“Women In NIgeria Are Silenced And Bottled By Society”- Lola Omolola
I am Lola Omolola, founder of the Facebook group, Female IN. FIN is an online community of over 1,000,000 women and growing. It’s a safe space for women to share their struggles and experiences without judgement or bias. FIN is a support group for women by women. I started it in 2015 after the hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria trended on twitter. I realized that women in Nigeria were silenced and bottled by society from speaking up. Women have been conditioned to be silent because someone somewhere would be embarrassed by what they had to say…there are so many issues women face and it is a shame that they couldn’t stand in their truth and be themselves.
I come from a family that is liberal, where everyone is allowed to express their minds and I know how refreshing and freeing that is. I want every woman to have that freedom, that happiness to stand in their truth. To be able to be who they want, say what they want, without fear of reprisal. Its exhilarating. FIN is a way to disrupt the landscape, to help women appreciate their value. I believe that all of women’s issues are borne from the fact that they are silent and are not talking.Read also: Why Should I Greet My Fiance’s Younger Brother First?
It was a leap of faith. People I pitched the idea of FIN to would tell me it couldn’t work because Nigerians do not talk about their business to anyone. I didn’t let the idea of how our society works deter me. I knew that I wanted to create a platform for women to share, and that was my sole driving force. I have two daughters, and I want them to live in a permissive world, a world where they didn’t have to apologize for who they are. Where they could be comfortable in their own skin. And at the core of this feeling is the ability to say, ‘Hey, this is me. I am here and I am unapologetic about that.’ So I started the group, and I actually planned for tops, a 1000 women. I never dreamed it would be a million women. A million women who feel safe in their sisters’ arms, in a family where they are accepted unconditionally. I started when the Chibok girls were adopted, for me that was my push, I just knew that I had to start at that moment.
Nigerian women don’t enjoy silence. They are simply not talking because people have not given them the impression that they can be trusted enough to be talked to. We now have women from outside Nigeria as part of the group and were discovering that regardless of culture or national boundaries we all have similar experiences. So, we are highly moderated, judgmental and offensive comments are not permitted. We ban rule breakers unapologetically. It’s a closed group so you can only be invited by a friend who is already a member of the group. We make sure that members feel safe to share their experience.
The group has changed so many lives. I mean, women from other countries have put up strangers, whom they’ve never seen before or had prior relationship with in their homes, simply on the strength of them both being women. Women have helped women get jobs, have sent money in aid…We have rescued victims of domestic abuse, helped women finish projects, support businesses etc; we are a support system that works. We are changing the narrative for women, we are teaching ourselves to trust a sister as a default response. Instead of judging her, you know, based on her appearance or putting her down, we are learning to support, to help one another because we have shared pains, shared experiences.
As a result of her culture-altering work, Lola Omolola was recently invited to Facebook Head quarters to discuss with Maxine Williams, Global director of Diversity as well as Mark Zuckerberg. FIN is one of the largest Facebook groups in existence with a membership of almost a million women.