What is life if we are arrested and cuffed down by fear for safety?
Being a woman in Nigeria comes with the anxiety over safety and security. Growing up, I’d watch the boys play on the streets with eyes that longed to be part of the fun. I wanted to be there, but my mother said “it is not safe for girls outside.” I personally hated her for it, I felt she had sexist views; but now I totally get it.
Hinny Umoren was raped and murdered after being lured by a fake job interview in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State; Adewura Lateefat Bello was found dead in a canal after boarding a bike in Lagos; Mercy Henry was found mutilated and buried in different sacks behind the building of a traditional healer in Ogun; Egbe Ogocukwu Rita was found dead with multiple stab wounds and some of her pubic hair removed in Enugu; Oluwabamise Ayanwole was found dead with missing body parts after boarding a BRT bus in Lagos.
The pain these women had to face before death; the pain their loved ones have to live with; the questions of ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs’ the world has to ask, are the reasons why my mother locked me in while the boys played outside. However, what is life if we are arrested and cuffed down by the fear for safety?
Some safety tips for women in Nigeria
1. Utilise Business Securities
When leaving a business (or store) late at night, (if available) ask a security guard to walk you to your car. Do not go up to just any security guard. Seek a member of staff and ask for them to assign an officer to escort you. Predators sometimes dress up to resemble security or other authority figures.
2 . Park your vehicle in a well-lighted area
Even in daylight hours, you may want to park near a light pole so if you leave when it is darker, your car will be in a well-lit location.
3 . Your room number should be your business only
When checking into a hotel room, if the person at the front desk says your room number out loud, ask them to give you a new room and write the number on a piece of paper. Or when you check-in, ask up front to not say your room number out loud.
4. Know when to use your socials
Don’t check-in on social media apps when you arrive somewhere. Instead, check in as you leave. This way no one will be able to digitally stalk you and know your every move or when you’re not at home. Along the same lines, avoid tweeting or Facebooking from vacation, especially if your account is public, as it is a way of letting the world know your home is unoccupied.
5 . Always update a loved one about your location
If possible, share a live location on Whatsapp. Whenever you feel unsafe, text a loved one about your current security situation so that someone can be on the lookout. Activate your speed dials. Update loved ones when you get home.
6 . Please trust and make good use of your ‘gut feel’ or ‘intuition’
There will invariably be signs, however small or seemingly insignificant, that tell or alarm you that all is just not OK. You may not understand it or be able to analyse it consciously, but please do NOT ignore it. It is your personal threat alarm beeping.
7 . As much as possible avoid late night travel using public transport
If avoiding is not possible then be sure to travel only on crowded buses. Avoid taking road side cabs. Avoid using a bus which has no passenger or few passenger
8 . Following are the most vulnerable areas to attack:
Use your knees to hit hard between the legs of the attacker.
Using your fingers to poke hard in the eyes.
Hitting the front part of the neck on the Adams apple will leave him in a shock.
Punching in the stomach will leave the attacker breathless & unable to chase you.
Hitting hard in the chest area
9 . Research locations you are invited to
Google the locations you are invited to, especially if you have never been there. Check for popular landmarks around the area. Also read news stories that mention that location. Be sure to study your map for routes before you get there.
10 . When you move to a new house
Change the locks of your doors. Study your environment and be cordial with securities and other servants around. Do not bring strangers to your home. Speak up if you notice strangers loitering around your home. Check for hidden cameras in the compound. Check for emergency exits. Install alarms that can alert neighbours. Buy a pepper spray.