The only way to stop rape is to report it, according to a Nigerian activist against gender-based violence.

Lilian Okonkwo-Ogabu will be the guest speaker at a Kaitaia workshop about sexual abuse, held on December 10 by HealNZ.

The workshop forms part of the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an annual campaign headed by the United Nations. The campaign started on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and will end on December 10 with Human Rights Day.

Ms Okonkwo-Ogabu was invited to New Zealand by Kaitaia's Ciaran Torrington, one of the founders of HealNZ, who is an ACC sexual abuse therapist, sexual abuse survivor and recently named Kiwibank Local Hero for her work in the community.


The pair met in New York in March for the UN's annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and instantly found common ground.

Ms Okonkwo-Ogabu said there were huge problems in Nigeria with women's inequality, in part due to patriarchal customs and traditional Christian culture.

"It is believed that the place of a women is in the kitchen, to be a mother and wife. The man can go to school and take on jobs," she said. "The men, they don't want to hear about inequality because they believe the man is the top; the man is born to lead."

This sort of male dominance often led to sexual domination and genital mutilation in Nigeria, Ms Okonkwo-Ogabu said.

Gender-based poverty was also an issue, with many women being uneducated and no welfare system to support them if they left their husband, she said.

But Ms Torrington said Nigeria had lessons to offer Kaitaia.

Ms Okonkwo-Ogabu led a group which actively encouraged sexual abuse survivors to report the abuse. The group would often lead loud marches in the streets to ensure the perpetrators faced justice.

"Nigerian women are publicly standing up, supporting and asking survivors to speak up," Ms Torrington said. "There's tremendous pressure here, especially in the Far North, to not report."


With increased awareness and reporting in Nigeria, the number of rapes were going down, she said.

"These amazing women — who are supposedly behind us here in New Zealand — said that the only way to stop rape is to report it."

Ms Torrington said in New Zealand, many sexual abuse survivors felt too shamed or afraid to report the abuse.

The justice system was not supportive to survivors, with just one in 100 sexual offenders being convicted in New Zealand, according to statistics from the National Council of Women, she said.

"We still can't convict. Even though we have so much more than Nigeria, we still can't get the public to back us," she said.

The sexual abuse workshop, Te Wairua o Tika, will be held at NorthTec in Kaitaia on December 10. It was open to anyone who wanted to learn how to support survivors to seek healing and report offending.

Ms Torrington first held the workshop in 2014 and plans to repeat it every year until there is change in the community.

Entrance to the workshop is by koha, contact