Eyitemi: giving succour to hurting women
Kathlyn Eyitemi’s mother passed away when she was 15 years old, though her parents were already divorced by the time she was five. Kathlyn, who came from a polygamous background with 12 siblings all from different mothers, was actually raised by her father. She grew up in a verbal and physically abusive environment. She eventually trained as a sociologist at the Delta State University, majoring in social works at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. But it was her childhood experiences that motivated her into starting Sisters Interact Network.
Going down memory lane, Kathlyn explained that Sisters Interact Network began on Facebook four years ago as a therapy space for hurting women.
“It’s also a mentoring platform, where women can mentor other women based on God’s word. As a woman, I had so many issues, while growing up, as well as many unanswered questions. I often wondered if there were other women like me, with my kind of life experiences. I constantly tried to figure out how I could get women to sit down in a space and talk to one another about their deepest concerns without the facades and pretence that you see in such places as the church. You know that in church, we are all holy and we do nothing wrong,” she said.
Several years down the line, the perfect opportunity came with the emergence of social media.
“It occurred to me that I could create that space, where women could really let it out, talk to one another and share. That was how I created the group and the response was amazing. I didn’t know women could give each other so much love and support. In 2012, we branched out of Facebook to create meeting groups in different parts of the federation. Our Eve Care programmes for women was birthed to replicate in real life what we do in our Facebook group.
“So, it is an interactive platform, where burning issues that border on women’s daily existence are discussed. And we also pray a lot because our foundation is Christian. Our focal project as an organisation is the Next Generation Project (NGP), where we train volunteers and send them to different secondary schools to mentor and counsel teenage girls. So, our business is mentoring women, as well as girls,” she explained.
Initially, Kathlyn encountered such challenges as funding, but she held on tenaciously. “The organisation has been self-funded. So, it really cuts deep into our personal pockets to get anything done, but you do not quit because of financial setbacks, when you believe in your dreams. You keep at it however you can. You do what you have to do no matter how small it is. That’s what we have done in the last four years. We have refused to be daunted. We have kept the faith and kept on moving. We haven’t moved as fast as we would have loved to, but we have kept at it.
“I would say we have been pretty successful, although there is a lot more work to be done. Several women have been positively impacted by our Facebook group because of the kind of issues that are raised on the group wall. Women can relate to the burning issues that other women talk about and because they are frankly discussed, it touches the very core of their being. You’d be amazed at how much or how badly people need to talk to people who won’t condemn or judge them. We provide counselors for women that need them.
“We are also making tremendous impact through our Next Generation Project (NGP). Aside from giving our protégés toiletries, we also make medical services available for girls infected with STDs, who can’t afford treatment so they don’t develop infertility problems later in life. We have treated quite a number of infected girls.
“In this busy world of working mums and busy dads, most parents are just shoving their kids to boarding schools. But a boarding school won’t answer your child’s deepest questions. There are questions that the parents can answer. I’m afraid a lot of harm is being done to a lot of girls today. The rate of negligence on the part of parents is alarming. The consequences will materialise in the next generation of women. This is the social media age. Who is talking to your kid? If you aren’t talking with your kid, you can be sure someone is doing it for you. You will be shocked, if you know what is being said to your 12-year-old daughter. I was sexually molested as a child right under my mother’s nose. I have been a victim of parental negligence. People need to really find out on daily basis what is going on with their kids,” she says.
Kathlyn’s organisation is doing something in the area rape, which she says has become rampant. “Rape is very degrading for the woman. It makes her lose all sense of worth, no matter how beautiful or successful she is. Rape is a violation of the soul and the fact that it was done by a husband doesn’t make it any less of a crime. As an organisation, we have done a couple of sensitisation campaigns on it, but it’s never enough. Rape is an ongoing conversation and there has to be involvement of people at all levels— government, civil society, corporate organisations and all.
People shy away from the subject of rape a lot. There is all this secrecy around it, but a woman knows the difference between consensual sex and when she is being forced.”
On the issue of child molestation, Kathlyn said the thing about being molested as a child is that the incidence is deeply etched into the girl’s memory.
“People think if a child is molested, he/she will forget. One challenge with parents whose children are molested is that they never speak to the child about it for fear of public embarrassment. They themselves do not want to be reminded of the episode. They believe their own grief is more than that of the abused child. They don’t find help for the child so that he/she can go through therapy. Even children need therapy. If they can have those questions answered clearly and early enough, the confusion will clear up and they have better chances of growing up to become healthy adults.
If you are molested as a child, resentment grows within you. Resentment at the people who ought to have protected you, when you were powerless to protect yourself and at the one who violated you. Questions spring up in your mind such as why did it happen to me? Why did God allow something like that to happen to me, when I was only a child? You hear that children have angels who protect them. So you ask yourself, where were my own angels, when I was being abused? Does God not love me?
“So, it’s a constant battle in your mind and your psyche is tormented, as the memories spring up often. As a matter of fact, child molesters are enemies from within. They are usually related to the family of the molested child.
“All through my teenage years, I was depressed because of my childhood experience. The memories tormented me. But somewhere along the line, I stumbled unto Bishop T.D Jake’s messages and I just listened to them again and again. He has a powerful message for hurting and abused women. I just decided at some point to let go and allow God to heal me completely. It was a gradual process, but finally it happened within a space of about two years because I just soaked myself in God’s word every day,” she said.
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