Kate Henshaw: Fighting for Women’s Rights
During the Easter holidays, lovers of stage plays had an exciting experience with Doyenne Circle’s musical, Ada The Country which had Kate Henshaw as the lead character.
Ada The Country tells the story of Ada, who loses her 9-month-old daughter and property in a fire incident in which she barely survives herself. The traumatic experience sends her into depression but with the support of women across different generations, who have been through such harrowing experiences, she is able to walk through a process of restoration.
Kate Henshaw, a Microbiology graduate who gave the stage play her 100 percent best, in this interview, says she also enjoys using her influence to positively impact lives, advocate for a better Nigeria, and as well to raise her voice on issues that concern the girl child, women and everyone in general.
Stage plays don’t hold regularly like it used to be in the 80s. For practitioners like you, what was is like returning to the stage with Ada The Country?
I’m an advocate for the girl child and for women. I truly do love the stage, very much. So, when I was first approached to star in Ada the Country, I found the title quite intriguing; Ada is the first female child in the Igbo culture and Ada the Country means there is a lot of expectation on her to become the best expectations from society, family, and all.
So, I was totally and truly delighted to be a part of it the first time. And of course, this is the second installment in 2022. We had a fantastic time. The first time in 2020 and 2022, it was like home to me and I felt really fantastic rehashing, the straight the lines and then added a few more layers to the character to make her believable. I love the title, I love the musical, and it was such a huge honour and pleasure to be a part of it.
How challenging was it communicating the central theme of the play?
The only challenge was the rehearsal time. You know that for stage, you need to put in a lot of work rehearsing. You have to go over and over and over again, moving around the state and of course, with the added layer of it being a musical, that, also, added a bit of a challenge to the theme of the play. So, putting that all together and also making time for my other commitments was a bit of a challenge to me, but I took it in my stride. I made sure I gave it 100% each time I had to be at rehearsal to ensure that the character came alive, and it was communicated clearly to the audience.
From the whole experience, how best can women going through trauma be helped?
I believe that asking for help does not show a sign of weakness, asking for help is actually saying that you need support. People should not be shy to ask for help or talk to professionals, in order to be counselled. I believe that when you open up your heart and you tell your story, you get some sort of healing. But from that, you also inspire all the people who are going through the same stuff, to come forward and share their own story. It helps others know that they are not alone in whatever situation that they are going through in a society where women are seen and not heard. Women need to raise their voices and ask for help, and of course, having a good support system in terms of family, good friends, does not hurt. Support is very good. No matter what you’re going through, you need good people around you to be able to lift you up out of any situation that you’re going through.
Gender based domestic Violence is gradually becoming the order of the day. What do you think can be done to stem this menace?
I think more stringent consequences in terms of punishments should be meted out to perpetrators. No shaming of the victim. No victimization of the person who has gone through domestic violence. Our culture of silence perpetuates this evil. And so, a lot of voices need to be raised.
Gender-based violence is something that has been with us for a while, but with the advent of social media, it is now coming to the fore in a huge wave. A lot more needs to be done especially by women to be able to stem this Menace. And of course, we need the relevant authorities to be alive to their responsibilities; name and shame the perpetrators so that people know that these kinds of people are being punished.
So, I’m an advocate for stringent strong punishment to deter others.
Celebrities are always in the forefront when a gender-based violence occurs. However, most times, they never follow through to ensure the culprit is properly charged. Why is that so?
Celebrities are human beings. They use their platform for those who choose to use their platform, to bring to light, issues that affect the society. This they do in terms of advocacy, film, documentaries, music, in advocating for a better Society. They are human beings like everyone else, so, they cannot do it on their own. They need the support of society, male and female to be able to stop this menace. On them being able to follow through to the end, another thing is the length of time that it takes for prosecution and for judgment to be served to the perpetrator. You know, after a while, the victim gets tired and feels like, oh, they don’t want to go through it. I have worked with a couple of NGOs, putting out their information, Miracle Center projects a lot of violence against women and children, Chechen Yara, WORRY which is women at risk Foundation. I’ve always supported them in the advocacy, naming and shaming, telling people where they can go to seek help.
For those in marriage, what would you counsel, especially in a society where single and divorced women are less respected?
Well, like I said, society blames the woman who leaves her marriage even when it is life-threatening. The society is not very kind to single and divorced women because they see them as failures. This needs to stop because they are human beings. They also want a better life for themselves. They need to be alive, to actualize all of their potentials. We need to continue to advocate for kinder words being spoken to survivors of those who have come out of a violent relationship or marriage. Sometimes, these abuses are not only physical, but also, mental and even financial. That’s why in terms of accommodation, you hear some landlords say, they don’t want a single woman. Even when you’re trying to get your passports, as a woman, unless you are already married, they frown at that. You need to have a man’s permission to be able to get this legal document, all of that needs to change.
From the play Ada the Country, we see women supporting women but in real world, women have been accused of enforcing obnoxious and archaic traditional practices against their fellow women. How can women make the right changes?
Absolutely, I always say that women are the gatekeepers to some of this archaic and obnoxious traditional practices like, female genital mutilation, widowhood rights etc. Women are in the forefront and they are the ones who perpetrate this. So, when the men turn around and do the same, they are like, look at your fellow woman, it should not be.
Female genital mutilation for one has no benefits whatsoever. Cutting part of the vagina of the woman just to make her less promiscuous has no medical benefit to it other than to scar her psychologically and physically.
So we need good women, we need intelligent women, we need women in the community, we need women leaders, we need market women, we need women in religious societies who will continue to preach and advocate for a saner society and to banish all these traditional practices that are indeed harmful to their fellow women.
These days celebrities bring to the internet all their private affairs, some really scandalous and damning. What is your view on how your colleagues use the social media?
Well, to each, his own; I will say that we all have choices and whatever we do, there are consequences. I, for one, I’m, okay. I’m just minding my lane, content in focusing on my job and issues. I am passionate about advocating for them and generally sending out a positive vibes. So, to each, his own, everyone is an adult and responsible for how they use the tool of social media, because when the purpose of a tool is not known, abuse is definitely inevitable.
Is that why you kept your daughter away from public eyes?
She is my business. It’s private. I choose to have a line dividing privacy and public show-off of whatever. I’m a very private person, but it so happens that my life is my work and that makes some part of my life public. But, I choose to protect her, but well, she’s an adult now. She can make the choice to go into the social media space knowing fully well that it’s a mixed world out there. So, one has to work circumspectly, treading carefully and know that the kind of information you put out, may be used against you in the future.
So I choose to keep her away from the public eye as a personal choice.
Do you think social media has done more harm than good?
Social media, I don’t know if I can say it has done more harm than good. There’s a lot of good that has come from social media. Issues are brought to light that would otherwise not be heard of like gender-based violence, like murder, like laws against women that have not been passed by the National Assembly, laws that favour women, that are not being looked into by the National Assembly. So, social media if it’s not used correctly can turn out to be harmful like, fake information, impersonation of people’s character, using of their images without permission.
So, we need to be more careful in the usage of social media in terms of disseminating information.
How did you manage to keep a clean slate in the movie industry, no scandals?
I stayed on my lane. I focused on me and on putting out good stuffs. I focused on trying to make the world a better place, better than how I met it. I am content with what I have. I try not to involve myself in things that are not beneficial to me. I have learnt a lot in my almost 30 years in the film industry that the public stoplight is on you 24/7. So, I am extremely careful about what I put out. I try to put my life private not put out information that I don’t want people to know about. It is important to me that the focus should be on my work and the other good works that I am trying to do.
You’re still young and beautiful, any second thoughts on remarriage?
(Laughs). Well, never say never at the right time, God will do what He has to do. And if He says ‘No’ fine and if He says, yes, that is also fine. I am not ruling it out, but I am not actively searching to remarry.
You have made exercising a way of life for some years now and the result is being commended. Would you have opted to go under the knife?
I wouldn’t go under the knife, I am already apprehensive about surgical procedures. I think all my life, I have already had one and that is on my hand when I had an injury. I am happy with my body. I am happy with where I am now, in terms of my fitness and my lifestyle. I’ll continue to advocate for people to make exercising a way of life, because apart from the immense good hormones flooding your system, your organs, your mind, your brain will all benefit from it. And of course, if it is weight loss that you are after, you will also get that. I advocate for people not to take a short cut, but to stay and trust the process because the results are too much to count.
When you are not working, how do you relax?
When I am not working, I love massage because my work is quite stressful. So, I have a nice massage, listen to cool music and dance. Dance is very important to me. I like reading books; Thriller, crime novels. Then, I travel if I can. Sometimes I just rest at home. Switch off phones and have some me time. It is very important.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I have been to a lot of places, as long as it’s not cold. Me and the cold we are not friends. I prefer places that are warm, sunny and breezy with lots of site to see, good food, drinks and chops. Anywhere that is relaxing and take some time off for myself will be destination for me.
What gives you the most joy in life?
What gives me the most joy in life is being able to use my influence for good, to affect my immediate society and the world at large, to raise my voice on issues that concern the girl child, women and everyone in general.
Also, to highlight bad practices against individuals, advocating for better governance for the citizens of Nigeria and just lending a voice to help support a better society that we all can benefit from. I am happy that I am able to contribute my own quota joined with others who want the same thing.