Over the past few years, there have been calls by Nigerians to end the unit of the Police Force called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), for brutalities against innocent Nigerians, and the misuse of their powers. In the past two weeks, however, Nigerian youths have relentlessly protested and asked for an end to SARS. Well-meaning Nigerians have continued to lend their voices in support of what has been described as wanton and arbitrary harassment and in some cases killing of young men and women by officers of the Nigerian police force. While victims of SARS cut across gender, tribe and religion, it is believed that young men constitute a good percentage of the assault by officers that should be protecting citizens. Thus it is interesting that a lot of women have been at the frontline of this EndSars movement. This no doubt goes a long way in emphasizing the unity in purpose of the movement to end police brutality and by extension reform the entire police force in Nigeria.
While the EndSars movement has been described as a “leaderless” movement, some women have provided some form of leadership and provided legal, financial, medical and moral support to the unrelenting protesters. Prominent among them is Aisha Yesufu; the renowned “iron lady” who has always defied all odds to speak against injustice. The Nigerian Socio-political activist, and also the co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls movement dared authorities and faced near-death escapades in her effort to demand justice for innocent citizens murdered by officers of the Nigerian Police Force. In what is now seen as the symbol of the movement, the early hours of October 12th had pictures of Aisha Yesufu circulating the internet. The picture had been taken at the protest ground in Abuja. Like a statue of liberty, Aisha was fully clothed in her hijab, and her right fist was raised high.
Another important stakeholder of the ongoing EndSars movement Feyikemi Abudu, known better as FKAbudu, is an entrepreneur who is also among the founders of the Feminist Coalition group. She most notably at the start of the protest collated the names of arrested and detained protesters and provided legal support to get them free. On every occasion, she succeeded in freeing these people, and it became common to send her names and locations of arrested protesters. There was a video of an elderly woman who was slapped by a policeman, because she came out to protest; there was also one about two young girls who were beaten and dragged across dusty roads, into a police station. However, with the help of FK Abudu, they were released – hurt, but free.
Another early motivator of an offline protest to end police of this movement is Rinu Oduala, a social media influencer and a human rights activist. She used her huge social media platform to publicise the protests, and she was among the first people out in the street protesting.
Similarly, a notable organisation known as the Feminist Coalition Group formed by young, Nigerian feminists to champion equality for women in Nigeria has continued to source and managed funds to ensure law abiding protesters get all needed support. So far, this organisation has catered to the legal, financial and healthcare needs of the protesters. They set up Flutterwave, a donation link which Nigerians both home and abroad have used to raise money to aid the protests. As of 19th October, the bursary has about 73million Naira. Daily, the organisation gives a rundown of new donations, and how much has been disbursed. The transparency and accountability this organization operates with is something the government should aim to achieve.
One would think that women would not care enough to champion this movement, because men have mostly always been the ones directly affected, and so it is quite touching to see women actively participating. The active participation of women in this movement is an encouraging thing. It is a morale-booster showing that women see the pain and are empathetic enough to want to put an end to it. There was a protest by mothers who wanted to march against the woman who was slapped; it goes further to prove that a mother who has seen the terror that is SARS and is willing to march against it, has sensitized her household.
There are women marching on the streets, the ones making the movement go viral on social media, and the ones who choose to work behind the scene. There are also powerful women like Chioma Agwuebo; Executive Director of Tech Her, who provided both moral and material support to the movement. There are definitely unnamed and unknown women who are doing their best in their circle. All their efforts come together and make a huge impact because all of it is toward one goal – to end police brutality and restore good governance in Nigeria.
The cheering news also is that Women are also being called to the negotiation table as stakeholders make efforts to find lasting solutions to police brutality in Nigeria. An interesting appointment into the judicial the panel in Akwa Ibom state is that of Mmanti Umoh, a young woman who participated in the #EndSARS protested in Uyo with her two adult sons.
Chinemerem is a Communication Assistant at Yiaga Africa
Twitter : @mererah