The story of Cesved is the story of numerous girls and women who have suffered, or died, due to harmful practises based on traditional and cultural beliefs in Nigeria. But it is also the story of all those who have overcome and escaped the pain due to our work, determination and passion to eradicate gender-based violence in our country - and beyond. Here are just a few of those stories we would like to share.
I will never forget the pain
Debora is a widow from Kobacha in Northern Nigeria. She experienced the pain a woman has to go through when their husband has passed away. The traditional punishment for a widow is to drink the water used to bathe her husband’s corpse. If the woman refuses, she will be accused of having killed her husband. Only after the ritual is the widow allowed to go. For days, months or years it remains to be seen if she will either live or be harmed, often by the family of the deceased.
Cesved campaigns for an end of harmful bereavement practices, and has so far saved many women from harm and humiliation.
My breast was ironed
Lemi is a girl of only 10 years. She had her breast ironed a couple of years ago. Her mother tried to justify what she did to her daughter: “I wanted to save Lemi from future danger and harm, and to make her breast milk flow well when she is having children. It is good that she will not have big breasts.”
Cesved takes every possible step to end this harmful practice across Nigeria, and to educate people about its true effect on young girls.
On the way to circumcision
Cesved and their team of workers and volunteers rescued over 500 young girls marching to various homes where they were about to be circumcised.
The Breast Ironing nuts
The rural and remote village of Kurumi has always been watched closely by Cesved. Every year between 25 and 28 December, there is a day set aside to iron the girls’ breasts and to celebrate as they return home for Christmas. The young girls are forced to run a long distance into the forest where they collect special nuts with which their breasts will be ironed. Most of the girls are not strong enough to run back, so they are held back in the forest where a fire is set and the nuts are heated to iron their breast. Those girls who can, run back into the village and hand the nuts over to the practitioners. Once the nuts are heated, the girls are asked to remove their clothes and the hot nuts are used to mash their breast tissue until the growing breast disappears.
Cesved regularly visits Kurumi to educate everyone involved in the act of Breast Ironing and to alert them on the dangers and risks. Cesved has also designed a program to help traditional practitioners make a living through farming, not through Breast Ironing.
Widows and the evil Forest of War
Widows are sent into the “Forest of War” to make war charms, and to fight and protect the community from enemies. Cesved took care of the widows and provided funds and crops for them so that they were able to start farming and make a living for themselves.
Against Female Genital Mutilation and for widows’ rights in Kobacha
Kobacha is one of many remote rural communities where Female Genital Mutilation is still very common, and where the slavery of widows has dramatically increased. Cesved left no stone unturned on New Year’s Day 2014, when the entire team was in the field working to protect the lives of young girls, women and widows.
The first day of the year is always set aside for Female Circumcision, as well as for sending widows to the “evil forest” where they are forced to stay until the next day. Cesved was determined to stop this tradition. Gift mobilised volunteers in the community and some of the youths to support the first rally on the morning of 1 January to protest against the practices.
The streets in the community were filled with young boys and girls distributing leaflets and chanting songs to highlight the problem of practitioners and parents supporting or carrying out these harmful traditional practices.