May 2017: Cesnabmihilo Dorothy Aken’Ova with her youngest, Adel, at 10.
By Amatesiro Dore
Of what use is talent and passion if there are no opportunities and resources to implement proposals, carry out interventions and cause a positive change?
What if you meet a man at a motor garage? How do you know he’s the one? When does he stop being the one? Can one person satisfy all your needs and bring your dreams to pass? How many hands do you need to make esan zheh?
Cesnabmihilo Dorothy, the Gbagyi woman, found an Edo man, George Aken’Ova, to help her prepare her local diet. And both their families would ask: can a woman ask a man to join her in preparing meals, raise their children and accord her the rights and privileges of a fellow human being? What do you do when the world is in your footsteps? And the ones who have gone before you did not leave a map on how to navigate your unique existence? What was the one-eyed king doing in the land of the blind? And what can you do when your activism and sermons begin to penetrate your private life, testing your convictions and daring you not to practise what you preach? There are stories Dorothy will take to the grave: unwilling to betray the ones she love, unable to score points against the dead and those who do not have the platform to defend themselves. So this is what we know: she loved a man and he helped her fulfil her dreams before he died.
For George: with love and light.
Adel: sometimes, a child comes and changes everything.
Mama: for running a multi-million naira business at seventy-seven.
Papa: for producing successful children from nothing but a good education.
Zagbayi: there are brothers who make others unnecessary.
Dr Kayode J. Fayemi: for your introductions, mentorship and brotherhood.
Benoit Kalasa, Dr Benson C. Morah and Ajuwa Amana: for expanding my capacity.
Inuwa Jalingo: for ushering the opportunity that brought me to the limelight.
Tony Gamut (Uncle T): God always sends help to assist one’s failing strength.
IWHC: for believing and investing when many said no.
Dangote Cement: for the four million naira worth of cement.
Pastor Noah Abraham: for exhibiting the character of the Spirit.
Alhaji Tanko Beji: thank you.
Tina Mairuwa: for working without pay during our days of little beginnings.
Helena Ishaku Iko: for giving eight years of her life to INCRESE.
Chinwe Ejenowu: for selfless works and honourable words.
Global Fund for Women: for funding the legacies of Hajara Usman.
Bad Boll Methodist Church Women’s Group: for funding our radical beginnings.
Mama Cash: for funding our days of little beginnings.
Astraea: for the love and care of sexual minorities.
AWDF: for keeping our girls and women in schools and offices.
International HIV/AIDS Alliance: for your rapid responses to emergencies.
LSVD: for seeking to support interventions and advocacy projects before we asked.
Tides Foundation: for supporting progressive ideas, movements and projects.
Ford Foundation: for funding INCRESE to implement daring advocacy projects.
MacArthur Foundation: for funding our project that resulted in a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
“May God provide the space and time to thank everyone who has permitted and supported my vision, especially those who disagree with me,” Cesnabmihilo Dorothy [Nuhu] Aken’Ova, February 2018.
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” Madeleine Albright, first female Secretary of State [1997-2001], United States of America.
When young Cesnabmihilo Dorothy Aken’Ova first entered the waters of international activism, she learnt how to swim and paddle her canoe by watching and learning from a group of women who were already captains of great ships and ocean liners. And she would follow them around the UN, learning when to go for tea breaks, ensuring everything is concluded before going to the restroom, and basically absorbing the tricks and pitfalls of international diplomacy and negotiations. These women include the sleepless and energetic Professor Bene Madunagu and other Queens of the beehive such as Sonia Corrêa (co-chair of the Sexuality Policy Watch, since 2002), Adrienne Germain (Co-founder and IWHC President, 1998 – 2012) and Barbara Klugman (Associate Professor affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health and former Senior Programme Officer, SRHR, Ford Foundation).
“Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships.” [Attributed to] Colin Powell, first African American Secretary of State [2001-2005], United States of America.
At UN conferences and commissions around the world, Cesnabmihilo Dorothy Aken’Ova became acquainted with various colleagues and contemporaries who provided international support during her battles against the vicious backlash of local opposition groups. These are some of the people who also brought warmth and laughter to the cold UN corridors in Geneva and New York: Susana Fried, Global Health Justice Partnership Fellow at Yale University; Scott Long, renowned sexual rights activist; Cynthia Rothschild, the indomitable feminist, outstanding activist, acclaimed author and UN consultant extraordinaire; and Kim Vance, Executive Director, Arc International.
“Do you see a man skilful and experienced in his work? He will stand [in honour] before kings; He will not stand before obscure men” Proverbs 22: 29 (The Bible, Amplified Version).
In 2005, the BBC World Service I Challenge series looked at individuals around the world who have challenged authority, traditions and beliefs in the face of enormous odds and Cesnabmihilo Dorothy Aken’Ova was selected and profiled as one of four distinguished persons working on the most challenging causes around the world.
In 2008, she was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship and received the Berlin Stonewall Award for Resistance in 2014.
In 2002, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her groundbreaking work on sexual pleasure in women.
Read Increse at a Glance: Begin with a Girl [Chapter I] here
Read Increse at a Glance: There was a Woman [Chapter II] here
Read Increse at a Glance: Destiny Begins [Chapter III] here
Read Increse at a Glance: A luta continua [Chapter V] here