As tens of thousands of people watched from offices, shops, and the sides of the road, the Thursdays in Black “street walk” made it way through Abuja, Nigeria, on the afternoon of 23 August.
Nearly 150 young people came out to support the campaign, seeking a world without rape and violence. A heavy rain was falling, but that seemed to encourage the walkers, drop by drop. They represented the Presbyterian Young People’s Association of Nigeria, the youth wing of Christian Council of Nigeria, the First Initiative Family Integration Relief and Societal Transformation Initiatives, the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria - and many simply represented themselves, their communities and their families.
As Rev. Ikechukwu Anaga addressed young people and the media, the rain seemed to fall even harder. “Do not pay attention to the rains, because it will not stop us,” said Anaga. “We may get drenched in it, but our voices under the rains will re-echo in the hearts of perpetrators of rape and violence and they will turn a new leaf.”
Anaga named the reason for the walk: the young people and our generations unborn. “When the issues of rape and every form of violence, especially against our women and girls, are reduced to the barest minimum and perpetrators brought to book, our world will be a better place for our generation and generation unborn,” said Anaga. “We must make a statement through this walk that every form of gender-based violence entrenched in our cultures and systems must be revisited and expunged. Since we are in Abuja and the seat of power in Nigeria, the policy makers could hear our voices and do the needful.”
Emmanuel Oricha, founder and executive director of First Initiative Family Integration Relief and Societal Transformation Initiatives, reflected that it is the collective responsibility of young people to make the world better by stopping every form of rape and gender-based violence. “Let us walk with our heads high and stamp out rape and gender-based violence from our society,” he urged.
Rev. Uja Orji, minister in charge of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria’s Gwarimpa parish, said the walk has a twofold blessing: “It is an activism and protest against rape and all forms of violence, especially gender-based violence,” said Orji. “It is also part of a bodily exercise to keep the young people healthy: to defend our girls and women from perpetrators of gender-based violence.”
The walk was supported by the World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy in addition to the participating organizations.