Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
Wife of Ekiti State Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, has warned that the current use of the various social media platforms by majority of the youths and other internet savvy people is destroying ‘our humanity’ across the world.
She said the disturbing trend has resulted into widespread teenage suicides, especially in the Western world.
She frowned at a recent development whereby many people in Africa displayed their privacy on the social media and thus exposed themselves to harmful reactions and dangers from thousands who feed on such information.
Mrs. Fayemi, as a writer and African feminist, also advocated for the promotion and preservation of African cultural practices that are progressive and positive as against harmful practices that denigrate women and rob children and the girl child of their rights.
The Ekiti State First Lady made the remarks, on Wednesday evening, during the reading of one of her creative efforts, Loud Whispers, at the October edition of the monthly reading of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Ekiti State chapter.
The occasion was graced by distinguished writers and university dons such as world renowned playwright and activist, Prof. Femi Osofisan, Prof. Olu Obafemi, Prof. Sunny Ododo, Medical Doctor and writer Wale Okediran who are former National presidents of ANA.
There were also top government functionaries of Ekiti State Government led by deputy governor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, as well as members of ANA from other states and Ekiti people.
Mrs. Fayemi, who read excerpts from Loud Whispers to hundreds of ANA members and Ekiti people present at the venue of the event at De Jewels Apartment on Poly Road, Ado Ekiti, explained the inspirations behind her writings, “I started Loud Whispers to engage online, and to be a able to access information that was not just gossip or salacious materials but information that are of value; politics, economy, relationships, parenting and so on.
“That is how I started Above Whispers and I write a column for Above Whispers every Monday called Loud Whispers.
“If you look at the trends in my books, starting from my autobiography, which was published five years, Speaking Above the Whispers, and my book of essays ‘Speaking for Myself’ and now this publication, ‘Loud Whispers’. I use that as a metaphor as a voice for enabling women or the voiceless have a voice.
“Women are brought up in our society to be invisible, or even if you are visible , you are to be seen but not heard and so it is important for us to give women opportunities to express themselves and to enable them assess leadership positions and to fulfill their aspirations in life.
“So, when I write, I write to address women and I also write to address the society at large to ensure that we minimize the divides and ensure that we create opportunities for everyone, ” she said.
Asked if she would advocate for a course of study to be part of our schools curriculum to guide young ones on better ways to use the social media, she replied: “That is an interesting thought. It is something we can definitely look into, because there is really so much we can do by way of public awareness and sensitization, may be some of these things do need to be institutionalised by way of what people learn in schools.
“I don’t know what the appropriate mechanism will be may be through civic education or social studies programmes, but definitely people need to learn from an early age that there are certain things you don’t do or don’t share with the public.
“And we have a generation that people have grown up not knowing any better, they don’t do it to be malicious or cruel they just don’t know any better it because that is the world that they know.
“I know in some parts of the world it has reached to a very epidemic level where now have young people are now committing suicide because of stuffs that they read online they are being bullied, we were all being bullied in schools but now it has gotten to a level where young people are being bullied online not by just 20 people in your class but by millions of people who don’t even know who you are and never seen you before.
“But they have something to say about how fat or ugly you are and so these young people can’t take it and they start suicide rate and make it higher among teenagers because of the things happening online.
“If you look at the society people, are suffering with a lot of issues, people are lonely, people are depressed, people are looking for outlets to express themselves and the one place they think they can go to is to get support is social media and unfortunately you are using this medium that many people have access to who don’t know you and don’t know what you are passing through or have any stake in your life and they say so many things and make matters worse.
“So, my call is for us to take a step back and stop using that space with caution. It is very useful in terms of disseminating information, advocacy and so on but we should stop using it as a tool to destroy humanity, because that is where we are headed.”
Mrs. Fayemi, who was inducted into ANA by Ekiti chapter chairman, Tai Akogun, also fielded questions bordering on her views as a feminist of African extraction and the African cultural practices, saying, “I make myself a feminist because It is important to locate myself in a struggle that a lot of women are engaged in.
“Feminism is a complex phenomenon. As a women rights activist in the UK and across some countries of Africa, and having worked with other feminists for 10 years, the way l experienced feminism taught me that all the different schools of feminisms we talk about are not
“I am okay with an African culture that encourages self esteem and human dignity but I am opposed with an African culture that insists that my rights as a woman have to be relegated.
“As an African feminists I cannot come up with a theory beyond the realities of my society.
“One of the greatest inhibitors we face in our society in enforcing the rights of our women that we are closely knitted together.
“Such that to enforce penalty becomes hard as you have a situation where people beg for leniency or pardon saying forgive him it is the devil and things like you have people begging for forgiveness for a rapist who raped a 13 year old.
“I don’t have to have the same agenda with a feminist in America because I do not live in such society.
“Many of the liberal feminist agendas that we advocate for in Africa have become obsolete in the western world.
“Such as female child education, preventing female genital mutilation, prosecuting rape culprits etc.
“I believe in upholding our cultural norms and values that are positive and progressive. I will not be an advocate of harmful cultural practices that silence the women, limit peoples’ choices, promote widowhood practices, limiting the opportunities of girls.
“But I am in support of cultural practices that are uplifting, such as respect for community elders and sharing in our community so we see each others as our brothers’ keepers etc.
“I also support our cultural values that shows our uniqueness, such as naming our day old babies in our unique cultural way, such as christening our babies in a Yoruba way of using honey, salt, Alligator pepper etc .”
Mrs. Fayemi also explained her support for sex education for teenagers and encouraging women in politics: ” We need to talk about sex education, the kind that endangers our children and are capable of destroying their future and we need to educate them about these things and have to play our role as parents.
“My support for women in politics comes with a condition that you do well. Women are held to higher standards than the men, there are things that men do and get away with it but women won’t. Women who do not do well in politics limit the chances of other women, ” she said.