Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has praised the creator of a secret Facebook group that provides an online haven for Nigerian woman. Lola Omolola, a Nigerian woman now based in Chicago, created the group in 2015. Lola says that Facebook helped her to “create the world I wish to live in and have my eight and ten-year-old inherit.” Her group is called Female in Nigeria (FIN) and members can only be added by other members.
After a Nigerian blogger was viciously attacked for having the audacity to name her rapists, Lola was having none of it. In a furious Facebook post, she urged people to “ask your women… they all have a rape or a near-rape story to tell… carrying the burdens of sexual exploitation by our own relatives, spouses, bosses and whomever can lay claim to even a smidgen of power & all of these people are operating right in front of your nose.” Her safe Facebook group is her way of leading “the chorus to protect our sisters, aunties, cousins, mothers, and daughters.”
Her initial goal for the group was to have 1,000 members. In early 2016, Lola’s group had just over 30,000 women. Today, it has blossomed to a membership of over one million. Zuckerburg has applauded Lola’s efforts to build a judgment-free zone for women. “It is helping to end the culture of silence that exists for women in some parts of the world,” he says.
Lola explains that while Nigeria’s constitution prohibits discrimination related to gender, women in her country face more than their fair share of problems. This includes “fewer economic opportunities, domestic violence and a high maternal mortality rate in part caused by a lack of access to healthcare among women.” In addition, “we have been conditioned and we have been raised to keep silent, because someone is going to get embarrassed by something we say,” Lola says.
FIN is a safe place for women to talk about anything and everything. Women in FIN discuss everything “from marriage and sex to health issues and work problems” as well as talking about the discrimination and challenges they struggle with. In a recent post by Zuckerberg about an upcoming meeting with Lola and other community leaders on Facebook, he took the time to praise and highlight Lola’s work with FIN. A number of commenters, presumably FIN members, chimed in with enthusiastic praise. “FIN rocks,” wrote one woman. Several wrote, “FIN cares.” Another ended her comment with “#FINworks.”
Zuckerburg plans to stream parts of his summit with Lola and others later this month.