MarketMarchYaba Is The Beginning Of An Ongoing Conversation On Sexual Harassment

“I’ll just wear trousers abeg, na market I dey go”, “Babe, shay nothing is showing through this top abi?”

Every girl has said these and variations at least once.

Feminism: The rare notion that women are people and as such deserve equal respect to men. Walking the streets everyday hoping against all hope that nobody notices me; I’m wearing my ‘screp’ fit anyway so you should be as inconspicuous as possible, right? Right? Wrong, because it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing. I’m a woman, I might as well have ‘harass me’ written on my forehead.

I hardly go to the market. I hate it. ‘Fine geh, my colour, my wife, my spec etc’; the harassment is frustrating. I am grabbed and dragged and groped, and when I speak up? I’m rebuked, insulted: ‘na because I dey follow you play? Behave abeg. I get your type for house’. The entitlement is daunting and I try my best to ignore it, but unlike me, Omoge Dami took this fight to their house and I’m so happy to have witnessed such bravery.

MarketMarchYaba happened on the 15th of December. Women [and a few men] came out in all their anger and frustration to protest the harassment that comes with market trips. I was shopping with my mother when we heard “Olosho! Olosho!! Olosho!!!”, then I saw the yellow T-shirts and the placards: STOP TOUCHING US; the Market March. I couldn’t have been prouder at that moment. With every insult hurled at them, the voices got louder and louder. The women were confrontational, and the men they were protesting? Mad as ever. ‘Don’t come to the market if you don’t want to be touched’; they hurled every “insult” they could come up with, they slut-shamed, forcefully groped the women. They shamed the men also protesting for being allies, – man wey dey do like woman – the policemen supposed to be protecting the marchers laughed along with these men, but I watched the defiance in these women and I almost started crying with joy. MarketMarchYaba was a success.

It is a sad reality that when bad things happen to women, it is the woman’s decisions that are questioned. I am harassed on the street everyday, so this must mean that I wear clothes or say things that translates to an openness to harassment. NotAllMenFC did not miss out on the opportunity to refer to Yaba boys as uneducated as an excuse for their behaviour, ShalayeFC said the marchers should’ve chosen dialogue instead with some food and drinks, just make it a party yunno. The struggle to be left alone was covered up with illiteracy and less than 24 hours later the literate men folk are sexualizing a five-year-old child in shorts.

Until women and girls are seen as human beings and not fair game, the #MarketMarch will continue. Until the patriarchy is dismantled, the MarketMarch will continue. We’re coming, and we’re bringing The Calvary.

Women MUST begin and continue to live like the world they’ve built along side with men is fully theirs too. Women MUST live in a society where questioning their humanity is an absurdity. This fundamentally means that women MUST feel safe. Women MUST feel safe from harassment, objectification and gender based violence. It is our duty to make this ‘must’ become a total reality. Market March for me and for so many of our volunteers is our own expression of that duty. If women do not feel safe in the most public of spaces; the market.. then society cannot tell us that they are serious about women. – Damilola Marcus, Founder of Market March.

Are the actions of these men any different from what is obtainable in our corporate spheres where sexual assault and mansplaining are the order of the day? What happens when that girl you have been hitting on turns down your advances and in a bid to massage what’s left of your ego, your slut-shame amongst your guys? Are you also suffering from deficits in education? The truth remains that it is easier to judge from one’s high horses when one’s back is not the target, nonetheless we need to act better and treat our women like the Queens they are.

You do not necessarily have to toe the line I did, having to hear firsthand narration of these ordeals to better appreciate these women and realize that they deserve better. The titans have clashed on the media space and have been vocal about their distaste for these depraved behavior. However, my take is that it does not have to end as an argument for the timeline; we need to walk the talk. How about we expand our horizon and push for a legislation, at least in Lagos to this effect. We have the most vocal tool- The Media; let us hone it. In case you are at crossroads on how to join the movement, you could start from a simple follow on twitter. Lastly, solidarity is forever and important but monetary contributions are “importanter”. Initiatives like this need funds to ensure sustainability. Most importantly, let us strive to be better humans and leave the world better than we found it and it starts with the littlest actions; you do not have to carry the Feminist tag or have the orange avatar before you stand in the right.

Support the MarketMarch Initiative by signing this petition to enforce laws and policies against sexual harassment.

Written by Eseosa Belo-Osagie & Oludayo Olufowobi


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