Sill trainee seeks to change Nigerian social norms
June 12, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. June 12, 2014 -- Spc. Roseline Chiuwa left Aba, Nigeria with one goal: to create change. She despises the attitude of acceptance toward daily bomb blasts, people gunned down in the streets and women being frequently kidnapped.
"Those 200 girls who were kidnapped from school, that's just a regular thing that happens all the time. It's just that this is the first time the international world is hearing about it."
Chiuwa came to the United States to prove that she, as a person and as a woman, is strong. She hopes her actions a world away can teach others they don't have to consent to the violent behaviors of a few.
She especially hopes to invoke women who are treated like second class citizens, there.
"In Nigeria if you don't have a male child you don't have a child. Females are not regarded and for a man if you have a male child that's when you become a man," said Chiuwa.
Her father who desperately wanted a son took on three wives and many mistresses. Chiuwa was the last of eight girls born into a household where the wives were used as punching bags for not bearing a son and the only expectation of the daughters was to marry.
"When I was born and he found out I was a girl he didn't show up in the hospital. Someone like my dad he just believed he had to get a male child because he was influential in the society. He just treated the females like they don't exist."
Her father believed his daughters were simply being trained to move into a husband's home where they would forget him and his lineage would end.
"Everything boils down to education. Some people who are enlightened know that we are all equal so they treat their wives with respect. But regardless there's still people that believe in that culture that women are always second in the world."
After Chiuwa's father passed her uncles took over her family's property and essentially left the women homeless. She said her experience there made her want to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
"When I moved here and I saw the way women were treated whatever happened you could go to the police. Women are treated with so much respect here and that's the way it's supposed to be."
Chiuwa is graduating from Basic Combat Training June 13 in E Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery. She has a degree in biochemistry and is going to serve as a logistical supply specialist.
She joined the U.S. Army because she wanted to receive quality training, something she said Nigeria's corrupt society could not offer.
"I feel really great. I feel like I've done something huge. Some people say, 'ah it's just basic training,' It's different for other people, someone like me, it's really different because I've learned so much and it has really changed my life and shaped the way I I think."
Even with her determination to succeed, Chiuwa said the culture shock of BCT was almost too much to bear.
"The first week I came here I just wanted to leave. Considering where I actually came from I know so many people here if they came to Nigeria they would probably never be able to go one week. I came here like oh, God this is too much. This is not what I thought it would be. I told my drill sergeants I was going to leave, but they encouraged me."
She said Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Daniel Jones asked her one question that made her endure: "Haven't you been through tougher things than what you're going through right now?"
After putting herself through college and living a year without electricity she determined her drill sergeant was right.
"I wish my dad was alive right now to see all I've been able to achieve, all I've actually been able to do ... maybe his perspective about women would change."
She said she wants to eventually serve in a medical field, but she was so eager to serve in the military she didn't care what occupation she took. She wanted to prove that she could survive a male dominated job.
"Being a woman doesn't make you weak. It makes you strong. It's just about the way you see yourself. There are people who look themselves in the mirror and they see a lion. Some people look themselves in the mirror they see ant. It's just about how you see yourself."
Chiuwa knows that her success here cannot change all of the injustices in Nigeria, but she hopes to create a ripple effect.
"I always say this: Be the change you want to see in the world. I'm just one person thinking in that direction. One person can never change the world, but at the same time if I can do the little I can, it might make a difference. I want to be able to help all the young girls in Nigeria just to be able to get more education and then know that they can be able to do whatever they want to do, be whoever they want to be."