Archive for September, 2012

We’re Crowd Funding to Set Up the Women’s Legal Defence Trust Fund. Please Support Us

September 12, 2012

What?

The Women’s Crisis Center Owerri is establishing a Women’s Legal Defense Trust Fund to aggregate funds from a variety of sources and to make grants with those funds to lawyers and organizations litigating cases that can have a broad impact on the protection, expansion and interpretation of women’s rights in Nigeria.

Why?

Because

  • Case law and apex court decisions have the potential to make sweeping changes in women’s rights protection and interpretation in Nigeria
  • Women and the lawyers that represent them frequently lack the funds required to access the justice system and to sustain litigation for a long time and through appeals
  • There are not enough public interest lawyers and NGO’s litigating women’s rights protection and interpretation
  • We want to systematically and strategically develop and report a body of case law to enhance and institutionalize legislative and policy changes that improve women’s rights.

How?

Fundraising

Crowd Funding & Donations

  • We believe that sustainable community and popular activism and action must be funded by the citizens
  • Funds will be crowd sourced online and solicited from private and corporate donors
  • Income, expenditure  and bank statements will be publicly reported  at regular intervals to be determined

Grants

  • In addition we will apply and accept grants from international institutions and bodies that share our principles and values
  • We will not take funds or grants from bilateral, multilaterals, or governments or their agents.

Publications

  • We will invest in and publish online and hard copy law reports, periodicals, books and journal to support the long term sustainability of the fund
  • We will invest in other social enterprise models that will support our goal and objectives

Grant Making

  • We will make direct grants to lawyers litigating cases that meet our criteria to cover legal fees, transport and accommodation out of station as applicable.
  • Cases will be chosen based on specific criteria that ensures they will have broad impact on a women and women’s rights nationally
  • Grantees will be chosen for their integrity, commitment, creativity,  and understanding of the legal issues involved
  • Grantees will report at regular intervals and will be given capacity building, mentoring and advisory support

Who?

Women’s Crisis Center was established in 2000 in Owerri Imo state in response to a study that showed the highest incidence of domestic and sexual violence occurred there.

The center ran a women’s shelter, an innovative community program to end violence, provided pro bono legal services and had a resource library.  The community program is in its tenth year while the resource center was moved to the federal capital for greater utility. The shelter was closed when it became evident that it did not fit the values of the community it served.

The WCC is managed by Lesley Agams, who will bring the experience she gained selecting and managing innovative social entrepreneurs and managing country programs for international organizations to the selection of the legal fund grant recipients and administration of the fund.  She will be a trustee and the Executive Director of the fund.

Ms. Iheoma Obibi, executive director of Alliances for Africa has accepted to be one of three trustee of the legal fund. Ms. Obibi, herself an Asoka fellow, will bring over 20 years experience as a leading women’s rights activist to the fund. You can read more about Ms. Obibi and her work at http://www.alliancesforafrica.org

When?

As soon as possible!

We have already initiated the registration process with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja

Our next target is to raise an initial target of NGN1million in 3 months to complete the registration and launch officially with a press conference on October 4, 2012 and organize a major fund raising event on November 27, 2012

What We Would Like You to Do

Help us to reach our targets. Kindly donate to our fund. Help us protect and expand women’s rights and protections before the law.

Till we can pay for a website with Interswitch capability we request that you send your kind donations to the Women’s Crisis Center. No amount is too small!

God bless you as you support women’s rights development.

Account Details:

Name of Bank: Guaranty Trust Bank Plc

Name of Account: Women’s Crisis Centre Owerri

Account Number: 0023731452

Go to indiegogo here

Do Nigerian or African Women Have Mid Life Crisis?

September 11, 2012

I think I am having a mid life crisis! It hit me in the shower a couple days after a very long night out dancing.  I can’t remember what I did but I won’t forget the wry faces of my friends the next day. I was puzzled. I didn’t do anything I hadn’t done before (except I hope I didn’t take my shirt off) so why were they so discomfited?  It hit me, I am 46 after all; like my son reminded me the other day ‘you’re almost 50’. It must have been as disturbing to them as watching Madonna perform at the Super Bowl was to Piers Morgan.

That’s when I realized I just had a mid life crisis and that I been having it for the last 2 years at least! No not menopause, mid life crisis or MLC, the kind that was thought to happen only to men.  I’m abashed to think that I have been going through a MLC without even being aware of it. I thought I had made so much progress on the developing-self-awareness-level.

Having little more than a pop culture idea of what a MLC was I googled it. An MLC is described as a transitional period during which a person apparently realizes that they’re going to grow old and die precipitating panicked questions about the meaning of existence and impulsive, stupid life choices that can have disastrous effects.  (I think our President might be having a mid life crisis.)

Both men and women have been known to run off with a younger consorts, buy Harleys or make retirement fund depleting financial decisions.   Apparently a lot of women are making a business of the mid life crisis, or using their MLC to successfully reinvent themselves. Like Nike Oshinowo who parlayed her mid life crisis into a profitable marriage and the first Nigeria celebrity exercise video.

MLC is increasingly popular and fashionable according to the media reports out there. Of course there is disagreement as to whether it affects only western cultures because they ‘idolize youth and materialism’.  Some people think MLC doesn’t happen to Africans and Asians, a racist assumption but I must admit I envy  my African sisters that seem to glide from one stage of life to the next without apparent crisis. Or are they just being silenced by a hyper-oppressive patriarchy?

One female Nigerian writer linked MLC to career dissatisfaction and counseled prayer, patience and perseverance. Her implication seemed to be career women should resist making any changes till the feelings of angst pass.  Her point of view was religious. Another writer counseled deliberate planning and fastidious implementation of a new career and life direction.

Does the MLC happen to modern African working class women?  Does the new Africa woman have MLC? Did my grand-mother?  Did my aunt in the village? How did they cope? What choices did they make? Most other articles on MLC by Africans seemed to be telling women how to cope with their husband’s MLC .  Nothing online to help an African sister living in Nigeria assess whether she needs to check into therapy or whether her angst was ‘normal’.

In Africa you learn to be your own therapist dangerous as that sounds. So I ask myself – what’s different about this crisis anyway? This is not the first life changing crisis I’ve had and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last either. Why do I think this is a ‘mid life’ crisis?  Why is a mid life crisis significant?  Is this the not so gentle pull of western cultural influence or was it somehow significant for me as an African woman?

Turns out an MLC is frequently triggered by an event like loss of employment, death of a parent or spouse, sickness or relationship problems. Imagine my horror ticking all the boxes. I’ve experienced all 4 out of 4 of those triggers in the past 24 months.  I lost my job, lost my father, lost my first grandchild, had relationship problems and was diagnosed with a grave disease.

The symptoms of MLC are many and varied but they all involve some sort of groping search, grief (and its five stages; denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance) and attempts at transformation. Some people attempt to grow up, some attempt to remain Peter Pan, some attempts are successful, some are foolish and some are just plain mad. Then there are the tragedies. RIP Whitney Houston.

Mine has been plain mad! I grieved my health, my father, my first grand-child, the end of yet another relationship and even my career in international development.  At first I was in denial that my life was falling apart, and then I ranted at the injustice of it all. I went through depressions deep as a black hole in space that seemed to suck the very joy out of life.  I bargained with God, Lucifer, and my ancestors.

In the process I questioned life, death, love, marriage, being a woman, my sexuality, sex, my relationships to family and friends, my philosophy, my values and my beliefs. Without boring you with all the details I can say is it was quiet a shake up.  I realize I have changed in subtle but profound ways. I was going native! Thirty five years of living in Nigeria can mess with a woman’s head.

Or why else would a night out precipitate a MLC in the first place?  Almost all the guys there were my age so why was I causing consternation?  Of course there were lots of girls, I remember wondering where all the women were, and having a good chuckle with my girl friend over the fact they were probably all home. In bed.  In their nighties and hair nets. Praying or watching TD Jakes on television.

It’s like modern educated Nigerian women have been consigned to the domestic prayer front.  And why is it that normally intelligent women suddenly immerse themselves fanatically in religion? Okay that was meant to be patronizing. Why do women that normally like to hang out and socialize chain themselves to hearth and home? Sister you maybe busy with the kids but why isn’t mister at home helping?

In New York, London, Moscow and even in Dakar, Nairobi and Johannesburg women my age are visible at the clubs, at the bars, at the lounges, at the concerts and on the midnight social circuit. Some single, some with partners in tow. In Nigeria there is a glaring absence of women my age on the midnight social circle. Probably made my MLC seem all the more acute to me and to those watching me.

Is this another example of how machismo and hyper masculinity mixed with ultra conservative religious values are impacting the choices Nigerian women can make in mid life?  A lot of women like me  facing mid life career changes are moving from power centers like oil and gas, banking and insurance into baking, interior design and event management frequently disillusioned with male power and leadership. .

I’m all for choice, I believe it’s a woman’s right to choose  the type of mother she wants to be, the type of wife she wants to be and the type of woman she wants to be but how many  Nigerian women have real MLC choice when you remove the privilege of wealth,  class and family status? Mid life high society women maybe staying hot and sexy and parlaying new careers or even hanging out at home with their ‘girls’ but that’s a privilege of their class.

I’m talking about the growing number of educated mid life working class women. They could be single, married, divorced, separated, single parents, one or two income household, small business owners or free lance professionals with mortgages, school fees, and rent to pay and aged parents to care for.  Women privileged in a country like Nigeria but without the luxury of the very rich. Women like me and you.

I feel entitled to my MLC, it sounds grown up and responsible.  In my usual grandiose way I will manage to make it a production, breaking stereotypes, breaking molds, blazing trails and probing it for insight and stories .  It will continue to be feminist, subversive, libertine, and pro civil liberty. I’m pretty sure I will have more fun with life and infuse it with the wisdom of almost 50 years of lessons learnt.

I read a quote from Mohammed Ali a couple weeks ago. He said ‘if you still see the world the same way at 50 that you did at 20 you’ve wasted 30 years of your life’.  Carl Jung describes the mid life crisis as an integration of the 5 aspects of the personality. I feel integrated.  ‘That’s not who I am anymore’ has a new meaning.  There is a new road map but we won’t be too fastidious in following it.

Life continues to evolve and there is a lot to experience on the journey.  My mid life crisis just became a mid life process! And it’s only going to get better.

 

Only the Rich & the Lazy Go On Vacation

September 3, 2012

Among the many creations of modern man is this thing called the annual vacation. Somehow I’ve equated it with self indulgence. The Hustle takes priority. I’ve been slowly brainwashed to see any form of self care as indulgence and as evil! Vacations and holidays became something you did when you were rich. Where did that come from? Growing up I always spent summer holidays with some family member in some god awful Nigerian town anyway.

When did I start to equate vacation with going outside the country and off continent even? That is now the real vacation. This one is a holiday. So I’m on holiday. Not vacation. Or maybe we can use the modern colloquialism ‘staycation’. I stayed in the country, in town, with family.  Anyway. Holiday. Vacation. Staycation. Whatever. I indulged myself and banished work related guilt for awhile.

You know I’m no Bible expert but I also read in Deuteronomy something about using your tithe to indulge yourself and family during the annual Passover Feast. Sounds like a vacation to me and sounds better than handing over the money to some sleazy pastor. Of course the Bible says different things at different times to different people. So don’t take my word do for it.

August is Nigeria’s court holiday. So for a lawyer August is holiday month too. Now that I’m in private law practice I need to maintain the same good rules of human resource management I learnt and enforced as a country program manager of an international organization. Don’t fuck with annual leave. Productivity drops.  It’s not voodoo. It’s so easy to forget you’re only human.

It wasn’t easy being on vacation, it goes against my puritanical work focused socialization and my driven Type A personality. I woke up late. I stayed in bed. I read. I took long walks. I wrote. I went dancing. I did yoga. I discovered Tantra. I had a couple of brutal nights of hard partying till dawn too. I played with my friends little children. I switched off the TV. I tried to switch off the internet and my BIS but couldn’t quite. But I ignored the news. I ignored calls to save Nigeria. I ignored calls to save another victim.

I read Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche, the Bible, Osho, Khalil Gibran and Paulo Coelho. I explored my feelings and wrote about love, and midlife and vacations. I spoke about critical thinking and empathy to a group of emerging young leaders, a great exercise because it reminds me to watch my own thinking and develop greater empathy. I had moments of sheer ecstasy and moments of overwhelming anguish. I pushed aside guilt.

Surprisingly, I felt very productive. I feel I’ve made progress, I didn’t always feel that way when I was busy. Now I feel clear, grounded, motivated, relaxed and excited all at the same time. Life is an adventure again. I feel a mixture of childlike dread and wonder at the thought. That light ahead could be an oncoming train or the end of the tunnel, it doesn’t matter. Keep Walking! Guilt free.

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