Miss Nigeria 2018 is speaking up for what is Nigeria’s own #MeToo Movement. Mildred Ehiguese says her main priority as a titleholder is to cater to victims of rape and other survivors of child abuse in her African country.
Ehiguese studied psychology at the Redeemers’ University in Ede, Osun, and wants to make sure there is not just medical help for victims but rather psychological help and even empowerment opportunities available for them after the trauma.
The topic of rape and providing help for the survivors afterwards is one platform several Nigerian titleholders are speaking up about. The previous Miss Nigeria 2016, who just gave up her crown, Chioma Obiadi, went as far as lobbying the federal government to enact a law to sentence rapists to life in prison and make their identities public knowledge to help reduce the epidemic, which is on the rise.
Act of war In 2014, 200 school-aged women and children were abducted by the Boko Haram (a militant terrorist group) in the middle of the night from their school (similar to a boarding school in the United States) and kept hostage for three years, some of which are still being held hostage. For some who managed to escape the Boko Haram, their trauma only continued where they were sexually assaulted in a camp designed for victims of war by the very same Nigerian Security Officials, camp leaders, police and soldiers meant to protect them from the militant group. It has become a part of the horror of war with the Boko Haram, who has taken over much of northeastern Nigeria for the last eight years. According to the United Nations, roughly 7,000 young girls, teens and women have been abducted, raped and disguised as “brides” for the fighters.
Former Miss Nigeria 2013, Ezinne Akudo, says this type of sexual violence is a crime against humanity and an infringement of the rights of the victims. The lack of response and justice in court for the survivors led her to begin her own efforts to help them. The Eight Foundation Rape Crisis Centre in Lagos is a hospital-based organization ran to help provide the proper care for survivors like medical care, counseling, rehabilitation and legal assistance. The center works with the Public Defender’s office, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team and a forensic testing department. Her inspiration behind the foundation came from the silence often seen in survivors who wish to not report the abuse or worse, keep the entire incident to themselves.
"This is why we are partnering with this foundation to assist victims and help them out-live the trauma that comes with sexual violence,” Akudo said. All these beauty queens are definitions of not simply standing by but addressing a need head-on. Each woman is working to change a terrible stigma and bring a voice to the voiceless and often silenced demographic of women in Nigeria.