Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Feminism, Gender Violence

African women this week

Abuse in the Nigerian Senate
Women make a stance against politically bribery in Liberia.
Surviving breast cancer in Kenya
Sexual Violence and rape still continuing in Darfur region.

Abuse in the Nigerian Senate

It seems that there is a lot of slapping going on in Nigeria this week what with Achebe’s refusal of the Nigerian honour and the slapping of a female senator by a male colleague last Thursday.

Last Thursday, Senator Iyabo Anisulowo was slapped by her male colleague, Senator Isa Mohammed, at the National Assembly. The Senate has put Mohammed on a two week suspension. The incident arose because Senator Anisulowo who is Mohammed’s boss, questioned him over his unauthorised withdrawal of N500,000 from a committe that she chairs. The money was withdrawn while she was out of the country on government business and the slapping occured when Mohammed was asked to refund the money.

Mohammed has said he has personally apologised to Ms Anisulowo however she has requested that Mohammed “publicily apologise to all Nigerian women and their husbands for his actions” (hopefully this includes those women that are not married!) According to Ms Anisulowo,, Mohammed has been lobbying Senate members to try and “soften” their reactions to the incident and to urge them to “allow the matter to be resolved amicably” ie let him off the hook Anisulowo’s response:

But my position is that the matter is in the court of Nigerians and they are waiting to hear the outcome. Nigerian women, their husbands, everybody wants to know the outcome of this issue. I will not subscribe to a behind -the- scene settlement because Nigerians would not know what transpired. The most offensive is his denial in the newspapers,” she said.

I completely support the Senator’s statement. The assult of women in Nigeria is condoned by society in general and Mr Mohammed’s disgusting behaviour together with his attempts and that of others to cover up, is a reflection of the low status with which Nigerian women are held both in public and private sphere.

Women make a stance against politically bribery in Liberia.

The WOMEN TOLD the politicians in no uncertain terms that they do not need their bag of rice to cast their votes as most politicians may be thinking for upcoming elections. Further in their statement, the women pointed out that they are no longer mere wings but prominent stakeholders in decision making to secure biodiversity because their food supply depends on it.

The women’s stance is a bold and brave one as rice has been used by Liberian politicians to buy votes from the masses who live in poverty. It is now up to the men in the community to follow the lead of their sisters, wives, mothers and daughters.

Surviving breast cancer in Kenya

Miriam had a breast amputation following diagnois for breast cancer. For 10 months she “felt incomplete and unattractive” as she did not know what to “do with her lopsided breast” until she met another breast cancer survivor who told her where to go to buy a prosthesis in Nairobi. It cost her Sh18,000 and though it did not fit properly it was better than using cotton wool or old socks to stuff into her bra. Nonetheless even with the prosthesis women do not feel altogether comfortable and are still unable to wear certain clothes or certain cuts.

For Miriam and for many other women who have breast amputations in Africa , no one took the time to explain basic things like having to change your wardrobe, to mention what options are available , the different kinds of prosthesis available or to generally prepare you for life without a breast or breasts. In the west women are offered reconstructiive surgery together with the mastecomy and though this is not the answer for everyone, more importantly they have additional choices plus there is a great deal of support available through breast cancer organisations, groups and centers. Also in the west, at least in Britain and Spain, women are given free prosthesis every two years with proper measurements taken by a trained nurse whilst in Kenya anyway women are having to pay for their prosthesis which are extremely expensive, about $160.

Sexual Violence and rape still continuing in Darfur region.

UNICEF adviser on violence, Pamela Shifman, has said she has heard “dozens of harrowing accounts of sexual assult – including numerous reports of gang rapes” when she visited a camp and a settlement in the region.

Shifman said every woman or girl she spoke to had either endured sexual assault herself, or knew of someone who had been attacked, particularly when they left the relative safety of their IDP camp or settlement to find firewood. “They know this is a treacherous trip and they fear the trip. But they have absolutely no choice; they must go out,” she said…..”Rape is used as a weapon to terrorize individual women and girls, and also to terrorize their families and to terrorize entire communities. No woman or girl is safe. It is a very effective tool of war. It is a war crime,”

IRIN News

Attacks on women in Sudan

6 Comments

  1. Although I have followed most of the news reports on Darfur over the past six months, I’ve yet to read a report that explains why it is not possible for the women to protect themselves more. Why don’t they organise themselves into a sort of army when they go out looking for firewood – go in large groups with half on guard as look outs – there seems to be plenty of guns and ammunition in Sudan – why don’t the men provide them with weapons to carry with which to fight and defend themselves?

    My mother is Austrian born. During WWII she and her four sisters suffered terribly during the time their area was occupied by the Mongols (terrifying Russian soldiers who raped and pillaged). Areas were not policed so many females, including young girls, when they had to walk outside to fetch food etc., carried in their hands at the ready phials of pepper, that thrown in the face of assailants would render them immobile. They even made and wore chastity belts that they’d created from plaster of paris.

    It’s probably naive and totally unrealistic of me to be broaching the subject here in England but the point I am making is that I’ve not read of anyone writing about ways in which women and girls in places like Darfur can defend themselves.

    There must be things that women have thought of, tried and tested throughout history to defend themselves, that maybe could apply to today’s situation in Africa. There must be a way for these women to defend themselves, don’t you think? Like I said, these are just thoughts.

  2. doduah

    wow! This is the best idea I’ve read in a long while. Plaster of paris chastity belts, organised defence! I’m sure you are correct about history having some good true and tried self defence methods.Perhaps the people of Dafur have lived very peacful civilized lives for a long streach of time so they lost their self defence skills.I’m sure they have developed some fast, while on the run, perhaps other african countries can prepare pepper for them.Thankyou for sharing your mothers experiences.I hope they reach the ears of the Dafur women they will be encoraged to know how other people have survived similar tragedy.

  3. The question you have posed “why do the women in Darfur region not devise strategies to protect themselves?” is an extremely good one which I am sure many others have asked. For example as you say the region is full of weapons so why haven’t the women acquired some or why don’t their men folk walk with them on these sojourns to collect firewood, water and so on.

    First one could have asked the same question of the women of Bosnia where rape was also used as a weapon of war and in other conflict zones such as Sierra Leone and Liberia in Africa, El Salvador and Nicaragua in Central America, the list goes on. In the latter women were organised under the Sandanistas and did have weapons but rape as weapon of war still took place — women and children in any situation are always the most vulnerable.

    The second point which answers the first is that the people in the camps and villages do not themselves have weapons. The people with the weapons are the Sudanese army, the Sudanese police, the Janjaweed militias and the rebel groups Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and more recently a few hundred African Union troops (though I hear more are on their way) who are there to protect observers rather than the people in the camps. None of these, which I will loosely term “armies” and who should be in a position to protect women and children are actually in the camps and the rebel groups are not based in villages and settlements which is why the militias are able to destroy peoples homes and livelihoods, and rape women and children at will.

    Thirdly the people in refugee camps are displaced people and those in villages do not fare much better if at all. The camps are in the dry and hostile Sahara, food and water are scarce, people are starving and sick and are basically surviving with the help of aid agencies and workers such as UNICEF, MSF and a host of other NGOs. In this environment it would be odd if people were not traumatised and able to function normally. Also though I am not absolutely sure on this point, the majority of people in the camps are women and children.

    One also has to imagine a group of tired and very hungry women walking huge distances to collect firewood coming face to face with a group of 10/20/30 or so charging horsemen brandishing guns, knives and swords — well it speaks for itself. If you did have the chance to throw peppers in the eyes of one raping you there are another 20 and where would you run to in an open desert (no hiding places) when you are weak from hunger in the first place.

    The way to stop the rapes and violence against women is for them to be provided protection in the camps from one of the groups of “armies” mentioned above or for them to be able to return to their villages where they can once again become self-sufficient but under protection.

    At this time I understand that UNICEF in conjunction with the Sudanese government has trained 1000 Sudanese police officers who will be deployed in the region, to specifically deal with rape cases (given the taboo and shame of rape in the culture special training was undertaken in Jordan) and to give protection to the women in the camps. In addition if and when more AU troops are deployed and deployed as peacekeepers to protect refugees rather than observers this would also add to the safety of women and children.

  4. Clair

    Ingrid and doduah might also look more closely at what they/we mean by self-defence. The first thing self defence ‘experts’ tell you is to run. If you can’t run or outrun a group of men, maybe because you are too hungry or too old or you have small children with you, ask yourself, is it ‘better’ to allow the rape and live, or to struggle/fight and be killed or more badly injured? If your children or family rely on you, are you going to jeopardise their future? or try, as far as you can, to survive. I think we need to be careful how we use the term self defence.

  5. Annemaree Woodward

    Thanks for this info.. I would have liked to print it for a fundraising group I’m working with to help the women of Darfur but the amount of ink your page would take is beyond my means and wasteful in any case. Could you please consider adding a printable page option to your site with a blank background? I’d really appreciate it and I think others would too.
    regards Annemaree Woodward
    Tasmania Australia.

  6. I am sorry about the print. I will check with Typepad whether a print option is available and if not i will change the font colour to black including quotes which will make it easier to print. I am glad the information was useful to you anyway.