The “Broken Bride” Project – An Interview with
~ Shirley Gillett, FMP Coordinator
FMP: How did you become interested in the issue of forced marriage?
JOHN: To start with, my sister’s case inspired me to write the book, Broken Bride. Seeing her gradually breaking down into something I would call a living death after a failed marriage to an older man she was forced to marry at the age of sixteen, gave me so much concern, and I thought, somebody has got to do something to help the upcoming generation of women from being victims.
FMP: You said you are a feminist man. How does that translate into your work to end forced marriage?
JOHN: Well, the word feminist sends shivers down the spines of most men because they believe it to mean aggression and rivalry against men. But I learned from some respected feminists in Nigeria that feminism should not be based on aggression against men or a battle for supremacy but on women’s empowerment. And I reasoned that as one whose work is aimed at empowering women, it’s not wrong to be regarded as a feminist man.
FMP: How are other attitudes toward women related to forced marriage?
JOHN: Behind the root causes of Forced Marriage is a perverted mentality and wrong beliefs (maybe from a culture or something passed down from generations) in some quarters about women that portrays them like property to be acquired or an object for sexual satisfaction. And the acquisition is sealed by marriage, with or without her consent. But a healthy attitude should not demean the woman.
FMP: What are the particular problems facing women in Nigeria regarding forced marriage?
JOHN: The Nigerian situation regarding forced marriage is not special since forced marriage and violence against women is a global phenomenon. But from research, forced marriage in Nigeria happens more in areas where the girl-child has little or no access to quality education, where education for the girl-child is almost seen as taboo by powerful male perverts who hide under religion and culture to rape the innocence of the girl child –an innocent girl. They are male charmers who pretend to be acting in the girl’s best interest. This is common in rural communities and most common in the northern part of the country. This is why the Broken Bride Project seeks to promote girl-child education, especially in the rural areas.
FMP: How is it different for a woman in rural Nigeria who is facing a forced marriage, than it would be for a woman living in a large city?
JOHN: The difference lies in the levels of their education, and the information and resources available to them. While the woman in the city is better exposed and has access to more resources and helpful information, the woman in a rural community is almost helpless. This is why the Broken Bride project is concentrating on the rural communities to help the rural girl-child who does not have the privilege of all these helpful resources.
FMP: Do you think forced marriage is a global issue?
JOHN: If it can happen in Canada where the woman is a lot more informed and exposed, then it’s a global issue. It can happen anywhere.
FMP: How do you think people from different countries and cultures can work together to end forced marriage?
JOHN: Partnership is the deal. The exchange of information, capacity training and funding from well-meaning individuals and organizations would help.
FMP: What made you want to partner with the Forced Marriage Project in Canada?
JOHN: To help each other in certain unique ways. Nobody can do a project of this magnitude alone without partnership. Two are always better than one because they will have good reward for their labour, so says the bible. It was a divine coincidence for me to have found the Forced Marriage Project that fights what I’m fighting against through my book, Broken Bride.
We have a similar vision, therefore there’s so much to benefit each other.
FMP: What do you think you can learn from Canadians who are working to end forced marriage?
JOHN: There’s a lot to learn, especially to learn the international dimension for fighting violence against women and forced marriage. I would get to see forced marriage from another side of the world and what they are doing to stop it.
FMP: What do you think Canadians can learn from Nigerians like yourself who are working to end forced marriage?
JOHN: Determination! The Determination to effect a change in the face of daunting challenges, with little or no motivation save passion for the cause. I like to talk a bit about the Nigerian woman here. Ah! The Nigerian woman is the strongest woman in the world. I say that when I look at my mother and other women who have been through a lot and yet still manage to uphold the family’s moral values. The family is the nucleus of the society and when it’s destroyed societies fall apart, and children go wayward. The Nigerian woman can weather any storm to protect her family.
John Onuoha’s book, Broken Bride, is available from Amazon.com.
John Onuoha will be in Toronto at the end of May 2013. He will have a book reading session, share his challenges in ending forced marriage in his rural community of Nigeria, and discuss ways to work collaboratively with Canadians to end forced marriage wherever it exists. Keep an eye on the “Events” section of our newsletter for the dates and times of his engagements this May. You can reach him through the Forced Marriage Project or email him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Village in India: Where a Cow Costs More Than a Woman
~ Carl Gierstorfer, for the Pulitzer Center
It is only a two-hour ride from Delhi to Mewat, a district in Haryana that our driver calls “the badlands.” But never be fooled by distance in India because customs, norms, even the rule of law, can change as fast as urban clutter gives way to rice paddies and villages.
Shafiq wants to introduce us to trafficked women in Aterna, a village of a few hundred people. He says in Aterna alone there are 32 of so-called Paro women (a derogatory term for foreigners). Given a family size of at least five people, there is hardly a family without a Paro – as a purchased wife, maid and field laborer, often trafficked from poorer parts of India.
The situation these women are in is nothing short of slavery. READ MORE…
International Women’s Day (IWD)
Date: March 8, 2013
Visit the IWD website to search over 1000 International Women’s Day events across the globe.
Women In Film Festival in Celebration of International Women’s Day 2013
Place: Sheridan College, Hazel McCallion Campus
4180 Duke of York Boulevard
Date: Friday March 8, 2013
Time: 5pm – 10:30pm
For more information or to purchase tickets: HERE (Deadline for tickets: March 7th)
Assaulted Women’s Helpline 10th Annual Gala Fundraiser
Place: Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex
25 British Columbia Road
Date: Friday April 19, 2013
Time: 6:30pm – 11:00pm
For more information or to purchase tickets: HERE (Deadline for tickets: April 12th, 5pm)
3rd Annual Impact of Family Violence Conference:
A South Asian Perspective
Place: Sheridan College Brampton Campus
7899 McLaughlin Road
Date: May 1 & 2, 2013
Time: 8am – 4:30pm
For more information or to register to attend: HERE (Early bird registration deadline: March 31)
Sex Work and Stigma: A Forum on Sex Work Realities – Register Today!
Place: Peterborough Public Library Auditorium
345 Aylmer Street
Date: Wednesday May 15, 2013
Time: 9:00am – 4:30pm
All inquiries and to register, contact: email@example.com (Registration Deadline: April 15th)