At a time where rape was becoming an epidemic, mostly without any justice asides social media outbursts, Esther declared W.A.R. (Walk Against Rape). W.A.R. is an advocacy initiative created to help and sensitize rape victims on the need to speak up and demand justice against the perpetrators.
A graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Esther Ijewere is a social entrepreneur, activist, writer and mother of two. She celebrates outstanding women on “Women of Rubies” a column she runs on the Guardian Newspaper.
She is also the Executive Director of Rubies Ink Initiative – a social outfit devoted to youth advocacy, public relations and creating solutions and strategy for social enterprises. She was awarded Young Person of the Year Award in 2016.
In this interview with ELSiEiSY, she takes us through her journey of breaking the silence and setting the sail for a changing world.
Who is Esther Ijewere?
Esther Ijewere is an enterprising social activist, youth advocate, Columnist, author, PR Consultant , mother of two and the Executive Director of Rubies Ink Initiative- an organization outfit devoted to youth advocacy, public relations and social enterprise solutions among others. An Olabisi Onabanjo University-trained Sociologist, as a social advocate, she is the brain behind W.A.R- Walk Against Rape, an advocacy initiative created to lend a voice for the victims of rape and demand justice for the perpetrator’s, an initiative endorsed by the Lagos State Ministry Of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. She is also a columnist with The Guardian newspaper with her page Women of Rubies, a platform used to celebrate exceptional women with inspiring stories. The page is a sequel to her award-winning blog www.womenofrubies.com, which is fast becoming the one stop blog for the everyday woman. I am also a certified ‘On Air Personality’ but that’s one of the many caps I am yet to explore. I believe in learning and acquiring knowledge as much as one can in any field of interest – if you can think it, then you can do it.
What is the story behind Women of Rubies and Walk Against Rape Campaign?
Women of rubies was borne out of passion to pay it forward by making the right platform available to showcase the work of the everyday woman and also celebrate them. I believe everyone deserves to have a voice in the society, as long as you are adding value and impacting lives you are a potential woman of rubies, from the akara seller by the road side who is also a home maker to the professional woman who sits on top of a board where she is the only female, they all deserve to be showcased.
Walk against Rape being the first of its kind in Nigeria when we started over 7 years ago was founded to create awareness on the scourge of rape and sensitize victims on the need to speak up, thereby adopting celebrities and Social Media Influencers as change agents and ambassadors to help get the message to the society faster
Since you started your campaign, will you say there’s significant change in the attention given to rape victims and justice against the perpetrators?
Absolutely! Victims are not afraid to speak up anymore, gone are the days of the taboo and shaming attached to being a victim, even while we are still trying to correct these vices through advocacy we can see the significant change and attitude of the society towards victims of Rape. The Police don’t treat cases of rape with levity anymore and social media has further helped to bring these cases to the front burner, thereby getting quick justice for the victims. It’s a gradual process but I believe we will get there.
What are some of the challenges you face with your work? Have you met any kind of resistance from the people you are trying to reach?
The online attacks when I speak up for a victim or bring a story to fore, there is also the problem of culture and traditional rulers in some communities we take our sensitization workshops to, most of them don’t believe women actually get raped and often times make it difficult for us to reach our target audience in these communities but we are breaking those barriers one step at a time.
How can individuals support the fight against rape in their own little way?
Be an advocate in your community, church, school or place of work, encourage victims to speak up, tell parents to pay more attention to their kids and If you see something, say something.
So far, have you gotten any significant support from the government in this fight against rape?
Since 2009, the Lagos State Government through its Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth and Social Development down to the Local Government level, have contributed to the success of our programs. The Ministry of Women Affairs, for example, has been partnering with us since 2010 and also, take up most of the cases reported to us while we follow it up to a justifiable end.
Looking at our laws and constitution, what is the biggest challenge for fight against rape and how can the government rectify this?
I must say that in this regard the Lagos State Government stands out, We have seen some the laws being implemented, that was our biggest challenge in the beginning, we just didn’t want Government enacting laws, we wanted to see it being put to use, to see these perpetrators paying for their crimes, I will encourage them to keep the pace and continue to work with stakeholders in the GBV sector to make sure victims get justice and also intensify the awareness. We need to take the sensitization to the grassroots and we can’t do it alone without Government complementing our work
Who or What will you say has been your strongest support system?
What else do you do outside activism and writing?
I am a PR consultant, I have handled quite a number of campaigns for several top brands but that’s a silent side of my hustle. I wear quite a number of caps I don’t talk about openly to avoid conflict of interest but that tilts more towards my entrepreneurial and business side.
What message do you have for women?
Believe in yourself, always know how valuable and uniquely beautiful you are and above all wear your confidence like a beautiful dress. You are enough.