Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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Simi, Chigul Discuss Sexism in Entertainment Industry

Simi and Chigul sat down with BBC to discuss sexism women constantly have to deal with in the entertainment industry.

The singer who launched a social media campaign #NobodyLikeWoman before the release of her new song, opened up publicly about the sexism she has faced in her industry.

Simi’s viral challenge provided a safe space for stars, and other women, to share their experiences of discrimination.

Women from different walks of lIfe posted black-and-white photos of themselves, scrawled over with the words of their critics, like: “She’s a mother, she should stay at home”, “Why is she going out at night if she’s not a prostitute?” and “Why aren’t you married yet?”

Simi told the BBC she cried as she scrolled past one of the hash-tagged posts on her social media feed.

It was about a woman who had been mocked for having four Caesarean sections – when a baby is delivered by making a surgical cut into the abdomen and womb.

The comments were harsh,she said.

“She’s not any good. Imagine she cannot even have your children naturally. They had to do C-section for her and she still lost one of her children.’ That is so traumatising.”

Simi shared her personal experience too revealing that at the start of her career, music bosses – usually men – told her she had to be “sexy” and provocative to make it in her field.

She ignored them and when she made it big anyway, they were shocked. There were others who did not want to work with women, because they thought they could not function after having children or getting married, she said.

She recalled how someone questioned why she charged so much for concert tickets while she was pregnant.

“It was probably an agency,” she said, when asked who the culprit was.

Nollywood actress Chioma Omeruah – famously known as Chigul – has witnessed similar struggles and believes the problem is cultural.

“Our culture is not to speak out,” the 45-year-old star told the BBC.

She took part in #NobodyLikeWoman with a photo along with the caption: “My friend! Go and have a child.”

Chigul does not have any children, but that has not stopped friends and even trolls asking when she is going to have a baby and this hurts, she said.

During her career, Chigul said she has had countless numbers of up-and-coming actresses confide in her about alleged sexual misbehaviour by powerful male film bosses.

Some of them were told by the male directors: “Come and sleep with me, I’ll make you a star. I can get you that part, that role” – which she says amounts to coercion.

When asked how many young actresses had confided in her about sexual coercion, she said it was “too many”.

The odds were stacked against women – the majority of the time they became the victims, she said.

“It’s just wahala [trouble] on every level,” she said.

Both Chigul and Simi agree that the laws in Nigeria need to be tougher on those who discriminate against or attack women.

According to UN Women, Nigeria has implemented 75% of laws needed to advance gender equality – which the UN wants to achieve worldwide by 2030.

But less than half the measures needed to monitor the country’s progress towards that goal were in place by last year – for example the collection of regular statistics on things like the gender pay gap and physical and sexual harassment.

Nigerian women’s rights lawyer and YouTube vlogger Sotonye Kelechi-Nwuzi says religion is often to blame.

In her opinion, Nigerian lawmakers tend to take into account how different faith communities will react to gender equality legislation. She says separating secular society from religious and cultural society will ensure some progress.

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