11 July 2017

Looking back: 3 months with Judith, human rights defender from Nigeria

Shelter City

What we knew:

“Judith works with Women’s health and Equal Rights (WHER) Initiative as the Program Officer. WHER is a Lesbian and Bisexual led organisation, focused on promoting the rights and wellbeing of sexual minority women in Nigeria, by addressing the effect of the dual discrimination (sexism and homophobia) faced by sexual minority women and their under-representation in the LGBT movement in Nigeria.”

Then she arrived:

Judith  started her stay in the Netherlands full of enthusiasm. Surprised: that she couldn’t get some food at 4 o’clock in the morning. Kids on bikes passing her at high speed. The Chinese supermarket selling African food! Jam, peppers, sweet potatoes and even African fish. Pictures were sent home. The peppers she bought the very first day, were enough for the rest of her 3 month stay. Judith made many friends, mainly at the COC, but also with the volunteers of Amnesty International. Parties, movies, dinners. At those moments she was cheerful, entertaining her friends, telling stories about the delicious African meals and celebrations where African women were using large cooking pots and mixing the rice with meat using huge spoons.

But her mood could also suddenly change. Then she told about home. The fear, the loneliness, the struggle, running from hotel room to hotel room, the pain of not being accepted, even not by her father. The first week she was seriously ill, having severe pains, doctors gave her very strong medications.

Her telephone was always on. Friends from Nigeria called her, asked her help. While she was in the Netherlands a new movie, a homophobia movie, was released in Nigeria. Friends had to hide because of pictures on Facebook.

Via Justice and Peace she could meet people of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of NGOs like HIVOS who were already supporting  LGBT organisations in Nigeria. She fought for a safe home. But following courses at the University required concentration. Thus, working on a plan for home was impossible as long as she even didn’t have a home. It took a while before she admitted: “My friends at home need help… but I need it too.”

Eline van Drongelen 4 July 2017