"#UntilTheViolenceStops" by Rutendo Chigudu, Her Zimbabwe
One of the hardest things I have ever done is to sit at my laptop and try and set my feelings and thoughts in ink.... this may be odd to comprehend given that I speak my mind and write it as well. Well, it is true... I want to write about my time in Kenya, the stories that seem like extracts from a Japanese horror movie, the love and support I felt shared, the amazing women who are fighting on the ground... day in day out...the resistance they face and the decisions they have made that have changed not only their lives but that of countless of other women. I relate with their frustrations, fears, hopes, dreams.... the harsh realities.... I have never cried so much in my life... I have never felt so much rage, so much pain, so much helplessness and so much anguish yet... have never felt so much love, hope, joy, I have never been so encouraged, so motivated, so inspired... I was able to admit my fears, speak out my mind and my feelings about the situations that torment me, some that I have had to give up on, some that I admitted, for the first time, to have depleted my energy, others that have i dread but I know that I have to face.... i have never felt my own vulnerability in such a manner, in a very safe environment.
I am reminded of two of my treasured friends who have taught me the joys of loving a fellow woman unconditionally. These women who help me grow, who understand when I am struggling with rage and depression and despair, women who allow me to be me... weak and all... with my loud mouth.
As I write this, I am alone and I can feel my tears welling up as my chest and throat begin to constrict. I am about to cry and I know that it is okay to cry. To admit that I am a human being who has emotions. I am quickly reminded of women and young girls who have so much hope about life despite what they have encountered...so many women whom have been left for dead, broken, shattered and violated in some of the most horrific ways yet they were in that room.... sharing their life-stories. I have never felt so much life curse through a place as it did in that room full of these amazing and precious women.
i learnt how to appreciate women, how to be an even more far-reaching citizen of the world. It takes me doing my own little bit in my own little corner to change the world. I have faced an adorable young woman who was so raped and abused that she had to have reconstructive done on her vagina, not once but twice. A young woman who was raped by countless men when she was pregnant (a result of rape!) stood in that room and shared her story with women most of who she had not met before. Another elderly woman shared of how she has been persecuted and thrown into jail just because she is bringing change to women whose culture dictates that they have their clitoris cut off and the labia sewn tighter than a baby’s. I have met women from different generations who appreciate the efforts that each generation is making in fighting against violence against women and children. I saw mothers reach out to their daughters, sisters cementing relationship that will cross borders and generations. I have been so humbled and so encouraged. If there is one thing I can say I will take out of the days I spent in Kenya at the VDay Africa summit, it would have to be the conviction that violence against women and children will stop! The women I met are individually willing to bring that change, one person at a time, one family, one community at a time, one tribe, one culture, one nation, one law one continent at a time. Violence against women and children will end, I see this so clearly in my mind. Those tears did not fall down nor were those stories shared in vain.