Programs

‘Looking Through Her Eyes’ – An Exhibition of Paintings & Photography #WCC2017

Commissions from the sale of exhibits fund WCCs organisational development. Right now WCC’s primary institutional goals for 2018 are a functional work space, recruiting a stellar team and deepening our understanding of our environment.

We want to make this an annual event to continue to encourage the development of arts, to encourage the use of art therapy for victim support and healing and to use art to end violence against women in Nigeria, Africa and globally.

Next years event will be bigger, better and attract a wider diversity of artists – professional, amateur and beginners. We will announce our theme and make a call for submissions in early July 2018. We will also bring you more women’s stories from the other IDP camps that are in and around Abuja.

The community advocates that WCC trained in conflict resolution in Owerri in 2002 to keep the domestic peace used their skills to keep the community peace too and we want to test and scale our model as quickly and prepare more women at the community level for participation in peace architecture which is a key demand of the NGWomen4Peace movement.

WCC will also design and manage a communications campaign for NGWomen4Peace to support the movement meet its goal to reach and mobilise a critical mass of women nationally for a march on International Women’s Day in 2018 demanding peace, dialogue and women’s inclusion in national decision making.

We’re super excited about the future. Join us on this journey as we continue to bring peace to women and girls in Nigeria and all over the world. Join is in our 16 Days of Activism to end gender based violence. Speak out against all forms of violence and especially violence against women and girls. Speak up for the victims of gender based violence. Take a stand.

Peace & Protection. Not promises

Programs

#WCC2017 – Welcome to 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women

 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you so much for honouring our invitation.

Today is the International day for the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women.

We are here to share and reinforce our commitment to ending VAW and ‘leaving no one behind.’

The Women’s Crisis Centre started out in Owerri, Imo State in 2002 as a community based organisation empowering the community to end VAW as part of a MacArthur Fund for Leadership Development Grant. Since then it has grown and has provided legal and counselling services and training to more than 5000 men and women around the world.

In 2002 we set up the first shelter for victims and trained community advocates to mediate domestic conflicts in Owerri, Imo State. In 2010 we ran a series of lectures and a free family law clinic in Abuja that reached hundreds. Since 2011 we have counselled and advised thousands online. In 2012 we set up a women’s legal defence trust fund and contributed to Wasila Umar’s legal defence in 2013 (Wasila Umar was a child bride in Kano accused of murdering her husband and 3 others. She was acquitted.) Earlier this year we successfully evacuated two foreign children caught up in an abusive situation in Nigeria.

Our attention was increasingly drawn to the security situation nation wide and the impact it is likely to have on women and we called on our sisters across the nation to start a movement and speak out as one under the hashtag #NGWomen4Peace.

As our November 25 event drew nearer it became clear that we needed to use the coming 16 Days  of Activism to amplify our message for peace, dialogue and continue to build a critical mass of women’s voices for the movement.

What better way to remind ourselves just how important it is not only to include women’s voices in peace and conflict resolution architecture but also for women as a group to continue to speak up for peaceful resolution of national conflict than to hear the stories of the women currently in IDP camps. So we chose to bring you their work and their stories to be told through photography, painting and performance at our closing ceremony on December 10.

While planning this project and exhibition I was also rather forcibly reminded how important it is for us in the development sector to do more to protect and safeguard the many women from all over the world that work in our sector. Seven years ago I was summarily dismissed as country director for OxfamGB in Nigeria by my line manager who had a three months earlier sexually assaulted me. Oxfam did nothing to protect and restore me then and nothing to punish my assaulter who stills enjoys their patronage till today.

It was a Life Changing Experience. We must ensure that the women whose compassion draws them to this work are just as protected as the women that are the beneficiaries of our work. And we must ensure that sexual predators are made unwelcome among us.

Tonight is not only the marking of the International Day for the Elimination for Violence Against Women. It is also an introduction to and fund raising for WCC’s programs for the next year.

In 2018 WCC intends to

  1. Collaborate with Alliances for Africa to train an additional 100 community peace advocates across 26 communities in Imo State and scale up nationally
  2. Collaborate with AWWAS (A Woman With a Story) and Abuja Literary Society to train and empower an additional 100 young women from the IDP camps in photography, arts and crafts, and performance AND
  3. Continue to collaborate with the #NGWomen4Peace Movement to ensure that women are included in and have an impact on national and local peace building and conflict resolution efforts across the country

Our 16 days advocacy message is ‘Peace & Protection, Not Promises’

Once again, thank you for coming.

Welcome Comments from Lesley Agams, founder of Women’s Crisis Centre at the opening ceremony of  “Women Finding Peace in a Conflicted World” on 25 November 2017 with an Exhibition of paintings, photography and performance titled ‘Looking Through Her Eyes’

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Sexual Violence

My Sexual Assault & Dismissal At Oxfam GB Makes the Headlines – 7 Years Later

It’s been a mad week already. And its just Wednesday. I was minding my own business planning for the exhibition on November 25th and to move my things out of storage when Hollywood blew up over the Weinstein allegations.

A tweet by my sister Ms. Afropolitan triggered me to bring up the sexual harassment and assault that is prevalent in the humanitarian sector especially in Africa.  Chi Onwurah MP and Sean O’Neill, reporter with The Times took notice. Apparently they had been investigating allegations against Oxfam GB for while. They both got in touch.

In 2010 I was a victim myself. Read all about it here. I tried to ‘fix it’ (because that’s what social entrepreneurs do, I recall Jim Greenbaum telling us while at Ashoka.) Samuel Musa my assaulter and Oxfam GB fixed me instead and I lost my job with them as country director in Nigeria. They told everyone then and persist to say my dismissal was based on performance issues. Not a good recommendation in any sector.

I am so disillusioned with the sector. Sexual assault and cover up are the least of the problems. The sector is awash with bad practices. A lot of them financial. For a long time I thought Oxfam GB let me go because I was exposing too much of the muck.

Read Sean O’Neill’s stories here, here and here. I been barely following the reaction to the stories I’ve been so busy moving. I’m still trying to decide whether that is good or bad. Its been seven years this month since Oxfam GB dismissed me. I am thrilled that finally someone listened and paid attention. I am thrilled that the whole issue of sexual assault in the humanitarian sector is being given the attention it deserves.

What would I do differently? I would call the police immediately. Apparently if I had done that they could have accessed the CCTV evidence at the hotel but what did I know? It was my first time in the UK.  They could have questioned dozens of colleagues that were in the hotel that night.

What am I going to do now? I’m still thinking about it.

Meanwhile help me tell OxfamGB to #DoTheRightThing and #BeHumankind

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Help me tell OxfamGB to #DoTheRightThing and #BeHumankind