Lagos-born and rape survivor Ayodeji Osowobi #StandtoEndRape

There was a time the word 'activist' was associated with waving placards, demonstration marches, and some incidents of vandalism and arson. Today, the advent of social media means that a physical presence may not necessarily be required to begin a movement, stand up to be counted or to make an impact.

STER founder Ayodeji Osowobi (Photo: Osowobi)

For Lagos-born Ayodeji Osowobisocial media can be effectively utilised to “say no to rape and stigmatization”.  On September  2013, Osowobi  founded  the online initiative Stand To End Rape (STER).

Stand To End Rape (STER) is an online advocacy organisation which aims to raise awareness about the effects and stigma associated to rape, while providing practical suggestions to curb them. The organisation uses its blog to share the stories of rape survivors.  The story behind the making STER is very personal to this U.N. youth forum member. 

"I am a rape survivor. Creating STER is my own little way of ensuring that no other girl goes through what I have experienced," Osowobi said. "It's tough to be a victim of a rape without means to alleviate the problem. This is why I am taking a #StandtoEndRape in Nigeria and the continent of Africa at large."

Through STER, Osowobi, who has a passion for gender issues, has created a platform where rape survivors can have their voices heard without feeling stigmatised.

"Rape is an issue that people tend to shy away from, even though it destroys  many lives every day," Osowobi said. "Victims of rape cannot talk about their experiences because of the stigmatisation that is entrenched in our society."

As the STER coordinator, Osowobi makes sure that the organisation achieves its aims and objectives. She is the one who reaches out and provides counsel to the STER rape survivors and runs a session which is called #SpeakOut. The session #SpeakOut is an avenue where rape survivors can break the silence and speak up safely. 

With the help of STER volunteers, Osowobi looks for the right sponsors and schools where STER can hold seminars to educate students. The large team consists of Abimbola Abiola, Oluwatosin Francesca, Olowokande, Arome Ameh, Timidi Digha, Victoria Ibiwoye, to name a few. 

Mentored by her mother to live a life worthy of emulation, Osowobi obtained her Masters Degree in International Relations from Swansea University located in the United Kindgom (U.K.) last year. She specialized in Gender Studies. Osowobi gives credit to her mother for encouraging her not to entertain any fears in the pursuit of her goals.

In April 2013, she completed a three-month internship with the United Nations, and proceeded to gain more experience of issues affecting women and girls with New York-based Half The Sky Movement

Rape is a prevalent issue with too many different aspects to exhaust them all. But Osowobi has seen survivors of rape shamed into silence because of the stigma attached to rape. The pain of witnessing trauma leading to depression, and even suicide helped her to conceive STER in 2011.

Starting in New York, and slowly spreading to other parts of the globe, counseling and support are also provided to deal with Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). Staffed by dedicated volunteers (who are professionals in their own rights), STER also partners with law enforcement agencies to seek legal redress on behalf of victims and survivors. Furthermore, the organisation engages in, and encourages discussions on social media to enable communities get involved.

From those posed by the culture of shameful silence imposed on rape victims to comments by some who would rather prefer that the menace continues, challenges are many. 

“Some have tagged us 'jobless', for wanting to end rape” Osowobi said. "Funding (or lack of it) is also challenging. Rape survivors contact us wanting to come speak to us in person, but they can’t because we don’t have our office yet.”

The STER team is currently looking into acquiring their offices in Lagos as well as other states in Nigeria. They hope that their work will reduce the number of rape victims and survivors will be able to trust them to help them get justice.

"By our fifth birthday, we hope to have made our voices heard," the STER founder Osowobi said. "We also hope to reach out  more people and to achieve at least 80% of our goals."

You may support the organisation by  volunteering, partnering, networking with STER or sharing the work done by Osowobi and her team. You may also use resources such as T-shirts, books and similar materials to educate others on rape and make a stand against rape.  
Copyright©Chioma Nnani, 2014

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