Research by a Nigerian activist group says about 20 percent of women in Nigeria live with a disability. Activists say many of those women suffer injustices because of their condition, including violence.
But one disabled woman is helping women like her get healthcare and seek justice.
Eberendu Onyinyechi was just one year old when an illness caused her to lose the use of both of her legs.
She did not let her condition stop her from reaching her life goals, however. She earned a college degree in linguistics and now works for the Abuja government.
But Eberendu said she has experienced sexual violence.
“I think sex is supposed to be something I consent to, you don't force me to do it, you don't try to use the strength of a man to try to take it. But unfortunately, that's what many of us suffer."
Nigerian women and girls with disabilities face three times more risk of violence because of their sex than those without disabilities. That information comes from the non-profit Disabilities Rights Advocacy Center, or DRAC, based in Abuja.
Irene Patrick leads the group. She said violence by intimate partners is the most common situation. DRAC is helping women and girls with disabilities seek justice.
Patrick said the situation in Nigeria is serious. She said people often do not believe a woman with disabilities who accuses someone of rape. Patrick said this is preventing these women from getting justice. She added that, “even when they report, nothing is done about it and in some cases they're actually ridiculed."
Nigeria signed a disabilities rights act into law in 2018. But activists argue that a lack of knowledge and ability to bring cases continue to hurt efforts by Nigeria's disabled women to get justice. The activists also say that a lack of money is a problem.
Emmanuel Adedeji is a lawyer with the Nigerian Bar Association. He promised his group's support at a recent meeting.
He said, “The Nigerian Bar Association will be willing…to be part of any initiative to protect the rights of persons with disabilities."
Organizations like DRAC say they will provide a safe place for women with disabilities to fight for equal justice.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Timothy Obiezu reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
degree – n. a title given, as to students, by a college or university
linguistics – n. the study of language and of the way languages work
consent – n. permission for something to happen or be done
intimate – adj. having a very close relationship; very warm and friendly
ridiculed – v. made fun of; laughed at or joked about in a cruel or harsh way