Shekwonazhi paraphrased to mean ‘Made for Purpose’ in Gbagyi, the indigenous language of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), aims to emphasize the fact that women and girls who have been abused, in spite of victimisation, stigma and the trauma that comes with it, were in fact, made for purpose. It stresses that there is much more that is bigger than their traumatic event; that they have the right to express themselves; that they have voices that should be heard and never silenced; and that they should be fearless and bold enough to break free from abuse and stigma. It encourages recovery and raises awareness about the importance of addressing victimisation in order to move forward.
A Shekwonazhi woman was made for more than herself. She was made to be a champion, one who uses her voice and creativity to help others break free and heal from abuse, emotional trauma and stigma.
Our culture of silence, lack of community and the fear of stigma keeps women entrapped and can, in some cases, lead to death. Therefore, this project also aims to establish an AWWAS community of women who can then, using their skills and opportunities, ‘pay it forward’ by turning their personal trauma into stories of social change. This community gives them the right skills to break free, express themselves and grow by opening up lines of communication between women who have gone through similar experiences; a platform that supports them and helps them stay connected.
In 2023, in partnership with creatives, therapists, mentors, and self-defense experts, AWWAS will engage with young women from the University of Abuja. On March 4th, a one-day workshop will bring these women together, and through the use of four creative expressions – creative writing, creative arts, documentary photography, and illustrative dance – encourage expression for gender justice and social change, promote self-liberation, and enable personal and communal healing.
This year, the creative art of focus for Shekwonazhi is pottery; a significant part of the Gbagyi culture and a profession practiced by the women. In collaboration with selected Gbagyi women, AWWAS will fuse its cause with this art, using clay as canvases for artistic and therapeutic storytelling.
In small groups, participants will be given opportunities to open up and speak about any trauma and abuse they may have experienced; inspired and trained to find their voice through creatively expressing themselves; and taught basic self-defense techniques to protect and defend themselves. Various materials will be provided to participants to encourage creative self-expression.
Following the workshop, a 6-week ‘creative’ period will see participants tasked with applying what they learned to create stories aimed at driving social change, and from which other women can draw hope and inspiration. The ‘creative’ period will culminate with an exhibition during which the stories will be showcased and offered for sale. Forty percent (40%) of the proceeds will be used as seed funding for participants to kickstart and/or continue their own storytelling journeys. The balance from the proceeds will be used to compile, publish, and distribute an AWWAS workbook for participants which, compiled by different professionals, includes a guide to recovery using creative expressions and different types of therapy. Upon completion of all activities, the AWWAS counseling team will select willing participants to serve as ambassadors, who can then lead and work with other women on their paths to recovery.