OCTOBER 22, 2014-Benin City, Nigeria. On October 22, 2014, PathFinders launched its #TakeMeOffMute™ (Anti-Child Sex Abuse) Total Self Defense Campaign in partnership with Benson Idahosa University with over 1,500 high school and university students in attendance.
Like aggravating televisions from which we want the reprieve of silence, patriarchal society has placed young women and girls on “mute,” allowing them to be seen, yet not heard, objectified but yet not valued for the strength of their voices or intelligence. The Campaign is designed to empower young women and girls, particularly those living with the stigma of rape and child sex abuse, with the confidence to demand that their voices be amplified in society. It also engages men and young boys in their multiple roles as witnesses, victims and survivors in the push for gender justice by challenging the way they view and value their female counterparts.
By targeting the empowerment of the mind, body and spirit of the girl child, those in attendance learned emotional, physical, spiritual and mental self defense. Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, world renowned Nigerian Women’s Rights Activist, enlightened the audience to the atrocities women and young girls in Nigeria currently face and highlighted the reasons why it is absolutely imperative that their voices be amplified and heard. Other speakers included Pathfinders’ R. Evon Idahosa, Vice Chancellor of BIU Ernest Izevbigie, Stella Ojeme, Chairwoman of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Edo State, Kay Benson-Akhigbe (on spiritual self defense), Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Ehi Isa (on emotional self defense), Barrister Dan Ogbegie (on legal self defense) and martial arts experts from Rein Karate Academy (demonstrations on physical self defense). Human Rights Ambassador, Betram Ubaka, on behalf of the National Human Rights Commission was also in attendance. Nigerian recording artist and Pathfinders Ambassador, Mark-T, debuted his new single written specifically for the Campaign, “Beautiful,” a song about the uniqueness and beauty of the girl child. At the close of the Campaign, all students took the #TakeMeOffMute™ Pledge to amplify their own voices and the voices of others surviving through child sex abuse and rape prior to a musical concert featuring Nigerian recording artists and PathFinders Ambassadors, Freke and Mark-T.
The Campaign, which is being converted into a mandatory first year course for all freshman students entering Benson Idahosa University, also officially launched Benson Idahosa University’s partnership with Pathfinders and the University’s pledge and commitment to reducing the number of violent sex crimes against women and girls in Nigeria. As a result of the Campaign, numerous students surviving through child sex abuse and rape are receiving free customized legal services, medical care and counseling via Pathfinders’ Personalized Action to Healing (PATH) Plans.
The #TakeMeOffMute™ Campaign will be launched in other cities in Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, in 2015.