Nigeria: Dorothée Cesnabmihlo Aken’ova

Dorothée Cesnabmihlo Aken’ova is well known as a tireless communicator able to open a debate on any difficult or sensitive subject among people who do not like to approach such subjects.

— Dorothée Cesnabmihlo Aken’ova

Dorothée Cesnabmihlo Aken’ova was born in Diko, Niger. With a degree in French that she obtained in 1992 from the University of Zaria, she worked for two years with an agency that reinforced the law against drugs. She became interim coordinator of the Women’s Health Organization of Nigeria. The Founder and president of the NGO Increse, she is a resource for various organizations such as UNFPA, WHO, Unicef, IPAS, Rainbo, Amanitare, and local NGOs. She is the married mother of two children.

Dorothée Cesnabmihlo Aken’ova's activism began in 1994. Unfortunately for her, this was during a military dictatorship when conditions were not easy for accomplishing her work. In 1997, she left for New York to present a bleak report from the first and second Nigerian conventions on the elimination of all violence against women. It was a report that put the Nigerian government on the spot because of her politics and her stiff report on women’s sexual rights and rights over their bodies. She then had a difficult fight in the 12 states of northern Nigeria, challenging the authorities on their interpretation of the law and its discriminatory application. Dorothée also worked in close collaboration with Amnesty International, IWHC, and the Human Rights Commission to put pressure on the Nigerian government to free women sentenced to death by stoning for alleged sexual offences, and at the same time to repeal the law. In addition, she fought for sexual rights, especially those of lesbian and bisexual women. Because of her commitment and her deliberate choice to work in rural areas under Sharia law under where conditions for women are deplorable, she was obliged to separate from her children and leave them in Lagos for their security. Because of her activism, the political career of her older brother was jeopardized when it was discovered she lodged with him. She uses any opportunity to start a debate – on public transport, in banks, or the hairdressers. Recently, she developed devices such as badges and posters created by her to start conversations because of their power to attract attention. And they raised strong reactions, such as: “How can you expose women intimately in this manner, can’t you use a different part of the body to depict women, a hand or something else?” At the same time many asked for information on women’s sexuality and women’s rights.

Women’s Health Organization of Nigeria (WHON) International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (Increse) African Partnership for Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Rights of Women and Girls (Amanitare)