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March 8, 2011

Uwa is an independent, well-educated woman who provided for herself and her family. This outraged her husband’s family, who pressured him to “control” her, including through violence. She refused to submit to their oppression, took her daughters, and left. Winning asylum has allowed Uwa the stability to build a new life, pursuing the independence that she has always cherished.

I specifically requested to share my story publicly. I want others to know what happened to me, and having my story shared and knowing that I am supported is an incredible victory.

In the Nigerian community where I was born, a woman’s place is thought to be in the home. But I had other plans. I was determined to pursue a higher education and obtain economic independence, so I attended college, obtained multiple degrees and worked hard to have a very successful career in banking and finance in the top banks in the capitol, Lagos.

Unfortunately, my husband’s family did not care about my career. They were from a different tribe than I was, and they told my husband that women from my tribe were too hard to control. Though my job supported my husband, many of his siblings, and his extended family, living with them was misery. I was constantly insulted, with his family calling me names like “useless woman” and mocking my tribe. Whenever I tried to assert my independence, they turned their insults to my husband for not controlling me better.

Soon, my husband too began to insult me, beat me physically, and then rape me, in order to “teach me” to be “his woman.” For over two years I suffered his abuse.

I tried to get help. I went to our church’s marriage committee for counseling but my husband continued to threaten and abuse me in front of the committee. Next, I tried the police, but they told me, ‘Woman, that is a family affair. Go and submit to your husband.’

Finally, I decided to do the unthinkable and file for divorce. Nigerian women simply don’t divorce their husbands. I had a very hard time finding a lawyer to represent me, and even when I found an attorney he eventually withdrew his representation because of my husband’s death threats against him.

After a period spent in hiding and with no other options, I fled with my children to the United States. I found legal assistance to help represent me and my daughters in an asylum claim. I am incredibly grateful for their help. When my husband contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to falsely accuse me of kidnapping our children in an attempt to hold up my asylum case, my legal team was able to help me obtain documents from Nigeria proving that I had legal custody of my children, ensuring my case went through.

When my Tahirih attorney called to tell me that my daughters and I had successfully obtained legal status in the United States, I was so overwhelmed with joy that I had to hang up the phone and call back when I had collected myself. I am now studying to become a nurse so that I may realize the goals of economic independence and self-sufficiency that have always been so important to me. I continue to work with my attorneys to finalize the divorce and custody cases against my husband in the Nigerian and United States courts.

Names may have been changed to protect client privacy and safety. Photo may not depict actual client.

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  • Maria
    "We can overcome unthinkable situations. Every mother should have the opportunity to fight for justice for themselves and their family. We deserve to be heard and we deserve to be free of violence."
    February 23rd, 2021
  • Allan
    “Looking back, I see that I had the strength and resolve the whole time. Because of trauma, we tell ourselves we can’t do it. But in reality, we have overcome so much, and we will continue to overcome. I’m going to continue pressing forward to reach my dreams.”
    February 23rd, 2021
  • Photograph of Maryam
    "I would not be where I am today if it were not for Tahirih’s dedication to provide me with legal, social, and moral support."
    February 23rd, 2021