RSH Consultants Series: Meet Iheoma - safeguarding consultant, feminist, and short story writer

Iheoma Obibi headshot

Iheoma Obibi is an African feminist activist and writer with over three decades of working in feminist activism, safeguarding and independent research. Presently she is the Executive Director of Alliances for Africa (AfA), a feminist non-profit working on women’s human rights advocacy and ending violence against women and girls in southeastern Nigeria. She is the institutional lead on safeguarding for AfA, and has acted as a consultant, trainer, facilitator and researcher.

Iheoma is available for work in Nigeria. She works in English and Igbo.  Find out more about Iheoma in our Safeguarding Consultants Directory here.


Safeguarding Consultants Directory

The Safeguarding Consultants Directory is an online database of organisations and individuals that you can contract to support your safeguarding. The consultants featured on our Directory have experience from all over the world, rooted in the contexts that we work in. Between them, they speak 40 languages, and can offer services from policy development to investigation. Note that the Safeguarding Resource and Support Hub cannot cover the costs of contracting these consultants.

In this RSH blog series, we introduce some of our consultants to you. Feel free to ask questions related to the posts in the Comment box below!

RSH: What interests you most about safeguarding?

The possibility of creating sustained behavioural change and an alternative way in envisioning the wider change in our ultra-conversative communities.

RSH: What are some recurring safeguarding questions/topics in your region?

We have a number of recurring topics, which include giving voice to minors; workplace sexual harassment; addressing concerns about false reporting; and difficulties local organisations face.

In more detail, a recurring topic for us here is giving individuals under 18 (minors) a voice to recognise when something is going wrong, articulate their concerns and, creating the space and opportunity for complaints to take place.

Another theme is defining unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, for women of all ages, and signs to look out for. To be aware of the thin line that differentiates sexual harassment from “being friendly” or in local parlance “just greeting you now!”

Addressing concerns around false reporting of sexual harassment or exploitation also comes up often. The understanding of what Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) is, and the role we all can play in preventing sexual exploitation and abuse in our organisations, communities, and holding everyone accountable are also recurring topics. Access to justice may not work because the courts previously on strike have a backlog, but

acknowledging the problem and having measures in place gives confidence that people are being listened to. 

Another recurring topic is the weakness in local organisations – here the abuse often happens in a cloud of religious fundamentalisms and doctrine. There is lack of funding, and safeguarding is not seen as a priority but an imposition.

RSH: How do you approach these topics?

Delicately. Using identifiable community markers as a strategic entry point in ensuring that the safeguarding message is told, loud and clearly with no room for misunderstanding.

Iheoma sitting in front of a desk, speaking

 

RSH: What key skills and experience do you bring to safeguarding?

My key skills and experience are multi-layered but I would say that my bi-cultural experiences of living and working elsewhere allows for one to see the big picture; ability to think, conceptualise and work contextually in difficult environments. I bring to the table advocacy and strategic mobilisation experiences besides extensive training and facilitating. Finally, I am a gender specialist with extensive skills and experience in gender auditing, mainstreaming, identifying safeguarding gaps and designing solutions.

RSH: What languages do you work in?

I work in English and in Igbo, with brief interludes of Pidgin English.

RSH: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

The COVID-19 lockdown allowed me time to go back to short story writing. 

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