20 million girls have undergone FGM in Nigeria —Anita Abada, winner of WHO Film for Health campaign

Anita Abada stood out amongst her peer as she claimed the World Health Organisation (WHO) award for health educational films with her short film “Efun”. In this interview by DANIEL ABEL, she speaks on her motivation, challenges and reasons for creating the project.

 

What is Efun? What motivated you to create the short film?     

“Efun” is a Bini word that means Flesh. I was motivated to make “Efun” after a conversation with a victim who pleaded to be anonymous. She is still traumatised by the practice which was carried out on her when she was a child, she doesn’t enjoy sex with her partner and this has greatly affected her self-esteem.

I had a conversation with my father on this topic and he mentioned that at the period when I was born, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was very common in the South-South of Nigeria where I come from, but as parents, he and my mother stood against it being carried out on any of their female children. I realised there were many victims living with the trauma of this practice; many others have died in the process. So, I decided to use film as a tool to seek a redress, giving women the chance to make their own choices and not being forced to undergo harmful cultural practices.

 

How has FGM and Gender Based Violence affected women in Africa, and Nigeria in particular?

FGM is a very common practice in Nigeria and Africa at large. According to statistics put out by 28toomany, about 20 million women and girls in Nigeria have undergone FGM. More than 200 million girls have undergone FGM in the world (WHO), with over 30 countries in Africa. Many of these people live with the trauma.

While the rate of FGM is slowly reducing after years of sensitisation, all other forms of Gender Based Violence are still very much affecting the lives of young girls and women.

We live in a patriarchal society and for women living in Nigeria and Africa, it is a constant struggle to break all forms of Gender Based Violence. We would continue to strive for a society where women aren’t stereotyped and made to go through all kinds of violence because of her gender; Sexual violence, Physical violence, Verbal violence, Psychological violence, Socio-economic violence, Domestic violence, Harassment.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while trying to create the film?  

Finding the most suitable location was the first challenge. I wanted to depict the story in a rural area, so we had to go a far distance, we literally crossed a river and climbed a hill to get to the location where we shot somewhere between Ota, Ogun state and Lagos. We filmed into the night and had to return back to our destinations very late.

Also, the short film was shot on a low budget; limited casts and crew. The entire crew for this film was just four people, Myself (Director, Producer, Writer); Omoregie Osakpolor who was the deputy producer; Silas Abada who was both the sound man and editor; and Ejiro Stephen who was the light man and BTS personnel.

So there was the issue of not having enough funds to hire more hands, but I had a team that was willing to work with me on this scale and still deliver the best output. “Efun” is a success today because these three men keyed into the vision and brought it to life with me and that I am thankful for.

Also, the emotions that the circumcision scenes conveyed. As a director, it was difficult watching the scene, but I had to. We had a real knife and a young girl who had to express the emotions and all I could think of were the millions of girls who have undergone this. It was an intense moment for actors and crew.

 

How long did it take before you completed the movie?              

Pre-production was about 4 months; from conception to scripting and prep for shoot. Principal photography was for 1 day. Post-production was for 2 weeks.

 

What are the reactions you’ve gotten so far? Have the project been received positively?          

The response to the project has been really positive. Efun has spurred conversations on FGM and Gender Based Violence globally. I have had Gender based organisations also acknowledge the impact of the project within their communities.

 

How much did you spend to create the short fim? How were you able to pull this off?

Well, Efun was shot on a really low budget and it is a success today because of the sacrifice of my team mates.

 

What do you think of Nigeria’s response towards FGM and all other forms of Gender Based Violence?

The response to FGM and all forms of Gender Based Violence has been rapid in recent times. Laws have been put in place to curb the practice and many organisations are doing a lot to ensure that the practice is totally eradicated. This is very laudable.

I believe in a short time and with continuous activism, we can create a safer world for women and young girls.

 

What role do you think the government should play in eradicating FGM?

The government should support individuals and organisations working towards eradicating such practices. The media is a great tool for social change. More government owned media houses should prioritise sensitising the public on FGM and its effects.

 

How do you intend to use your global recognition to reshape that aspect of society?

I intend to reach out to more communities and partner with organisations to screen the film within low-income communities across Nigeria where FGM is prevalent.

 

You studied in Nigeria; did this have any impact while creating the project?

It definitely did. I resolved to make films that address social issues within the Nigerian society because I have lived here for the most part of my life and I have experienced and encountered individuals with diverse experiences that should be addressed. Meeting people who have experienced FGM helped me tell a more original story.

 

What has your career journey been like? Who are the individuals that inspire you in the movie industry?

It’s been an intriguing journey so far, not one devoid of challenges though, but I am following the process of getting to the peak of my career. Honestly, I have a number of top industry players that inspire me. For each of these individuals, I have different things to learn.

 

How many movies have you created so far? Do you have any other projects you are working on?

So far, I have two projects to my name. “Just The Two of Us”, a coronavirus feature film I produced and “Efun”, a short film I Directed and Produced. I am currently prepping for a feature film project titled “Ba Ni”. This is one global project I really look forward to sharing with the world because it is a really intense and intriguing project. It has been in the works for about five years now since conception and I am glad to finally be able to work on it with partnership from TalentX Africa. This is one project you should look forward to.

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