Community Champion: One Woman’s Story Of Standing Against Domestic Violence
Mrs. Aisha Sanni works to ensure human dignity is restored and cases of domestic violence are reduced in Suleja, Niger East Senatorial District, Niger State. In this interview, she sheds light on how she has been assisting the less privileged and women tackle domestic violence, with meagre resources.
Can we meet you?
Mrs. Sanni: I am a single grandmother of two males and two females. The ladies are married and my first son is 30 years but a patient of Psychiatric hospital. I am an orphan and suffered a lot while growing up so I said instead of me seeing orphans suffering, let me assist them. My father died when I was four months in my mother’s womb. So I grew up in the care of other people. I put myself into a nursery school, an act my uncle was not happy with. He insisted females are not supposed to be educated. I was admitted into nursery school, my guardian took care of me, cared for my school fees till I finished my secondary school. I couldn’t go to higher institution because nobody to sponsor me.
When did you start the advocacy project?
Mrs. Sanni: I started five years ago. I started slowly and my steadiness made me reach this stage. I assist women on domestic cases, and also help on rape cases. Whosoever has rape cases, they do call me on phone and I go there with the assistance of social welfare (an agency set up by the Niger State Government to assist in domestic cases). Situations where some people want to bail the accused, we stop the process and ensure the accused face the wrath of law and we not only stop at that, we take the victim to hospital for test and medical treatment.
I know how women suffer; I know what is all about women in this community. So for that, I said let me put myself into this work because I know how women suffer in Nigeria; the men don’t normally assist women either in the terms of feeding, clothing or health wise.
How many people are involved in the project?
Mrs. Sanni: We are five in number. We have three females and two males but the main responsibility is on me. If they need money, they have to come to me.
How many cases have you treated?
Mrs. Sanni: Uncountable! The social welfare, which is under the state government, also assist these victims of rape and domestic violence. If some cases demand going to court, we call lawyers. However, not all the cases demand lawyers. But the social welfare use to tackle cases that do not call for lawyer’s attention. Meanwhile, some cases have to be taken to court because the social welfare will refer us to the court.
And I take care of the bills of the lawyers whenever we go to court to seek justice.
What are the challenges faced since the establishment of the advocacy group?
Mrs. Sanni: The leaders don’t care about [us]. When I fell sick and it seems that I was going to die, nobody cared for me despite my effort in the community.
Sometimes I use to have financial problems. An adult of 18 years raped a four-year-old girl and the father had no money to treat the baby so I had to go and borrow money for the father to buy medication for the baby.
As God would have it, if I beg [some people] they use to give me money. Situations where we have a domestic case that is so serious, we do go to lawyers working with human right activists, most especially Mrs. Florence and one other lawyer here in Suleja, and they render assistance by helping us tackle the case in court.
Have you been physically attacked before in the course of this job?
Mrs. Sanni: Yes. Somebody threatened my life once. He said he would kill me for taking up the case of the maltreatment of his wife against him in court… I made sure the woman got justice and nothing happened to me. Some will even abuse me to my face and say all manner of words but that doesn’t deter me from pursuing justice for the oppressed because I do pray to God.
Do you have any other business?
Mrs. Sanni: No. I don’t. If I start any business now, it will collapse because of this work and I don’t want to start any business now because of my stand against oppression.
Your parting word?
Mrs. Sanni: If [the community] can help me financially to fight oppression and tackle domestic violence, I will be grateful. I receive calls in the middle of the night to attend to some cases– I leave my home to [do just that]. The rate of domestic violence here is high and cases of such occur anytime and each time my attention is called, I ensure I am there to address the issue and take it up.
I [also will like to] call on the government and concerned individuals to help me financially in restoring hope and dignity in this community.
Interested in reaching out to Mrs Sanni and supporting her work? Email the reporter for details: firstname.lastname@example.org