With gang related crimes on the rise, this could easily have happened in Lagos Nigeria.
Growing up, I was part of a neighbourhood group of three girls and four boys, which we didn’t call a gang. We’d look out for each other and spend time together after school and during the summer holidays, as my mum didn’t let me leave Brixton. When I was 11 or 12, I started secondary school and started to get involved in criminal activities, like joyriding and petty crimes like stealing stuff from shops. I was trying to protect myself from being a victim. I came from a loving household, but I was bullied by a group of girls on my way to school because I played the violin and looked different, I didn’t have a perm in my hair.
At 13, I created my own gang for protection from young people from other areas. We were a group of three Caribbean girls from Brixton who went to school in Croydon, which made us stand out. After a few fights, we decided we’d had enough and I was the gang leader. We fought against other girls, we had weapons, we were ready for war against anybody who wanted to trouble us or make us their victims. That wasn’t going to happen. By protecting ourselves we gained a reputation and that brought greater power.
Based on the young people I work with now, women are often drawn to the gang environment because of partners with that lifestyle. They’re manipulated into carrying stuff, keeping things in their house or setting people up. It’s a form of control that stems from not loving yourself enough and being needy of others. It’s easy for a man to bribe them with money and nice things, but what are you having to do in return? Men prey on weaker women who are more vulnerable and susceptible to saying yes. Family members also get their female siblings and family members involved – it’s a domino effect. Sexual exploitation within gangs is common. I was raped when I was 11. This fuelled a lot of anger and resentment, which led me to vent my anger and commit violence within gangs, although it wasn’t the main cause or reason why. Read more
written by NATALIE GIL