Non Governmental Oranization
Mrs. Laila St. Matthau Daniel, the initiator of Acts Generation, a non-profit organisation, is earnestly working round the clock to find solutions to abused and disadvantaged women and empowerment challenges amongs women and children. writes Mary Ekah
A large percentage of Nigerian women are prone to domestic violence in their homes and statistics showed that domestic violence affects all social groups and consist of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Even men are not left out as they are also affected by domestic violence but women suffer excessively.
Even though this is a trend that occurs in most parts of the world, Nigeria’s prejudiced laws and trivialising police contribute to the high rate of domestic violence. The prevalent culture of silence and stigma for the victims of domestic violence hinders public acknowledgement of the problem.
According to statistic made available by Mrs. Laila St. Mathau Daniel, the initiator of Acts Generation, a non-profit organisation, with a mission towards standing up and finding solutions for marginalised, disadvantaged women and at-risk children/youths in the areas of empowerment, violence, abuse and trafficking, 50 per cent of women are abused. Three quarters have experienced sexual/physical abuse in rural areas while 65 per cent of educated women have at one time or other been beaten by a partner, boyfriend or husband.
She revealed further that 55 per cent of young girls/boys have encountered sexual/physical abuse at some point and 23 per cent of women are abused during pregnancy while a few men have been physically abused by their wives at one time or other.
She revealed further that 97.2 per cent of abused women are not prepared to report to the police even when four states in Nigeria (Lagos, Ebony, Jigawa and Cross River States) have passed Domestic Violence Law while three different bills pending before the National Assembly on violence against women. She added further that every day, three women die as a result of abuse.
To this end, she feels that there is an urgent need to challenge the social prejudices and institutional structures in order to protect women not just from danger but also from ridicule, fear and isolation.
For this reason, Daniel has instituted an annual event she tagged “Stomp Out Violence and Abuse Walk” with the objective to bring to an end the twin pandemic of domestic violence and abuse in the society and to enhance public awareness of laws against domestic violence and increase reporting of the crime.
The inaugural edition of ‘Stomp Out Demotic Violence and Abuse’ was held last year October and following its successful outing, Act Generation, the organisation behind it is holding ‘Storm 2012’ on October 25.
“Last year we walked from Archbishop Vining Memorial Church, GRA Ikeja to Alausa Gardens where experts addressed people on what the government is doing about domestic violence and what legal tools they have put in place, as well as how the Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Ministry is fully involved. We are doing Storm 2012 this time, it is going to be in Surulere on October 25. It is not just a walk but an awareness and sensitisation walk, so as we are going we are talking to people and the hand bill is not just an ordinary one because at the back we have instructions on what to do,” she recalled.
Explaining the significance of the awareness walk, Daniel said, “When people come together to say no to something that is not right, you find that slowly it would take effect. October is usually the domestic violence month and the colour is usually purple and we are going to have that in Surulere and we are going to have series of seminars because immediately after that comes the World 15 Days Activism against gender-based violence. We are going to talk about the ills of domestic violence and how it affects the home, church, corporate organisations, children and the society at large and what we should do about it. We also have men on the panel because when men help men, they all win, so it is not just about women, it about the man who is going through domestic violence. So domestic violence involves men, women and children,” Daniel said further.
She said her NGO deals with empowerment of women and youths, noting, “We believe that if you empower a woman, you empower a whole generation. We deal with people who have physical and especially emotional challenges and there is a concentration on domestic violence and abuse. We try to empower people and also make people aware of the danger of violence in someone’s life, in the home and office and generally
“Act Generation was inaugurated in 2006 and since then we have been doing a lot of work, especially last year when we came out for our first awareness walk in October. We have a very successful walk where we distributed brochures with information on the dangers of domestic violence, what to look out for in a relationship and what to do when violence is staring you in the face,” she noted.
Domestic violence is so conversant in Nigeria and Africa as a whole that people seem to look at it as a normal occurrence and so hardly raise an eyebrow about it. But for Daniel, “there are a lot of things that we accept in this part of the world, which is not acceptable because culture makes you think that at all cost, you must be in a home, even if the man is killing you, just stay there for your children sake.”
She noted however that it has been proven that the emotional damage that is done to the woman, transfer to the child because the child is watching these things happen and in most cases, the child turns out to be a very violence person.
“If it a male he is very violent and if it is a female, strange enough, you find out that she is attracted to somebody who is crack too. We call it a cycle of violence, you just find out that it keeps going on and that is why I say all the time that it is even worse than malaria and HIV that people are concentrating more on but violence which is an emotional destructive situation and sometimes you do not see the effect keeps on affecting generation upon generation. The only thing that can affect it is not tablet and injection but creating awareness of the dangers because it causes death and examples abound of women who have died as a result of domestic violence,” she lamented.
Domestic violence she said has been there but has always been hidden and now she feel that with people like her coming out to talk about it, maybe people will begin to see the destruction that it has created in the work place.
“People who are involved in domestic violence are not productive at work and most time a lot of women who are terrors at work place have something to hide because there is something that is eating them up. And domestic violence is not just physical; there is the emotional one that cannot be seen and this is even more dangerous because the woman would now take it out on her children, work place and generally on everybody”, Daniel said.
She explained that she decided to establish Act Generation because she has great compassion for people. “I empathise with them, this is more so because I have been through some ups and downs in my life and I have also had my own share of terrible experiences. There are two ways that when you have been affected adversely emotionally or physically; it is either you become hardened and don’t have compassion for your fellow being or you now have empathy, feeling that I went through it, I know what it feels like and I would not want a fellow human being to go through. So I have always had great compassion and empathy for hurting people.”
While calling on women and even men who are victims of domestic violence to come out and speak up, Daniel said, “It is always difficult to have people talk about it but now that people are aware if you don’t say anything, nobody is going to help you. But then, it is nothing to be ashamed of because it is not your fault but the problem is the other person who could not control his reaction. We all have a level of madness in us but we are able to control it.”
Daniel who said she gets to know about victims of domestic violence through reference and awareness her organisation creates, noted however that her organisation does not have a home for these women who fall victim of domestic violence. More than that, Daniel feels it is not just enough to rehabilitate those who are hurting but is more important to also counsel them.
“If people going through pains are not helped, a whole generation of cracked people would continue the path of destruction, so I don’t hold anybody to task but I keep praying that someday somebody would be touched to help. So what we do is that the ones we can handle by counseling, so that we are also able to rehabilitate their minds, which is the ultimate,” said Daniel who doubles as a therapist and a counselor and claims to have the skills to help the hurting recover emotionally.