Despite years of violence at the hands of her partner, Chisimdi had the strength to raise and provide for her four children. After leaving the relationship behind, she regained her voice and courage. #SheDares to stand up against child trafficking, even boldly standing in front of the President to advocate for the rights of women. This is her story.
I started my life as a promising girl who had all the love and attention of her parents. My father was a police officer who gave priority to his children’s education – all seven of us. But when I was forced to marry, my problems began.
My husband battered and abused me in more ways than I can count. He practically turned me into a slave. I bore four children who I singlehandedly raised and provided for, all their lives. Before his death in 2015, my husband’s priorities were alcohol and women. He would disappear for weeks without notice and return after squandering all his money. He would beat me, take my money and leave again. I still have the scars as I share my story now.
I was left running from one menial job to another. There is no kind of work I have not done in this life. And since I could not afford to send my children to school, I enrolled them in different skill trainings. My first three children are currently in Lagos State: a mechanic, a tailor and a mason. Twice in my life I was able to save up some money to buy a plot of land, but my husband sold them both.
I hated myself so much for allowing myself to get entangled in that situation. I contemplated suicide many times out of sheer frustration. I knew I deserved better than the life I was living. I worked twice as hard and secretly purchased another plot of land. Everyday, I would wake up and brainstorm how to make my life better.
Like an answered prayer, Women for Women International started operations in my community. Joining the program in 2016 was a huge relief for me, it presented a safe space for me where I could leave my troubles at the door, connect with my sisters and find support.
My confidence went from zero to hundred. I believed in myself again and I was taught how to value myself. I was the group leader and being trusted with that responsibility gave me a reason to smile every day. When we completed the program, I was even selected for further training to become a Change Agent for my community, a responsibility I hold dear to my heart. If I’d had this training earlier, I am certain my life would have taken a different turn. I found my voice, which had been stifled over the years. And now, wherever there is injustice – especially against a woman – you will always find me there.
As a Change Agent, I dare to end child trafficking, a menace that has become so rampant.
Parents give birth to children they cannot care for and send them to other states to work and send money back home. Many have been returned in coffins for us to bury, ending their dreams too young. It breaks my heart every time. I rallied my fellow Change Agents, and we went to the traditional ruler and police to demand that a local law be enacted to prevent parents from trafficking their children. The law was passed, and, so far, we have reported four people who were arrested and forced to bring the girls to our community. With other initiatives, we are optimistic that we can reverse parents’ mentality – trafficking children is not the only way to make money.
I receive a lot of hate from people who think they need to continue this practice, but regardless, I am very proud of myself, and I carry my shoulders high. From a bruised, abused, timid woman, I have dared to defy the odds. Today, I can even boldly stand in front of the President to advocate for the rights of women.
This would never have been possible without Women for Women International, who helped me find my voice, become confident and self-aware, and realize that no matter how small I am in society, I can bring about positive change.
From the economic training, I have built lucrative businesses for profit and access loans from my savings group and cooperative groups. Today, I am a proud owner of a house I built from the ground up, and I have moved out of my husband’s compound – away from the troubles of his siblings and other wives.
I am happy, my children are happy, my health is in check, and I know that the future holds so much more for me. I have the dream to one day run for political office – to have a stronger platform to help women in my community. I want to prove to myself and to the world that with the right knowledge and resources, there is absolutely nothing a woman cannot achieve.
I have suffered a great deal in this lifetime, and I will be damned if I do not fight for others to have it better than I did.