that the fight against rape is a universal issue needing to be seriously tackled.

Sometime in 2014, 23 year old Ayodeji Oluwaseun Osowobi, a Nigerian, female survivor of sexual violence founded the Stand To End Rape (STER) Initiative, a youth-led Not-for-Profit Organization advocating against sexual violence, providing prevention mechanisms and supporting survivors with psychosocial services, according to their About Us page on their website. For her efforts and that of her dedicated team, Ayodeji won the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, 2019 award which saw her receive £5,000 to aid in her expansion activities in Nigeria. She has equally been named in the 2019 TIME 100 Next List.

STER Members at the 2019 HERE Exhibition highlighting the closer to home reality of sexual violence by showing pictures of survivors in places similar to where their sexual violence occured.

To get a deeper understanding of STER’s activities in their fight against sexual violence, I spoke to Wuraola Abulatan, the Social Media Manager at the organization. The following is a transcript of our conversation;

Hi Wuraola, welcome to Meghanpedia: African Forces for Change! I am interested in learning a couple of things about the organization you represent. In which year was Stand To End Rape (STER) Initiative founded and what is this Organization about?
Stand to End Rape Initiative (STER) was founded in June 2014. We are a youth-led organization achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Gender Equality – in Nigeria through access, change and justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence while working with our communities and national institutions to create programs and policies to prevent and respond to issues of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria.

What prompted the need to have this Organization?
STER was founded to provide support to the teeming numbers of sexual and gender-based violence survivors and victims and to also fight rape culture.

Who are the initial Founders and are they currently still involved with STER?
The founder and Executive Director of STER is Ayodeji Oluwaseun Osowobi and yes she is still with the organisation.

Where is the Organization based?
STER is based in Nigeria with its head office in Lagos State and chapters in Abuja and Port Harcourt, however, we provide support to survivors from all over the world.

So far, how has the community’s reaction toward the Organization been? Any opposition? Any positive acknowledgements?
The reaction towards our organization has been great, we’ve had so many people support and stand for our cause. There have been so many challenges but we can always count on the community to help us through it.

STER is based in Nigeria with its head office in Lagos State and chapters in Abuja and Port Harcourt, however, we provide support to survivors from all over the world.

Have you been able to achieve your goals as an Organization?
Every day, we work towards achieving our main goal which is making rape and sexual violence a thing of the past in our community.

Aside from the Organization winning “The Best Use of Social Media by an NGO in Africa 2015”, what other achievements have you had?
We have had so many achievements. Our work has won our founder the Commonwealth winner, Europe and Africa for our work in #SDG5, Gender equality and also Commonwealth Young Person of the year, 2019. We have been featured in Guardian Nigeria as one of the 16 leading women-led organizations changing the lives of Nigerian women and girls as well as one of 5 organisations helping women and girls in Nigeria by Borgen project.

We’re a Member of the Alliance for a Safe World for Women, UK and Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, a Southern-based global network with a rights, justice and feminist framework. Last year, we emerged one of the winners of GTBANK’s #SimpleChangeBigImpact Challenge which got us 1 million Naira grant to sensitize young people in Agege and Bariga communities on healthy sexual practices and consent.

What have been the challenges?
Funding and scarce resources have always been major challenges for us. Sometimes, our clients need to be removed from toxic environments especially when their perpetrators are close by and there are very few shelters around. Our barely efficient legal system and inadequate laws also serve as stumbling blocks, for example, the violence against person’s prohibition act (VAPP) which provides an admirable level of justice to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence has only been adopted by 6 out of 36 states in the country. We look forward to the day it gets adopted in all states of the federation.

Have you been involved in any way as an Organization in ensuring that justice has been served to victims of sexual violence?
Yes, we have been able to help a number of our clients get legal justice. We work with a number of coalitions to provide legal support to our clients.

I have noticed the preference of Celebrity Ambassadors, how has this been beneficial for the Organization since its inception?
Celebrity ambassadors have been really beneficial to STER, they have amplified our message and served as agents of change in our society. They also support us by attending events, purchasing our merchandise, donating to us and advocating for some of our cases.

In terms of Volunteers, have you been successful in having enough?
Thankfully yes, we have so many wonderful and passionate people who have volunteered with us in the past, are currently volunteering and are still applying to volunteer. It is so inspiring to know that a lot of people stand to end rape.

We have so many wonderful and passionate people who have volunteered with us in the past, are currently volunteering and are still applying to volunteer. It is so inspiring to know that a lot of people stand to end rape.

Where do you see yourselves as an organization in the next 3-5 years?
In the next 3 to 5 years, we hope to not only have more chapters across other states in the country but to also be advocating for laws and policies that advance gender equality in our country and beyond.

To get in touch with STER whether to offer support or to volunteer, kindly check their Volunteer Page for details on how to send your application.

Contact them through:
E-mail: contactus@standtoendrape.org
Phone number: +2348095967000
Follow them on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

A big thank you to Wuraola Abulatan for your help! To Ayodeji Oluwaseun Osowobi and her entire dedicated team, Meghanpedia: African Forces for Change celebrates you and wishes you the very best in your endeavors toward making Nigeria safe for all genders!

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Last updated on December 3rd, 2019

2 comments on “Stand To End Rape – A Youth-Led Organization Advocating Against Sexual And Gender Based Violence In Nigeria

  1. Léo T Golden

    As someone who comes from a country where the victims are always blamed for the acts of the rapists, molesters, abusers I Thank God for people like Ms. A. O Osowobi
    I wish there was a program/place and organisation like this from when I was growing up and for others like so many of us. It is vital that we listen, protect and beleive our sisters, friends, colleagues… especially as women… So Thank you so much again for creating this safe haven for African Girls, Black Girls. Thank you!❤

    Reply
  2. Airat Adekunle

    As a Nigerian,I have been enlivened by the new confidence some of our women have been demonstrating in the last few years. Female celebrities,icons,political figures have come out to relate their rape experiences and encourage victims to come forward. The case of Mrs Busola Dakola,a foreign trained photographer, a mother of 3, whose husband is a talented musician is the most celebrated one . To many of us,it was a brave move, but we tried to appreciate that the trauma must have been too psychologically damaging for her to let go and she needed the closure,though the incident happened when she was 17! Many surprises came out of this case:the religious leader involved denied—as expected ,but many renowned religious heads stood by him and ridiculed Mrs Dakolo. The biggest shock was the ridicule from fellow women whom ,it was rumoured had been paid to discredit the victim by the pastors’ friends. A very loud NGO founder ,a former actress who had hitherto been at the forefront of violence against women and rape was the loudest among those who shamed Busola Dakolo.
    I am happy that this young lady,Ms Osowobi is genuine as depicted by her achievements so far,her passion,stemming from her experience. She is taking up this labour of love to make a change and not for pecuniary purposes .
    It is hoped that in her own little way she will make substantial impact because we still have a long way to go in our society where fellow women and NGO founders can be bought by the highest bidder because of our level of poverty and the paucity of resources and the needed activities to spread the awareness.

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