The Radiant Health Women of Action is our list of inspiring women taking action to improve the health and well-being of African communities, whether on the continent or in diaspora.
Passionate and multitalented journalist Wana Udobang bypassed cultural taboos to write about the Mirabel Rape Center, giving a voice to women who most needed one.
When you’re passionate about what you do, there’s no telling what kind of impact you can have. When media and cultural powerhouse Wana Udobang wrote an article for Al Jazeera about the Mirabel Rape Center earlier this year, her story brought global attention to an issue still considered taboo in Nigeria and worldwide.
Staff and clients welcomed Wana to the Center, which is located on the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital campus. “I was quite lucky with that piece,” Wana says. “They really trusted me with their stories, for which I was eternally grateful.” The article included the accounts of five clients, all of whom had been sexually assaulted. Four were young women under the age of 21. One was only nine years old.
Wana’s piece addressed the cultural stigma around rape, which often allows the attacker to go free and leaves the survivor to fear the consequences of seeking justice. From the perspective of a journalist, Wana had the ability to discuss the issue freely. “We as a society are steeped heavily in culture and tradition,” says Wana. “I think sometimes you have to start these conversations and damn the consequences.”
Unwillingness to address the issue of rape also led to funding issues for the Center, and insiders suggest that corporations shied away from the controversial topic. When readers learned that the Center’s funding would run out at the end of this year, writer Lesley Arimah and other concerned individuals set up a donation page that has raised $12,416 to date.
When asked what advice she would give someone who wanted to tackle an issue in their community, Wana emphasizes commitment. “I think you need to be extremely passionate about whatever issue you have decided to tackle. It can’t just be a flippant reaction to something that upset you, or else when you experience resistance you’ll walk away.”
Wana goes on to highlight the value of activism, big and small. “It’s important to just keep doing little and doable things. We always think we must do something grand, but going to a local school and speaking to children about their bodies, sexual health and abuse is good enough. Sharing one person’s story in a blog post is as valid as a big exposé in a newspaper.”
The future holds big plans for Miss Wana Wana, who recently left her job as a radio personality and producer at Inspiration FM. “I am embarking on a full artistic and creative expedition, which basically means building my own company called WanaWana Productions.”