#Safe to Surf: Young People Speak to Education as a Vaccine on Their Experiences Using Online Spaces

November 3, 2022

Education as a Vaccine asked young people to share their experience on using the online platforms and if they have experienced any form of online gender based violence. Here are some responses:

Mai Lap, 25 years

It started on Twitter and then moved to Facebook and Instagram. The tweet I made was: 

I don’t think seeking permission from one’s husband before going out makes any sense. Informing your spouse that you’re going out should be enough, of course with information about the place and time and with whom, for safety reasons. If there’s a reason your partner doesn’t want you to go to a certain place after informing them, y’all can talk about it and come to a reasonable decision.” 

Minutes after this, my Twitter mentions blew up with people telling me that I was being sacrilegious because Islam says as women, we have to seek permission from our husbands before going anywhere at all. I was called names like Kaafir (an unbeliever), and some people messaged me directly, telling me that I am teaching young MUSLIM girls how to be disrespectful to their husbands and that my father raised me as a whore. This went on for almost two days. Some people made screenshots and posted my Tweets on Instagram and Facebook. 

My parents saw this and were extremely scared for me as some people were making violent threats in their comments. They even promised to pay anyone who would provide them with my personal information. At first, I felt defeated, and I absolutely stopped tweeting or sharing my opinion for a while. However, I decided that I would not let the trolls de-platform me. This made me have a very serious anxiety attack because of the violent threats I received and because my parents were extremely worried about my safety.

Nabila, 21 years

I spoke against gender-based violence and also against the killing of Deborah who was accused of blasphemy and burnt to death. I tweeted to condemn the act, and  I immediately received so many reactions from a lot of youths (Arewa twitter extension) with death threats, insults, vile comments etc. I became very scared and extremely anxious about what was going to happen to me afterwards. This made me leave Twitter and some social media platforms for a while.

Tobi, 25 years

I participated in a protest to react to the rejection of the 5 gender bills in the Nigerian constitution. I disrupted the politician hijacking the protest, and the video went viral on social media. I received backlash and insults on Twitter. I was also called a performative activist, and unknown callers kept reaching me asking ‘’who sent me’’. At first, I was scared and anxious. I had panic attacks and went off social media for a while.

Sarf, 22 years

It began when I started writing erotic flash stories on a literary blog that I curated. The conversations were on women prioritizing their sexual pleasure, taking their sexual and health issues serious, protecting and sharing resources for Queer protesters and online protesters during EndSARS as well as sharing videos on safety tips for using abortion pills. I got insulted, slut shamed for posting sexual content by my faculty mates and other university students who came across my content. I have also had people send my content- blog posts, videos, and pictures on sexual pleasure, reproductive health, and sex product reviews to people who know me offline, saying I am doing prostitution online. I felt enraged, shocked, disgusted, and unsafe. It spiked my anxiety, and ever since then, I am very careful about who follows my accounts. I block insensitive comments. I am careful with how I share my personal information. 

Anita, 26 years

There was a discussion on Twitter about how fathers were not living up to their responsibilities within the home, and I had commented on how the patriarchal structures give men that leverage to flout their responsibilities without repercussions. The men in that conversation immediately  started insulting me, and my father and I was tagged  ‘’the child of an irresponsible man.’’ At that moment, I retaliated and said harsh things out of anger. I eventually deleted my tweet and I did not contribute to any controversial conversations for a long time because I was scared and did not want to be in that situation again. I also deleted my personal photograph from Twitter.

Usman, 30 years

I posted my picture and a write-up on social media, calling on the National Assembly to rescind the rejection of the 5 gender bills. I was at the protest with Nigerian women asking for the same and took my advocacy online. A friend of mine saw the picture and replied saying “so you are in support of women ruling over men and having a say in decision-making positions? He said is it not enough that they are now heading homes or having a voice in their homes? They now want to take over the public”. I was disappointed that men like this exist, and my friend is one of them, even though I spoke at length to convince him.

Idoko, 25 years

During World AIDS day in December 2020, I made a post with pictures I took during the day’s procession. The post was to highlight challenges that young people still face despite numerous HIV interventions in the state, and I made a call to action and recommendations to relevant stakeholders. Despite receiving positive feedback in the comment sections, one of my old schoolmates commented and I quote “HIV Boy”. I didn’t know for sure what he meant by that but I felt really bad, and because we haven’t been talking for a while, I didn’t want to confront him, so I had to delete the comment. 

Awawu, 30 years

It was during the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in 2020 and I made a post on Facebook in commemoration of the day calling for an end to the barbaric practice. Somebody commented saying “You are selfish for saying that because men are circumcised for women’s sexual pleasure, so women should do the same for men because men enjoy sex better with women who have experience cutting”. I went on to explain the negative impact of FGM. However, another person started cursing him and a  thread of both commenters insulting themselves ensued. I was embarrassed by the situation.

Dooshima, 21 years

I had a boyfriend when I was in 200 level in the university. While we were dating, I was so free and comfortable around him that I allowed him to take pictures of me. unknown to me, he took naked pictures of me when I was asleep and sometimes when I was dressing up. We broke up, and after so much persuasion from him to get back together which I refused, I started receiving threats from him with the statement  ‘’watch and see”. Few days later, he posted my nude pictures on our school faculty WhatsApp group and students started posting on their statuses. I felt like dying. 

Uchechukwu, 21 years

My nude pictures were uploaded by my boyfriend on my departmental Whatsapp group because I left the toxic relationship. He was blackmailing me with the pictures and was demanding for money, and when I said no, it became a very big disaster. When this happened, death became  an option for me because I couldn’t live with the shame.

 These stories were collected by Education as a Vaccine on the safe to surf project with support from Luminate.

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