‘No Matter Where We Go Our Safety Isn’t A Priority’ : The Women Of The Revolution Risking Their Lives To #EndSARS In Nigeria

'I know mothers who have lost their children, I know women who have been raped by these people.'


by Ese Odetah |
Updated on

What are the #EndSARS protests?

On Tuesday, 20 October, 2020, Nigeria faced its darkest day in recent history. After nearly two weeks of mostly peaceful protests against police brutality and calls for the dissolution of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), army officials opened fire on crowds of innocent protestors killing 12 and severely injuring hundreds. Images of shocking graphic scenes spread across social media pages with many labelling it the Lekki Massacre.

SARS was formed in 1992 to combat extensive kidnapping, robbery and violent crime. But, according to Amnesty International, calls were made to dissolve the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad amid claims of torture, harassment, extortion and kidnapping. Most recently, triggered following the death of a young man by SARS officials in the southern state of Delta on October 8.

Despite the Nigerian government issuing a statement calling for the disbandment of the specially designated anti-robbery police unit, many Nigerians were cynical that this will lead to real change as authorities’ past claims to dissolve and reform SARS over the past four years were proven to be untrue.

Even though the #EndSARS protests have been happening at grassroots level for several years, the social media response to the Black Lives Matter movement following the brutal murder of George Floyd helped to make it more of a global issue. In the space of a couple of days, the hashtag #EndSARS resulted in more than 1.3m posts.

According to one Lagosian, young, female activists were instrumental in mobilising others to action using social media to amplify their voices. 'They’ve become braver rebelling against the oppressor,' says 29-year-old Blessing Ade.

However, despite the rebellion, there is still a genuine fear among protestors of possible retaliation while on the frontline.

Activist DJ Switch posted a series of videos from her Instagram account live-streaming the harrowing scenes at Lekki Toll Gate where armed officials opened fire on crowds of innocent protestors on the evening of 20 October. Protestors were heard pleading and singing the Nigerian national anthem while gunshots were fired in the background.

It’s almost as if no matter where we [Black people] go our safety isn’t a priority.

The video, which quickly went viral, prompted global support from celebrities and politicians, including Rihanna, Beyonce, Tiwa Savage, Naomi Campbell and Hillary Clinton. However, the harrowing images left many Nigerians in the diaspora feeling helpless.

'Watching the events unfold on social media made me feel sick to the core that my people are being subject to such violence and inhumane treatment. It’s almost as if no matter where we [Black people] go our safety isn’t a priority,' says Tosan Ogum, a 36-year-old Project Manager from London.

Women’s rights activist Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi who recovered from coronavirus in April runs Stand to End Rape, a youth-led movement advancing gender equality. The 29-year-old used her platform to provide mental health support for protestors on the ground affected by the trauma of the past two weeks while still protesting on the streets. 'Nobody is really safe, claims Osowobi. 'I know mothers who have lost their children, I know women who have been raped by these people.'

What is the Feminist Coalition?

Although protesting continues to pose a huge threat, NGOs like the Feminist Coalition – a collective of young Nigerian women who actively campaign for the rights of women and feminist causes in Nigeria – continue to play a pivotal role. Throughout the demonstrations the group continued to support protestors by raising funds towards medical emergencies, legal aid and relief for victims affected by the #EndSARS demonstrations. A statement posted on their Twitter and Instagram pages confirmed the collective raised more than 147 million naira (£295,000) but will cease to raise further funds with immediate effect following the public address on October 22 from President Buhari warning protestors to discontinue from any further demonstrations.

Amnesty International has confirmed that a full investigation will be carried out with assistance from Human Rights Watch and 40 other organisations in what 'clearly amounted to extrajudicial executions.'

To find out more about the Feminist Coalition and donate visit feministcoalition2020.com

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