Nigeria's female bouncers ensure security
Breaking into a male domain: The Nigerian security company Dragon Squad employs only plus-size women — and thus challenges macho role models as well as supposed ideals of beauty.
Punching back social stereotypes
Members of the security company Dragon Squad Limited train together in the southern Nigerian town of Uyo. The company only hires women of a certain size and figure, creating a safe space for them.
Security and self-confidence
Emen Thomas, founder of Dragon Squad Limited, plans the missions for her team. In her youth, Thomas was often teased by slimmer female classmates. Then she found a niche where her body type was in demand. In 2018, Thomas founded her all-female security service.
Symbol of power and protection
The mythical dragon, which features prominently on the badges of the security team, is a symbol of power and protection for founder Thomas.
Thomas' business idea has been a success, with Dragon Squad employees already employed at around 2,000 events. From parties, club nights, political rallies or, as seen here, funerals — the 43 female employees provide security at a wide variety of venues.
The women of the security company not only secure events, but also act as bodyguards for individual clients and customers. Here, Esther Brown and Ukeme Tom guard the newly crowned King Obong Ibanga Ikpe at his coronation ceremony in Uyo.
Defusing conflict with patience
These two Dragon Squad employees are restrainig a man who was getting too close to the VIP area. Founder Thomas believes that women are even better bouncers: They defuse conflicts simply by listening to both victims and aggressors — something some men have no patience for.
Fighting against cliches
Peace Vigorous, the youngest team member at 23, puts the finishing touches on her hair before a job at a church. "People expect us to be in the kitchen or probably doing make-up and other feminine roles, but joining this squad has really enlightened me," Vigorous told the Reuters news agency. The security job is also a way for the employees to show what women can do in all aspects of society.
Her work as a security guard has also influenced Thomas' private life. Like many of her colleagues, she used to be introverted and shy, partly because of her weight. The job has boosted her self-confidence, says the 37-year-old, seen here picking up her son from school. Her motto: "Face the crowd and be yourself!"
Fitness and pepper spray
Thomas leads an exhausting workout session by the pool. The risk of being molested on the job is "always something we have in mind," she said. That's why the bouncers don't rely solely on their strength, but always carry pepper spray when on duty.
Safety by women, for women
This model has nothing to worry about, with the Dragon Squad team securing the fashion show at which she is performing. Gender-based violence is widespread in Nigeria: The West African country has one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world. Thomas' work has led her to advocate for the rights of girls and women.
Correction, February 6, 2023: A previous version of this gallery misspelled the names of Esther Brown and King Obong Ibanga Ikpe. DW apologizes for the error.