For ardent social media users in Nigeria, the name FIN has popped up on their timelines so many times that it has become known yet shrouded in mystery, ignorance and senseless arguments.
That’s because FIN, an acronym for Female In Nigeria is a secret group on Facebook designed exclusively for women to serve as a virtual safe haven for them to air their views, stand in their truths and dare to blurt out things which society has for centuries brainwashed women never to speak about or risk the stigma of being labelled with derogatory titles.
His article hinted to the fact that some of the critical lapses on FIN may have led to the disappearance and possible death of his client, Charity ‘Chacha’ Aiyedogbon, who was a very active and vocal member of the group. Ugwuonye who partially lauded the vision of the group, however pointed out that FIN’s safe haven was not as airtight as presumed because very sensitive information eventually leaks from the platform to the public, putting the content author’s life at risk for further abuse or possible homicide. Salient point he raised there. In fact, I was getting ready to applaud when suddenly he lost me by comparing his own Facebook group, The Due Process Advocates (DPA), to Female In Nigeria.
That one goof exposed the actual intention of the article and degraded what would have been an otherwise constructive piece to a hint at power play and a display of slight ignorance.
Yes, slight ignorance because you cannot completely analyse or effectively draw up a conclusion on an issue you do not have 100% facts about. Which compels me to digress a bit to a fascinating folktale I learnt in my childhood titled, The Blind Men and the Elephant, credited to John Godfrey…
Six blind but very knowledgeable men desired to know how an elephant looks like. Together, they decided to approach an elephant and groped their hands over the creature from the side which each man stood. Their interpretations were based on the particular part of the elephant they happened to touch.
The first blind man touched the sturdy side and declared, the elephant is very much like a wall.
The second blind man felt the elephant’s sharp tusk and declared, the elephant is like a great spear.
The third blind man grabbed at the squirming trunk and confidently announced the elephant is like a snake.
The fourth blind man, groped around the creature’s knee and said, the elephant is like a tree.
The fifth blind man ran his hand over its waving ear and declared, the elephant is like a fan.
And the last of them, the sixth blind man grabbed the elephant’s swing tail and declared absolutely that the elephant is like a rope.
From a mission embarked on together in the beginning as friends, they ended up returning as enemies because they argued so much about how an elephant truly looked like and got so infuriated when one of them tried to impose their views on the other.
You see, each of them was partly right, since they made contact with one major part of the whole. Nevertheless, they were all wrong because in their blindness, they failed to comprehend the creature in its entirety. In addition, they were too proud to realise that if they had pieced together the six points of view they had discovered, they would have finally figured out the enormity of the size of the creature they desired to know about. But each man stood in his own ‘knowledge’ and remained ignorant.
Moral of my story: You cannot successfully comprehend or appreciate FIN if,
Ignorance is never an excuse to condemn something you do not understand. I became a member of FIN when it was about four months old. Then we were about 6000-8,500 members. It was close knit and we felt more comfortable sharing our innermost fears and secrets without inhibitions. A lot of women were able to heal. A lot of women were able to find closure from some painful loss like a miscarriage, divorce, the death of a child, husband or loved one. Female employers advertised job openings giving preference to FIN members or FINsters like we love to call ourselves. Brides-to-be received free makeovers and counselling from professionals in the group. Physically battered women received free legal representation from female lawyers in the group. Women who had property and extra items they didn’t need gave them to other sisters who needed them more. I could go on and on.
The success stories attracted more membership and in a space of three months, the membership grew to over two hundred thousand women. Then there were women who came to vent because they had no better confidante. There were women who loved to share exciting sexual experiences and there were women who enjoyed sharing naughty stories. Who are we to judge them? Over two hundred thousand women…Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Realists, Pessimists, Optimists, Married, Single, Divorced, Widowed, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Rich, Poor, Educated, Illiterate…all bound by one common label…FEMALE. Surely you cannot expect everyone there to think or act alike? For once, the women had a room without walls or ceilings…a virtual infinity of support and solidarity stripped of any form of classification of social hierarchy. We felt comfortable in our nakedness, knowing we were not alone in our daily struggles of making sense of the social barriers placed on us by a patriarchal society seeking to constantly stifle our self actualization as females co-existing with certain males who perceive us as second class humans.FIN is a baby. It’s been in existence for about ten months in contrast to DPA which has been in existence for four years. As I discovered, the vision of DPA was prompted by the jungle justice and unjust lynching of four University of Port Harcourt students, Lloyd Toku, Chidiaka Biringa, Ugonna Obuzor and Tekenah Elkanah on 5th October, 2012. Surely, it would be unfair to compare a child of eight months (at the time of Chacha’s disappearance) to a child of four years. Let the child cut its teeth. Let it fall and scrape its knee while learning how to walk.
I’m both a member of FIN and DPA. I joined DPA after Chacha went missing as the legal forum became heavily involved in finding her. Standing from this vantage point, I’d say both visions are unique and laudable. Both were founded to better the cause and living conditions of humanity; albeit like Ugwuonye said, the former catering to only the female gender, while the latter catering to both genders. Although looking at the bigger picture, I dare say if FIN succeeds in moulding an emotionally stable and happy woman, that automatically translates to a happy marriage, a happy man and a happy home. Therefore, I would not glorify one group over the other. The issue of comparison shouldn’t even arise.
Of course no intelligent person expects the concept/vision of FIN to be foolproof. Nothing is that perfect. That’s why STRICT RULES are made in the group to protect its users. Yet some will break it. There, I agree with Ugwuonye to design a backup plan to safeguard users when these rules are broken.
FIN is a battlefield, where its soldiers wage a war to break the culture of silence that places women in a place of eternal silence – the grave. If a woman finds herself in an abusive, violent-ridden marriage, she is encouraged to speak out and ask for help. Like every other battle field, there are casualties.
Chacha was one of them. Although in all fairness to FIN, Chacha had long waged a war against her abusive marriage through media interviews and other electronic media long before she joined FIN. She was bold, brazen and extremely vocal in her approach. From what I hear, Chacha always had a mind of her own and loved to handle her marital problems her own way. I doubt if FIN or her close friends would have been able to compel her to act otherwise.
Even as FIN may have experienced the unfortunate loss of a sister, the group has also saved the lives of countless women who were once depressed or suicidal. One woman recently wrote,
“Sometime last month, I made a post about wanting to hurt myself. I had come to a point where life didn’t matter at all. I just wanted to go away.
The night I made that post, I had already started popping pills to end it. Then a sister appeared at my door. She stayed with me to prevent me from hurting myself. I thought sincerely that the support here was staged because I have so much trust issues. Maybe God wanted to show me that he gave the vision for this group. The devil was still in my head telling me that there was no need to live.
Another day, two sisters came. I had just dropped my kids at a friend’s house. I then brought out the bottle of Sniper I hid under the staircase in my house, ready to drink. They prayed with me and kept telling me how they felt unrest in their spirit and had to find me urgently even under the rain.
Then they took me to the market and bought me foodstuff, played with my kids….still there were voices in my head singing the “end your life” song.
I am happy to tell you today that I beat depression first hand but it would never have been possible without you. Apart from the hug I get from my hubby daily, I got hugs from Finsters and I knew it was sincere. Thank you.”
At the risk of breaking a critical FIN rule never to share user stories, I bring you that excerpt to show you how that woman was saved TWICE by her fellow members from committing suicide. I did edit some information to protect its author. There are many other success stories like that, but only the lapses are sung from the mountain top, painting the group as an evil cult possibly filled with ‘ungodly’ lesbian women or women who are taught to disrespect men and the sanctity of marriage.
FIN admin is tirelessly working on its lapses and I’ll encourage them never to relent. At the same time it would be wise to enlighten those who still find it mysterious. Don’t feel one side of FIN like the blind men felt the elephant and call it what you like. Don’t also expect we owe non-females the responsibility of constantly explaining what the group is about. Just like you don’t owe your women the responsibility of dissecting your beer parlour discussions each night you come home. FIN is secret for a reason.
FIN will still be what it is no matter what you call it…a metaphorical elephant understood only by those gifted to understand the vision; beneficial only to those women humble and graceful enough to harness the power bestowed on them.We adore and respect our menfolk. We acknowledge the divine authority placed on them. However, we will no longer be silenced to mediocrity. We are taking back our voice. We are redefining who we are. A human who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. A human whose input in carrying, birthing and nurturing humankind deserves to be celebrated and acknowledged. A human with intellectual achievements other than cooking, cleaning, breeding and fanning the pride of egotistical males. A female in Nigeria.
Written By: Peace Ben Williams
Photo Credit: Raw Story | Pinterest