Now I am awake!
I am relatively new to living here and am still finding my feet. I’m not sure how long this will take but probably quite a while as I don’t want to join the legions of ‘expats who come here and tell us what to do and then leave’, usually leaving a report that joins all the other reports gathering dust on the shelf. I have no plans to write a report, or tell people what they should do. I want to listen, encourage, offer ideas and make connections. To make strong, sustainable individuals and communities to take on the challenges life throws at them and find solutions for themselves that reflect the aspirations and sensibilities of a people living on one the most remote places on earth.
The population is small, about 3,500, and this brings benefits and problems. Everyone knows each other (and their families) and people help each other a lot which is good and there is a strong sense of belonging. There is a tradition of self-help and I hope that will stay as the island goes through huge changes. We might get an airport soon which will be a massive change as it will mean people can get here in a few hours but that is another discussion altogether although it will have an impact on every aspect of life here.
My biggest barrier to change here has to be getting past the people who tell me “that they tried that and it didn’t work” to every suggestion, getting people to trust and believe I can offer something that will work and finding funding to get things started.
Many of the social problems here are no different to anywhere else but the impact can be. For victims of domestic abuse there are no support services, no refuge or phone-lines to call for support, no support for the children who have witnessed abuse and no way to escape seeing the perpetrator. We are starting a women’s support group, lobbying for a safe house and raising the issue of domestic abuse through community media and education. Finding solidarity with similar groups through Pulse will give the members the confidence to speak out, shout that domestic violence is not acceptable or a part of married life so “get used to it” as I have heard so often.
This is only the beginning, there are so many other behaviours and issues that have been accepted as ‘what happens’ for so long without being questioned we will need the support of Pulse to start even talking about them – but we will and things will change, making life better for women and their children in so many ways. My friend from Afghanistan said moving to England had opened their eyes after being asleep for so long and they wanted to do something with their life before sleeping again. That is what being part of Pulse means to me and the women of St Helena.