Legendary former Super Falcons goalkeeper Precious Dede has opened up on the harrowing sexual harrasment she suffered at the beginning of her football career.
The softly-spoken 39-year-old who retired from active football in 2015 narrated the frightening ordeal which nearly ended her career before it began, to busybuddiesng.com on the first day of the “Goal! Strong Girls, Bright Future. Combatting Sex Trafficking” workshop for teenaged girls
“I was nearly raped sometime [ago] when I started playing football. That nearly discouraged me [from continuing my career],” Dede revealed.
“I was travelling to Umuahia for a game and in the neighbourhood, [some men] were asking me out about seven of them. I didn’t know how possible [it is] for one person to date seven friends,” she said.
When she rejected their advances, they set on her at night, but luckily, she managed to escape their clutches.
However, she says she still bears the scar from that terrible night even though she managed to bury the experience and went on to have a hugely successful career.
“I know I was very strong, I was [a] determined person. I knew what I was looking for and I tried to put that behind me,” the former Delta Queens and Arna-Bjørnar of Norway goalkeeper said.
Dede’s ordeal is something of a daily ordeal for millions of women in Nigeria who are forced to endure different forms of sexual harassment and violence on a daily basis.
Of particular concern is the growing problem of women and girls being trafficked for sex within and outside the country.
The Global Slavery Index (GSI) contends that an overwhelming percentage of the 1,386,000 Nigerians held in modern-day slavery are involved in commercial sex exploitation.
Nigeria ranks 32/167 on the list of countries with the highest number of slaves and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) estimates the average age of trafficked persons to be 15 years.
With so many young women and girls in great peril of falling prey to the many forms of sexual harrasment and violence that abound in Nigeria, Fortem Inspire has taken on the mantle of empowering women and providing education about sex trafficking using sports as a medium.
And through role models such as Precious Dede and former US Women National Team players Joanna Lohman and Staci Wilson who are on hand to mentor the participants who are mostly students aged between 13 to 17 years old, Fortem Inspire hopes to imbue the young women with the safety nets needed to navigate through potential pitfalls.
And, although Precious Dede, who won two Women Africa Cup of Nations titles with Nigeria concedes that sexual violence often leaves an indelible scar, she hopes that sharing her survivor story through the platform provided by Fortem Inspire will help any young woman dealing with similar issues start on the path to recovery.
“That’s why I am here at least to talk to them, to lecture them to let them know that even me, I was once harassed even though I wasn’t raped. I still have the scar.”
Fortem Inspire, an advocacy group that works to empower women through sports, has teamed up with the United States Embassy in Nigeria to organise a workshop showing how sex trafficking can be combatted using football as a tool.
The event tagged “Goal! Strong Girls, Bright Future. Combatting Sex Trafficking” will be held in two cities – Lagos and Benin – from 23 September to 27 September.
The first leg of the workshop held on Monday, 23 September at the Campos Memorial Mini Stadium, Lagos.
Benin City, which according to the Pathfinders Justice Initiative, is often the starting point for victims of human trafficking, will host the second leg of the event from the 25th to the 27th of September and will involve 120 girls.