Femme Founders: Ayodeji Osowobi of Stand to End Rape Initiative
Femme Founders is Equality for HER’s latest series featuring femme founders of different organizations, companies, and movements. Femme Founders asks, “Why did you embark on this initiative?” If you would like to nominate someone to be featured please email firstname.lastname@example.org with Femme Founder in the subject line.
Stand to End Rape Initiative (STER), is a CAC registered youth-led not-for-profit organization, which raises awareness about the effects and stigma associated with rape, while providing practical suggestions to curb their effects and working to end all forms of rape through education, supporting survivors, and changing community perceptions towards sexual violence and abuse in Nigeria. At the 2014 Social Media Awards Africa, STER Initiative won the Best Use of Social Media by an NGO in Africa Awards.
We use social media as a platform to engage our target audience. So far, we have been able to engage in research work, provide services to survivors, and implement specific projects.
Stand to End Rape was a reality for me as far back as 2011. It began with an incident during my one year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), a program every young Nigerian graduate must undergo. The events that followed brought to light the prevalence of sexual violence and the manner in which it is entrenched within the Nigerian system.
Trigger Warning: Rape
During this period, a group of armed robbers raided a unisex hostel in a village in Rivers State, dispossessed the men of their belongings and kidnapped about 10 women. The outcome of that incident could have been demand for ransom or death, but abductors probably thought of the greatest weapon of destruction, 'rape'. Rape is a weapon used to punish, dominate/control, relieve unlawful sexual pleasures and engage in barbaric cultural/religious beliefs.
With such news going viral in Rivers State, Port-Harcourt, it was expected that care and support should be provided for the victims of such a horrendous act, rather it was met with silence from the organizations concerned. I particularly was unaware of any NGO that took the cause of rape. The service year ended, but the horrific experience probably never ended in the hearts of the survivors. How can society continue to create abused women and girls - with no available support?
Fast forward to the year 2013 in New York, news of rape filled the Nigerian online and traditional newspapers with no reference made to the well-being of the survivors.
It was just as I mentioned earlier, NEWS. I was also motivated by the dearth in the awareness scheme and the unavailability of a platform for survivors to speak out. As a result, on September 8, 2013, given my location, I started an online platform on social media called '@StandtoEndRape' (specifically on Twitter and Facebook) as a means to help survivors speak out. This initiative was birthed from a need to connect those who have been violated with opportunities for justice and psychosocial support. Stand to End Rape Initiative is based in Lagos and recently expanded to the capital city, Abuja. So far, we have worked directly with over 60 survivors, empowered about 20% of them, with some yet awaiting justice -- a result of our weak and incapacitated judicial system.
Stand to End Rape (Initiative) for me is more than an organization, it is a movement: a deliberate decision by most Nigerian youths to speak up against the scourge of rape and take action on perpetrators.