Learn How Ijeoma Ndukwe Is Creating Awareness For Gender Equality

Interviewed by Uzoamaka Mbara

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Ijeoma Ndukwe?

I grew up in Umuahia, Abia State. I studied Foreign Language and Translation Studies. I am passionate about service. I volunteer for a couple of NGOs because I believe that we can all do something positive, no matter how little, to contribute to the development of our society. So, volunteering is important, and I think we need to cultivate a volunteer culture in Nigeria. I love music. I love to read. I love movies.

Can you tell us more about your organization Share Anonymous and the SDGs you are working with?

Share Anonymous Initiative is an ongoing project that is transforming society’s understanding and response to sexual and domestic violence through storytelling, data, and technology.

We provide a safe space where victims and survivors can reclaim their voices and share their stories anonymously. The first step in the healing process is breaking silence and talking about what happened. It helps reconstruct repressed memory, mourn loss, and master helplessness caused by the trauma from the experience. Talking about the experience is also important because if the survivor is lucky and a compassionate person or community bears witness to the experience, they can help the survivor to redefine what that experience meant to them and then they can forge new meaning. Anonymity is an important part of our work because we believe that it will help protect the survivors’ privacy, mental health, and protect them from further harm.

We also curate data on sexual violence and the affecting trauma. Our data is open and accessible to all citizens; we believe data would help a great deal in bringing a better understanding about the extent of sexual violence in our society and the way it affects the people who have experienced it. We also believe that understanding the different dynamics of sexual victimization would help dispel some of the unhelpful myths which prevents compassion and support for survivors. One of the ways we can eradicate rape culture is by educating the public and the survivors themselves about sexual violence and trauma which would ultimate help encourage a more positive response to stories and reports of this crime and then we can have better outcomes for victims and survivors. We see data as an important part of achieving this.

Our goal is to build a community of survivors who support each other. We have provided a discussion forum where survivors can share their recovery journey, ask questions, provide helpful information to other survivors, and get support and solidarity. Building a supportive community, which is open 24/7, where survivors are free to talk about whatever difficulties they may be having at any moment, and where they can receive support from counselors would help to not only expedite the healing process but also provide an opportunity to understand what surviving sexual violence means and what intervention strategies are helpful or not.

We also provide free legal and psychological support to victims and survivors, and we conduct periodic comprehensive sexual education for pupils and students in primary and secondary school.

The Global Goal we are working on is Goal 5 and 16.

What inspired the work you do?

We began Share Anonymous Initiative because we discovered that victims and survivors are ready to speak out about their experiences. However, we noticed on social media that people’s reactions to the stories were negative. The survivors were judged, and their stories scrutinized which can be retraumatizing. And so, we thought there should be a better way to speak out but not only that, we decided that we can help their recovery by either connecting them with the therapist who works with us or with other trusted organizations who are doing amazing work in this field.

We also recognized the negative reactions to survivors as an opportunity to educate and help everyone become knowledgeable about the effects of sexual violence. Victims and survivors know what it’s like to live with the effects of sexual violence, and they can teach us more than we can teach them; by exploring all the ways survivors are affected by this crime, how sexual predators work, the different forms of sexual violence, etc. we can move from judgment and blame to empathy and support – this is what survivor culture is all about. We also knew that if victims and survivors had the tools to track their progress and compare themselves to others who have gone through the same thing, they could learn more about how to improve their outcomes.

Can you suggest ways African leaders can ensure that we achieve the Global Goals?

I think African leaders should recognize the need for collective action because successfully achieving the SDGs is a shared challenge that we all need to tackle together.  It is important that governments, the business sector, society, and individual citizens come together to contribute in creative ways to making sure the Global Goals are met, therefore, African leaders should create opportunities for people to come together and generate their own answers and solutions.

What do you think young people can do differently for us to advocate for the Global Goals?

Young people are the most to gain or lose depending on the extent to which these goals are achieved. Therefore, it is in our best interest to play key leadership roles in understanding, promoting, and supporting efforts to help achieve the Global Goals. We can increase and sustain outreach efforts in our communities, making sure that everyone is aware of the Sustainable Development Goals to begin with and their role in the achievement of the Goals, because people who are informed and knowledgeable of the SDGs can help hold the government and leaders accountable.

Can you share a time in your leadership journey when you felt overwhelmed? How were you able to come out stronger?

Reading stories from survivors can be pretty overwhelming because of how horrific they are. There is no big or small incident, they are all bad. But thankfully, I have created some coping strategies that are really helpful, like grounding, meditation, self-care, etc.

What’s your biggest motivation?

That would be knowing that my life counts for something. The understanding that what I do or say, no matter how small, can in some way, benefit someone or our society.

What are your plans for the future as an individual and for your initiative?

For me personally, my plans for the future are the same plans I have for my present: to be happy, to be at peace, and to be content with who and where I am.

For Share Anonymous Initiative, we understand that victims and survivors include a diverse set of individuals with widely varying needs. We are committed to assessing and enhancing our services to survivors and advocacy, making the necessary changes to meet their needs as we grow.

What’s your philosophy of life?

… Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God.

If your life was a book what will the title be?

There is definitely more.

What advice can you give to young who are still trying to find themselves?

I would say, don’t go looking elsewhere for yourself. Look within you and be patient as the person you have always been continues to grow and evolve per season.

You can learn more about Ijeoma Ndukwe’s work by visiting https://shareanonymous.org/ or checking their social media @ShareAnonymous