International Women's Day: Championing women’s rightsTuesday, 7 Mar 2017
I am Fola Richie-Adewusi and I work with Options’ Evidence for Action-MamaYe programme as their Campaign Lead in Nigeria. I am a women’s rights activist and previously worked as Commissioner for Women’s Affairs for Ekiti State from 2011-2014.
The celebration of International Women’s Day was part of my mandate. So championing women’s rights and promoting issues that impact positively on women is something that is a part of me.
What does ‘Be bold for change’ mean to you?
To me ‘be bold for change’ means defying tradition and status quo for changes that benefit women.
What is your boldest achievement?
My boldest achievement was while I was Commissioner for Women’s Affairs in Ekiti State where I was privileged to work with the wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, who is a well-known Gender Advocate. Together we worked on the Ekiti State Gender Based Violence Prohibition Bill and mobilised support for it until it was passed by the State House of Assembly into Law and accented to by the Governor in 2011.
There were so many traditional practices that impacted negatively on women including outright abuse of the rights of women. The test case for us was of an elderly woman in the community who was alleged to be a witch. They took her to the Palace of the King in the community and paraded her round. She was subjected to all sorts of abuse from the youth of the village – that was the tradition.
When we heard about this, we had to get the police to invite the King for interrogation at the police headquarters! That was very courageous. The policemen invited the King to the station which was an hour’s drive from the capital; they had to bring him all the way. He stayed in a cell for the day. They told him it was not right and could not be condoned because we have a law prohibiting such abuses against women in Ekiti State.
The case was in court for some time. Sadly, the elderly woman died while the case was still pending but they would not allow her to be buried in the town, because the tradition is for her to be taken to an evil forest. We insisted she must be given a proper burial by the family and the police were on ground to enforce that during the burial ceremony. That was my boldest achievement.
What challenges are there to being bold for change in Nigeria?
Challenging tradition, status quo and patriarchy doesn’t go down well, people believe you are going against the norm; they label you a non-conformist and women’s rights liberal. You are given all sorts of names.
What bold actions would you like other people to take to see a more inclusive, gender equal world?
Challenging, not accepting the norm. You have one life to live and you have to appreciate yourself as a woman. Women should live a fulfilled life on their own terms not according to the dictates of customs and traditions that demean them.