On February 13 and 14, 2021, One Billion Rising, a global activism movement partnered with IRISE, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) with agenda to fight institutional slavery and gender-based violence, Supol Martins Martial Arts Services, Kwara State Ministry of Art and Culture and Farming Communities respectively with major purpose to fight for gender justice and mother earth and also train the girl-child on the principles of resilience, self-control and self-defense. CYRIACUS NNAJI reports.
With the theme ‘Fight for Gender Justice & Mother Earth, Using Martial Arts to tackle Gender-based violence and Environmental Degradation” Festac Town Lagos was agog as young men and women assembled for the sole purpose of finding the connection, synergy and symmetry between gender justice and mother earth through martial arts.
Even children of three years were seen jogging, kicking and controlling things as they went through martial arts tutorials all aimed at building self-defense and self-confidence.
Also on February 14, 2021, in partnership with Kwara State Art and Culture and Farming Communities, One Billion Rising was in Kwara State to sensitise the people to join the global call for “RISING GARDENS” the re-awakening of Women as custodians of the earth and mother of humanity, to enlighten communities through women on the importance of Mother Earth’s protection for the sustenance of all lives and food sustainability. In Kwara State the people came out in great numbers to embrace the message of 1billion Rising.
Recall that One Billion Rising is a global campaign founded by Eve Ensler, to end rape and sexual violence against women. It was started in 2012 as part of the V-Day movement. The “billion” refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
Speaking to the media, Omodele Ibitoye, Executive Director, IRISE and Country Coordinator for One Billion Rising in Nigeria, disclosed that their work include tackling gender based violence through campaigns, advocacy, sensitization, infusing of dance, culture and drama into what they do. “We bring every art that can impact humans positively to be able to pass our message.”
She said working with Supol Martins was aimed at grooming the young girls into becoming self-confident persons. “We came to understand that Marshal Arts is not all about fighting, it is also about resilience, learning about self-control and self-defense. You can see situation in the country where young people are being kidnapped in schools and you see surging rates of gender-based violence, you see young girls, teenage girls, little girls being sexually assaulted by even relatives in the home front, so working with Supol Martins Martial Arts Services would help the young girls get ready for the challenges they meet in life.
“So it is not all about fighting, it is about self-control, teaching young people to be better citizens, that is what martial arts is, we work all the time; our job is to help the society become better,” Ibitoye stated.
Shihan Martins Alufohai Gabriel, the Chief Instructor of Supol Martins Martial Arts Academy, also responded by saying Martial Arts is vital for self-defense and it also helps in terms of health.
Martins who has been in the business of Martial Arts since 39 years ago, having represented Nigeria in 1999, 1995 All African Games, where in 1999 he came back with Bronze medal said “People have seen the impact of martial arts, when you are martial arts person you walk with confidence.”
On his relationship with Irise, he said “This is the first time we are collaborating; next one will be massive. We have been talking to ensure this comes to fruition, God being so kind I believe more will come, you will see a lot of us coming out,” he said.
Maryjane, a One Billion Rising Activist and Secretary, Irise Nigeria, said Irise is an NGO that fights for women generally, “It helps them to know their right, as you can see, most women don’t really know their right, and with current trend women experience in our society, domestic violence, all the things happening to the Nigeria women, the way we are been massacred in Southern Kaduna, and all the ills that are ongoing, we gather women every time, every year to educate them on their right and what to do when they find themselves in such problem.”
Speaking also on the theme of the event, Maryjane said, “For this year One Billion Rising titled it the Rising Gardens, Now I see women as the garden and I also see the mother earth as that garden, we are gathering women to teach them how to protect that earth, you know climate change is really doing a lot of problem in the whole world. We have climate emergency.
“So we gather women, we tell them the earth needs to be protected. If we don’t protect our garden, if we don’t protect our climate we all will go extinct, so this year we are collaborating with farmers, women and talking about Martial Arts, we keep advising women, come out, join this Martial Arts for you self-defense. Train your girl child, they will be well groomed, if for instance I am a martial arts somebody, even if I meet the Fulani herdsmen anywhere to want to come I will be ready to fight them; they have the gun I have the skill,” she said.
She said martial art is for self-defense and not to cause havoc, maintaining that the trainees are made to understand that they cannot abuse their skill as the title will be stripped off such person. “You don’t go about fighting, you don’t bully at home it is for your own self-defense and for your own discipline.”
What the world should know about One Billion Rising 2021: Rising Gardens Campaign
Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly blown open the destructive veins of neo-liberalism, capitalism, racism, fascism and patriarchy, revealing violent and broken systems that have been forced upon humans for far too long. With each day, we see that the majority of people who are dying are those who have been historically exploited, oppressed, marginalized and discriminated against because of race, gender, class, caste.
Additionally, the sacred connection that Indigenous communities hold with the land has been violated through colonization, broken treaties, and the continuous human rights violations made against Indigenous people.
Across the planet, the majority of front line workers, health care workers, home care workers, domestic workers, and farm workers are women. Like the Earth, they are the least valued and protected.
We must RISE to value, protect and uplift those who are doing essential work. We must RISE for the Earth, which is the most essential to all life.
We call on everyone around the world to RISE in honor and celebration of our women workers, and to create and grow Rising Gardens.
Why Rising Gardens?
Gardens remind us of our enduring connection to life, to each other and to Earth, which compels us to do everything in our power to protect and nurture life and all that is sacred without doing harm. The cultivation of plant life is also a means for survival. Growing food in a garden organically – be it your own indoor garden or a community garden – allow you to feed yourself and your community. It provides autonomy and underscores the need for food security in a world where so many are denied these essential resources. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported in April that the coronavirus pandemic could double the number of people suffering from acute food insecurity this year to around 265 million globally.
Maintaining a garden is an act of resistance because it does the opposite of what the capitalist machinery does – it connects people and communities with the Earth. To grow one’s own food, to grow beauty and life – is revolutionary in this age of ecological, environmental, societal, spiritual collapse. To put our energies, our creativity, our hearts into everything that can grow and sustain all forms of life when the current world order is bent on destruction is a radical political act. The existence and persistence of community gardens in food deserts and low-income neighborhoods is a testament to the resilience of the Black and Brown communities who cultivate them.
Tending to a garden, like nurturing own communities, requires patience, creativity, love, care, attentiveness, presence, diligence, mindfulness and commitment. Gardening, she said, centralizes growing and giving, and it is not about taking or acquiring.
Gardens place us firmly and deeply in the art of honoring life, becoming artistic beds of Creative Resistance. Gardens are sacred spaces that engage and awaken our senses, make us believe in wonder, beauty and connection to all living beings. Like theatre, they are a place of play and of transformation – where we can celebrate and contribute to life.