Nigerian human rights activist and feminist Dorothy Akenova shares her personal story about growing up and reasons why she has been advocating for the social inclusion and acceptance of LGBT people in Nigeria.
Read her story below.
I was a victim of differential treatment as a child. I fought my way through it to get the same educational opportunities as my male siblings. I fought my way over dress codes within the family. I was always defending myself and got physical beatings regularly for asserting myself.
I grew up with the capability of spotting the difference in how people were treated. I analysed the socio-political contexts that I lived in and was always aware of inequality, particularly between men and women. Working with a women’s health organisation helped me to organise my thoughts and contextualize my response. It also helped me to institutionalise my response and helped me to expand my analysis and scope of engagement beyond me and my friends to the broader society.
I call myself a feminist because I am able to challenge situations of inequality, design and implement interventions to bring about change. Integrity, diversity and choice are the values that I hold dear. I have been part of the group of feminists and human rights activists who have worked to shift the paradigm of “sexual reproductive health rights”; two separate but related focuses on sexual health and rights and reproductive health and rights. I have advocated over the years for attention to and respect for sexual rights, especially for sexual minorities. I have also been part of the movement to shift a focus from pathology in dealing with sexual health, to a focus on rights.
I am vocal about the need to use sexual pleasure as an entry point for addressing women’s health and rights issues. We need to place the positive aspects of sex and sexuality at the centre of our interventions, and not just try and make people change their behaviour out of fear.
In my work I continue to train and advocate at a community level and around Nigerian government policies, and I’m also part of activist networks that are pushing for the respect of sexual and human rights of sexual minorities at the United Nations and in the African regional level. I am motivated to make a difference. In my view the more orgasms that are out there, under conditions that are safe and respectful of rights, the more motivated I am to continue my work, and inspired that change is in fact happening.