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Asking for it

Eight months ago I left my comfort zone. I packed my life, my hopes and my expectations into a suitcase and moved to a new city, a new continent altogether. It has been an adventure and I have not looked back since. As I continue to adapt to a new city, language and culture, I have also have had to grapple with my race and gender.

In the beginning I wanted to laugh it off, brush it aside as curiosity- they mean no harm, it is just staring, and a black woman appears to be a rare thing in these parts.
But then I began to notice more. The persistent glares that went past curiosity and lingered... lingered over my body, assuming an invitation. This was on my way from work, broad daylight, rush hour traffic, children skipping from school. This was on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon on a main road.
It didn’t matter if the only skin you could see was my neck or my arms. Even when I wrapped my head up and half my face in a scarf I still got it: the ‘eye rape’- the sexual stare down.
You could be quietly reading a book in a park. You could be all dressed up on your way to a party. It could be anywhere in the world. Any city, any place. You could be wearing anything.
That did not matter. Standing, walking, waiting...your presence is perceived as an open invitation for all sorts of characters to assume anything. An overtly sexual stare-down, a gesture, passing words, deliberate actions, moments when you are reminded, made uncomfortably aware, that your gender singles you out and makes you a target.

On paper, we have it down- there are countless UN resolutions and government pledges to back it up. And really what does this mean for the day to day? Everything, anything, nothing? Where is the change if oppressive behaviour is pardoned, justifications are still invoked and women still feel they stand alone. Broken promises and empty rhetoric.

This is why the sisterhood, the family of World Pulse, is so important. A fraternity of women from all corners of the globe creates a forum where we understand that we are not alone. We are together in this and we can reach out to each other and learn how to transcend the pledges on paper to mean something in our day to day.

Comments

katyrdz's picture

Nakhulo, I understad what

Nakhulo, I understad what you're saying. I also lived three years away from home, and it is difficult, specially at the beginning, to experience in first person how in some countries your skin color seems to matter most than your thoughts or capabilities. Stereotypes are so harmful, the stares, the words, everything is painful, but we are strong women, and we shouldn't let those attitudes affect us. Stay safe and enjoy your new country!

NakhuloD's picture

Thanks Kat. One of my

Thanks Kat. One of my favourite authors says that 'the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.'
It is about rising above the box that society has constructed about you.

Keep up your good work ( I follow your posts ;-) )

Peace.

Adepeju's picture

hi NakhuloD

This is one big issue I have with laws. Taking so much effort to draft a law and pass it but making little effort to enforce it. As you have mentioned, there are a lot of conventions and resolutions passed to ensure the dignity of persons and protect women from sexual assaults, but the question is , are those laws serving their purpose? Your guess is as good as mine!

NakhuloD's picture

Preach sister! While I

Preach sister! While I understand the role of the law, I think all that energy and all those resources must be equally spent making those laws a reality. The law is of little use if it cannot be enforced or if it is not even understood.
For instance, how many women can actually access the justice system? And as the laws change, is the system changing and adapting as well?
The best part though is that we get to put our heads together and figure out the ways...:)

Lombe's picture

The Lookers

Nakhulo,

Thank you for sharing your story and in such a beautiful way.

The persisting challenge of having to prove women have a right to exist, to walk the streets and breathe; that is a struggle most women face even if it show's up in many forms.

I look forward to reading more of your writing.

Best,

Lombe

Lombe Mwambwa
"I think a woman has two choices: either she's a feminist or a masochist." Gloria Steinem

NakhuloD's picture

I love your Steinem quote :)

I love your Steinem quote :) TRUE!
Thank you for your comments Lombe.

plattem's picture

I really liked the way you

I really liked the way you expressed yourself! I would like to hear more about how you think we can create that bridge between what is on paper and everyday reality!

Never feel like you stand alone and keep on with your adventure.

All the best,

Emma

NakhuloD's picture

Thank you Emma! The adventure

Thank you Emma! The adventure continues.
Bridging the gap will be no easy feat (however I always retain my optimism because attitudes and thoughts can change, and that is everything), open communication that is encouraged where we can share and feed off information is always a good start. Will keep you posted on my ideas!

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