Believing Beyond Tidy Packages
In December 2009, the women’s rights organization I was working for closed. Without the marching, speaking, and healing I was doing on womankind’s behalf, I was left with my own march, my own shaky voice, and my own pain. I knew that my outer activist had been born from years of bruises, but no one else did. I had been teaching girls the importance of reporting relationship violence, of calling help lines, of getting counseling, but over a span of six years, I had done none of the above. The work I was doing had been statistically successful but I was left with the anxiety of personally knowing how hard it is to speak out; how truly frightening it is to report someone you love; and how completely choiceless you are when your life is at risk.
What percentage of young women had, like me, learned to be fierce feminists on the outside but were still concealing bruises under their sleeves? What percentage knew how to answer evaluations correctly but also knew that reporting was a risk they simply would not take? And what percentage had we missed altogether, the percentage who still had their teachers’, and preachers’, and fathers’, and brothers’ babies in their bellies?
The truth is that knowing my rights did not empower me to prevent abuse. The law did not empower me to report abuse. Results Based Management did not empower me with the tools I needed to stop others from being abused.
Until now, I was writing someone else’s story. I was writing what is a surface movement, what looks good on indicator reports. I was writing without listening to my own voice. As shaky as it is, that voice is telling me that what we are doing is not enough. It is telling me that somewhere along the line we have decided that our personal realities are far too complicated to work within so we must rely on policy to empower, on law to heal.
So many women go through their whole lives squishing and minimizing and silencing themselves into tidy packages. The irony in women’s rights development is that we run the risk of doing exactly the same thing. A girl does not belong to womankind’s fight. She has a fight of her own, a voice of her own, a dream of her own. The reason I have chosen to participate in Voices of Our Future, is quite simply because I have chosen not to tweak and trim my sister’s fight, and I have chosen not to give up on my own.