Nigerian woman confronts fierce taboos

Longtime activist fights for women's rights in the Niger Delta.


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Tracy Clark-Flory
March 16, 2006 11:05PM (UTC)

Yesterday's Washington Post introduced us to Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, a woman campaigning for women's rights in her homeland of Nigeria. She doesn't have an easy task at hand, either. As a national coordinator for the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center in Nigeria, Akiyode-Afolabi is fighting against formidable taboos in the Niger Delta surrounding violence against women, as well as practices such as forced child marriage and punishments of death by stoning for female adulterers.

She told the Post that abuse at the hands of a woman's husband or immediate relative is often considered a personal matter. But Akiyode-Afolabi is trying to break the code of silence, trumpeting the need for women to talk about abuse: "When women go to the police to complain, they are told this is a private affair, but we teach them otherwise."

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In 2002, Akiyode-Afolabi's campaigning helped to reverse an Islamic court's sentencing of Safiya Hussaini to death by stoning for becoming pregnant while divorced. Her organization is currently pushing a parliamentary bill that would incorporate "more women in policymaking, budget allocations and employment programs" in Nigeria. (Talk about a way to guarantee enduring, widespread change.)

Akiyode-Afolabi told the Post that her overall message is "that another Nigeria is possible." She's certainly increasing the odds.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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