The weather was very moderate, 27 Celsius as if in agreement with our vision. It was the Safe Cities street walk in my university. I was part of the over 40 students who were on the streets of our university to raise awareness on the safety needs and rights of students, especially females.
My university-Ebonyi State University Abakaliki is one of the state universities in the South East region of Nigeria. How I looked forward to getting admission into the university, to study the course I desire and at the end, become fulfilled as a woman. But there are so many things to be fixed in my university, if this dream will be fulfilled-safety; security and infrastructure are hindering my dream and the dreams of many girls in the university. We all know it and are silent about it, praying that we will never be the next victim of harassment.
As we were on that street-walk with drums and songs in the background while sharing the information and education materials with the university community, demanding for safe environment, my mind slipped away to what really made me say ‘Yes to Safe Cities Campaign” and to join the Activista in my University.
I remember listening to her story, with fear and anger all rolled into one. The story of Ifeoma (Full name withheld) who is a 400 level student of History and International relations in my university, Ebonyi State University.
“Leaving Arsenal lodge at exactly 7:25pm, I took the part that leads to the Ishieke market junction, through Anan-Word hostel. As I walked through the part, a male student was walking about 2 yards behind me. The whole place wasn’t so dark since I could see perfectly without the help of a torch light. As I got to the Akara spot, in front of Anan-Word hostel, I noticed some male students smoking there; I stepped down to the major road to continue my walk. Immediately, one of them walked up to me and commanded that I follow him to meet his friends, I refused and moved faster, he ran to me and held my left wrist. I stopped walking and turned to free myself. Just then, the student that had been walking behind me, got to my standing point, I screamed out for help to him, but it only made him walk faster.
The mini provision store that is situated opposite Anan-Word hostel was open, with students buying from there, but no one intervened. He dragged me roughly, to the Akara spot, where his friends were smoking, talking and laughing. As I stood before them, my heart beating like the beating-reed instrument, my eyes looking through their faces, some looking scary and the rest innocent, I feared my faith.
My ears could hardly get all they said, since my brain could interpret very few. I was taken (dragged) with hostility into the Anan-Word hostel by three, with one covering my mouth. It was an empty room and I was about to be defiled, my 22 years of virginity was about to be taken without dignity, I felt terrible, destroyed, and crazy.
I wept as they took turns on me, many times I heard footsteps, but no one tried checking what was happening in that room.I opened my eyes after a while, looked around, but could hardly recognize the environment.
I stood to my feet and looked through to ascertain the level of damage, my legs had become too heavy to walk, I picked up my hand bag and realized my two phones were missing, my wrist watch was beside me, so I checked the time, it was exactly 9:58pm, I went further and recognized the building beside me, it was Muna lodge (a hostel name), I walk through to Eskay hostel (a hostel in ishieke) with my body all messed up, I walked slowly as I hid my face in my palm. Students kept staring at me as I passed; I walked down to Prestige 3 (a hostel by the roadside) and stopped a motorcyclist to my hostel without pricing.
Walking into the gate of my hostel, I felt unclean and disorganized. Walked straight to room 6, opened my door, banged it behind me as I fell on my bed and cried my life out.
As Ifeoma looked into my eyes, she made her last statements, “since that morning, your ears are the only ones I’ve ever opened my world of misfortune to Jay (as loads of friends call me), I don’t need help, I feel they have done all they can to me, but someone needs to stop them”.
Ifeoma is one out of 500 female students that are being dehumanized daily by male students and lecturers in my school. I totally agreed with Ifeoma that they should be stopped, but I don’t agree that it’s a fight for one, and that’s because it’s a fight for many.
So, I need not be told to raise my voice, I need not be told to keep quiet, I need not be told to be silent! The University authority, the government and everyone need to get things right and fixed in my university.