BREAKING THE CULTURE OF SILENCE

Hassana Maina is an advocate against gender based violence and currently a student of the Nigerian Law school. She’s a poet who loves to write, teach and read. She describes herself as a tea enthusiast. As a young girl, she realized that even though she had her father’s support to be any woman she wanted to become, the world around her did not support women and she knew that was something she needed to change for every woman around her.

While still in university, she was appalled by the prevalence of notions that perpetuated rape culture. She started out facilitating workshops for young people to help them understand consent. Her intention was to help people understand why consent was important and do away with old ideas and notions that perpetuate rape in our society today.

She became a strong voice in the MeToo movement in Nigeria, subsequently transitioning into North Normal, which seeks to break the culture of silence around rape and other forms of SGBV in Northern Nigeria. Due to the conservative nature of the culture, people in this area are more likely to stay silent around gender based violence, therefore speaking out on this issue resulted in plenty of backlash but that did not stop her. She went on to participate in stand-still rallies and to engage with state-level legislators pushing for laws to protect women from violence.

During the lockdown due to COVID19 in Nigeria, she started an Instagram Live series titled ‘ABC’s of Sexual Violence’. Each week, she hosts conversations to help people of all ages learn the basics of GBV and also discuss different and subtle ways each person may be complicit in perpetuating rape culture, by helping people understand rape, sexual violence, feminism and consent. She was pushed to do this due to the misinformed opinions which she feels cause more harm than good.

To Hassana, being an African woman means being a resilient person that can survive any situation, even when it goes unnoticed or without recognition and applause. She leans away from the word ‘strong’ when describing African women, because she feels that word is often used to treat women in Africa negatively by allowing them take on different forms of abuse, therefore the word may carry some pain. She believes African women keep on raising the bar when dealing with difficult situations and should be recognized for this.

“Though generations of African women have experienced so much criticism, I want African women to let go of all the insecurities and know that they are beautiful, resilient and deserving of good things.”