Project Alert Partners Up In The Sky To Fight Violence Against Women
....ChangeForChange, Small Money to Save Big Lives
By Janet Udogu
Oluchi believed in happily ever after. It had to be real; she has heard and seen it happen to others. She has equally seen and heard of failed marriages but that cannot be her portion. She believed that she would have a marriage with a story book ending, literarily. And so when her knight in shining armour asked for her hand in marriage, her joy knew no bounds. They quickly got married in a society wedding, with pump and ceremony.
Fifteen years and five children later, she had completely had it up to her neck. She could no longer bear her husband’s heinous and ingeniously creative onslaught of beatings. Prince Charming has turned out to be her Tormentor in Chief, the master minder of her woes. He has graduated from beating her at the slightest provocation to beating her for no reason.
Oluchi never believed that a man could rape his wife but the hot iron scars on her back say differently, they were sore reminders to help her unbelief. The fresh criss-cross of welts from her husband’s humiliating strokes of the cane as punitive measures to put her in her place, in front of her cowering children have since become incessant. She was better safe than sorry. She would be more useful to her children alive. But if and when she eventually devised a way to stay out of harm’s way in one piece, how would she survive with the children? Going to her parents’ house was completely out of it. Her father would not hear of it- divorce. He said it should never be heard among believers. He maintained that everything in life answered to prayers, God said to make everything known to him through prayer and supplications.
Oluchi was fully aware of the psychological implications of the theatre of violence her home has become on the children. She urgently needed them out of there before further harm and disfigurement is done to their already violated innocent young minds. Talking about violation, her youngest child’s mind was already warped about the name “Daddy”. All he needed to hear was “daddy” and he went into a fit of hysteria. He would take sanctuary in the nearest room; lock himself up, shaken uncontrollably and let tears flow freely.
The fear of what her husband could do to her should he find out that she was planning to run away with the children held Oluchi back like a leash. She kept dilly dallying until that faithful day when she woke up on a hospital bed swathed in bandages. At first, she could not make head or tail of how she ended up there. She could not feel her legs. With the help of the faces around her, she eventually recalled how her husband shoved her off their car on high speed, despite the shouts and pleas of her children. He had not bothered to know if she was dead or alive. The doctor told her father that she may never regain the use of her legs.
This is only one out of many horrible tales of domestic violence that would never make it to the public domain for fear of stigimatisation or even death threat. No woman deserves this kind of sordid ill treatment no matter her offence. This brings us to why Project Alert, a non-governmental women’s rights organisation was founded. Established in 1999, Project Alert has been in the vanguard of advocating for zero tolerance for all forms of violence against women and young girls in Nigeria, through various advocacy efforts and practical support services to victims.
In a Press Conference that took place in Lagos recently, Project Alert in partnership with Up InThe Sky flagged off new campaign tagged #ChangeforChange, which is aimed at encouraging more women to speak out and up against domestic violence of all shades. The organization readily provides women who have been through this harrowing experience at home with instant help and unflinching support.
Speaking at the event, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, Founder and Executive Director, Project Alert, stated that the #ChangeforChange campaign is a call for Nigerians to invest in prevention and reduction of domestic violence, DV, to the barest minimum.
“Someone’s life can be hanging on that ‘small change’ you use in drinking, seeing a movie or buying an ice cream. That ‘small change’ can bring about a lot of changes. That is why the campaign has been tagged ChangeforChange. Just with 5000 Naira, you can save a lot of lives and be happy you did,” she said.
Oje Ojeaga, Chief Executive Officer, Up In The Sky, stated that part of the reasons women going through abuse find it difficult to speak up or leave their homes is the fear of how to survive and ‘the shame problem’. He added that his organisation decided to partner Project Alert to put an end to the violence against women and give women and give them a better life.
Idiare Atimomo, Chief Operating Officer, Up In The Sky stated that individuals or corporate bodies can donate as little as 5000 Naira on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis and stand the chance of getting 20 percent discount from all of their partners including WheatBaker Hotel, Tae Africa, AhamIbeleme Photography, Capelli Saloon, Saavy Chic Hub, Red Dish Chronicles, Rebecca Noff and Food Fusion.
“Donation into the Project Alert project has been made very easy. People can now give from the comfort of their homes and offices without having to go through the bank by just visiting the Project Alert website at www.projectalertnig.org. Click on the ‘Donate’ box and fill out the form. Once you give a minimum of 5000 Naira or more, you will receive an automatic email to confirm your donation and your 20 percent discount from all of our partners,” Atimomo explained.
The Project Alert boss called on well meaning Nigerians to join them in the fight against DV, stressing that “before a woman summons up courage to flee an abusive relationship, most times with her often young children, she thinks of how she is going to cope alone with the challenges of shelter, court proceedings and legal bills, food, school fees and so on. If she is not sure of where help will come from, she keeps mute and dies a gradual death.”
Chukwuma added that her NGO provides shelter for abused women in Nigeria. In her words: “In May 2001, we opened the very first shelter for abused women in Nigeria, known as Sophia’s Place, located in Lagos. This shelter till date has housed over 1000 women and children. We are happy that our pioneering efforts have led to various government interventions especially in Lagos State; and also other NGOs coming up and doing great work.”
The Executive Director revealed that her organisation like other NGOs has always been faced with financial challenges. According to her, they “depend 75 percent on donations and grants from individuals, corporate bodies and donor agencies for support in order to be able to render financial support services to abused women and girls. These support services include counselling legal aid, shelter, cases with the police, medical report, school fees (sometimes); skills acquisition; small scale business start off and so on.”
The Founder stressed that Project Alert does not set out to end marriages but to stop violence in the home. According to her, “it is better to leave and live, a dead woman is not a wife. She however, asserted that her organization has recorded 50 percent marriage reconciliation and 25 percent divorces over their years of operation. “Sometimes, people after staying apart learn to appreciate each other and come back together,” she added.
Among the challenges Project Alert faces Chukwuma highlighted include but not limited to Nigerian Police, government criticism, cultural and religious challenges, court systems and delay.