The year 2017 became one of reckoning for sexual assault, harassment, misogyny, and the cancellation of all men who abused their power for the exploitation of women. TIME announced its annual “Person of the Year” cover on Wednesday Dec. 6 and this year, the prestigious cover story was too big for just one person. The brave individuals who spoke out against sexual harassment and assault are the focus of this year's cover. This includes lobbyist and activist Adama Iwu, who was also highlighted for her courage to organize more than 147 women to expose sexual harassment in California government. After experiencing harassment herself, Iwu was shocked at the lack of response that was given to her by those who even witnessed her assault. Instead of ignoring what happened to her herself, Iwu decided to take action against these men who had grown accustomed to doing whatever they pleased.
Activist Tarana Burke may have started the #MeToo hashtag 10 years ago, but it has recently become a rallying cry for women who are tired of being ignored and tired of being mistreated at the hands of men. The #MeToo movement has swept our nation, but it is way too powerful to be swept under the rug.
Here are a few more things to know about Iwu's story if you need some added inspiration from these magnificent women.
1. The Moment That Changed Everything
Adama Iwu is the head of government relations in the western states for Visa and an outspoken advocate against harassment. Earlier this year, Iwu says that an unnamed drunken man allegedly groped her at a work event. To make matters worse, surprisingly, Iwu said no one in the room admonished his behavior or cared enough to ask Iwu how she felt about what happened. Like most sexual harassment cases, especially the ones that go unreported, this moment went mute in the room. Her male colleagues downplayed the incident because according to Iwu, they figured she knew the guy. “It enraged me that it happened in front of other male colleagues,” Iwu told The Sacramento Bee in October. “They said ‘Oh, you hugged him, we thought you knew him.’ That doesn’t mean when I spent the other three minutes pushing him off me that I didn’t want someone to step in and say ‘She said “no,” stop.’”
Just moments before the man violated her, Iwu told CNN that she and other colleagues had wrapped up a conversation about Harvey Weinstein and how men have the power to become allies for women subjected to sexual harassment. In this moment, ironically, no one stepped in to become her ally when the man groped her. But Iwu refused to be silenced.
2. Her Next Move
Iwu used the uncomfortable experience with the man, whom she hasn't named, to take down sexual harassment in politics by speaking up for women who often felt silenced. A number of California lobbyists, politicians, and public figures helped Iwu draft a letter blasting the behavior of predators in politics. Her open letter published in the Los Angeles Times back in October shares the following,
"Why didn't we speak up? Sometimes out of fear. Sometimes out of shame. Often these men hold our professional fates in their hands. They are bosses, gatekeepers, and contacts. Our relationships with them are crucial to our personal success."
Because of Iwu's courage, a number of women were invited to appear before an assembly subcommittee, investigating sexual harassment at the Sacramento Capitol, to openly share details of their encounters with men at work and come up with a plan for change.
3. The Birth of 'We Said Enough'
Iwu vented in a text message to a friend about her incident, which soon motivated her to expand the conversation to other women in forced into uncomfortable positions with their male counterparts. Iwu launched "We Said Enough," a platform for courageous women to share their stories of abuse and harassment. The site also lists resources for legal services and organizations there every step of the way. "We Said Enough" serves as a nonprofit aiming to put an end to harassment by outlining, "a plan of action for improving how complaints are reported, investigated, and addressed."
4. The TIME is Now
A moment of frustration at a work event became her power. Adama Iwu's courage landed her on the cover of TIME in the company of other brave souls reclaiming their voices. Iwu told TIME,
'Young women told me about the same men who harassed me years ago. And I all I did was participate in the whisper network: 'Here's what you can wear,' 'Here's where you can go,' 'Here's who to avoid.' But you have to address it head on and as a group. It's hard to call 147 women liars. We can't all be crazy. We can't all be sluts.
Survivors and women like Iwu are a champion for all of us to squash the systems of abuse against women. When strong women join forces, we are unstoppable.