In Conversation With Odunayo Eweniyi & Damilola Odufuwa, Founders Of Wine & Whine

May 23, 2019
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With regards to issues ranging from access to economic resources to the prevalence of sexual violence, a 2018 poll ranked Nigeria as the ninth most dangerous country in the world for women – trailing behind famously misogynistic countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

Well, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you wouldn’t need a poll to tell you just how bad women in this county have it. The daily barrage of hurdles they have to overcome is exactly what pushed Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi to launch Wine & Whine.

Wine & Whine is an online (Instagram) and offline (monthly events) community where Nigerian women “can feel physically and emotionally safe enough to have important conversations” about everything that affects them, ranging from feminism to financial literacy.

So, we at Konbini decided to catch up with the devoted founders of the fast-growing community, and we discussed their experience as women in Nigeria, what inspired them to launch Wine & Whine, their hopes for women on the platform, their plans for the future and more. 

It’s difficult being a woman in Nigeria because the system is rigged against me and my gender

What has been your experience as a woman in Nigeria?

Odun: It’s difficult being a woman in Nigeria because the system is rigged against me and my gender. It’s oppressive and stifling. The risks and discrimination that I face daily are ridiculous, and I don’t think it’s much different for other women. We’re constantly held to ridiculous standards and blamed for the mistakes of others. Honestly, I need a break.

Dami: Interesting and awful. Interesting because you see where and how class privilege helps — once Nigerians see what they consider to be a pretty wealthy woman with an ‘accent’, they are automatically better-behaved. But that privilege can only get you so far.

It’s awful because I also see how I’m treated by the average Nigerian man — who thinks he has my “type at home”. I’m only worthy of respect if I have a man beside me. There are so many gatekeepers of patriarchy in Nigeria, and I could vent all day but to summarise, the current social and legal system in Nigeria is built to keep women down.

What inspired you to start Wine & Whine?

Odun: I walk around with so much anger and resentment, and I know that I’m not alone in this. I also couldn’t randomly complain, so the idea of a safe space for women like me to get together, complain, have fun and then brainstorm practical solutions sounded great. So, Dami and I started it.

Dami: Nigerian women face unfair pressures from every direction. For the most part, these women are exhausted and sometimes feel they have no one to really vent to without judgment. And for too long, a lot of the conversations about women’s rights, empowerment and fun have been tainted by interjections about men’s needs or wants or opinions.

Our conversations should pass the Bechdel test. That’s why we started Wine & Whine. To create an informal place where women feel physically and emotionally safe to have important conversations and ask necessary questions — and to generate change, while drinking a glass of wine of course.

It’s more than apparent that women need this space and have needed it for a while

What has the reception been like?

Odun: Overwhelmingly positive. We’ve had about 4 events now, with almost 300 people in attendance, and we have a social community of over 1,000 people. It’s more than apparent that women need this space and have needed it for a while. We’re just happy to have been able to provide that.

Dami: Amazing! The women who attend our events and follow us on Instagram are so passionate and emotionally invested in Wine & Whine. I run the IG account and I remember around the time of the elections, we had planned our self-defence drive but the elections kept being postponed — which kept forcing us to change dates.

So many women sent us DMs telling us we shouldn’t worry, they’ll come whenever the event holds, Nigeria won’t defeat us etc. They were trying to comfort us! I was really moved by that. By how dedicated they are.

What do you hope the women get out of it?

Odun: A sense of freedom and safety. A sense of community and sisterhood. Confidence boosts and validation. Just all things positive. Society has denied women all these things for so long. I am rooting for everyone female, so we will be actively working to improve the value that we provide to the ladies in our community.

Dami: Yes, what Odun said. In addition, I want to educate women on topics they never really paid attention to but absolutely should. From financial literacy and the gender equality bill, to black women’s mental health. I also want women to support each other by supporting women-focused NGOs (we raise funds and awareness for a select charity every quarter).

The Instagram page is really a place for us to further the conversations.

The Instagram account already feels like a community in itself, why was curating that space so important to you?

Odun: Humans are a visual species. But more importantly, female-focused images only make up a small percentage of images on the internet. Our page is designed to change that.

Dami: As we only have events once a month, we want the attendees to still feel connected to us/the community.  There’s only so much we can discuss in person at our events. The Instagram page is really a place for us to further the conversations.

Instagram is a visual app and I wanted our page to represent who we are — bold, informal, fun and modern. For example, we love using music and pop culture references as quotes to empower our audience.

What’s your plan for the future of the platform?

Odun: To reach as many women as possible and to offer a variety of services and opportunities directed at women across Nigeria, and maybe eventually, the world.

Dami: What she said. Right now we will continue with our monthly events but we would love to have a massive event at the end of the year! Ultimately we want women to feel safe, happy and valued– both online and offline.

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