Visioning Hope, I Rise
In a moment of divine synchronicity one restless February night, about two months ago, I was brought to the short film, "One Billion Rising." For three minutes, I sat transfixed while being visually transported to distant places--Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and North America--as I watched women unknown to me endure a familiar fate.
In this brief period spanning lifetimes of female anguish, I shed tears for girls being raped, enduring female genital mutilation, wearing permanent facial and other bodily scars from male abuse, those seething on the inside from unbridled sexual harassment, and for those suffering through forced or low-paid labour. My tears came from a place of compassion and recognition that I, in one way or another, am those girls and women.
I am the girl who's fought off unwarranted male sexual aggression. I was the young woman who felt powerless and afraid to challenge my culture's social norms, who lacked the confidence and the courage to believe in my own abilities, and who eventually surrendered to feelings of inferiority and worthlessness. I am the woman who works three times as hard as my male colleagues, sacrificing nights and weekends to ensure my work is done, but who is ultimately assessed on my unwillingness to entertain my male boss' crass sexual innuendos. For many years I have quietly borne the emotional wounds without exposing them to the light of day. In the process, they have festered and bled; some have scabbed but with every new reminder of hurt and disappointment, they bleed afresh.
As I watched the film, my tears burned from feelings of frustration, anger, and helplessness. But gradually, the hot flame of anger cooled to a gentle flicker of hope. As the women in the film began to RISE, the infectious glimmer of hope in their eyes soon reflected in mine and I too rose. Stretching my index finger up in the air, I swayed my hips to the silent song of freedom in my head.
That February night, I became fully awake.
In the days following, I scoured the internet hoping to ride the wave of optimism that had arisen within me. In the process, I found the women of World Pulse.
Through the World Pulse Voices of the Future Programme, I have met some incredibly intelligent, articulate, POWERFUL women. Their stories of hope, of overcoming, and of achievement have been inspiring. Getting the opportunity to reflect and to tell my own story has been empowering.
Being a part of the World Pulse community has quieted--and at the same time, ignited--the restlessness I have been feeling for many months, even years, now. The weekly assignments have given me the opportunity to refine my writing voice, and to examine my perspective on issues I have always felt strongly about.
For too long, I have silently witnessed injustice, corruption, nepotism, discrimination and a host of other social problems happen around me. I have grown tired of seeing young people abused by a rotten and corrupt system and women and girls paraded in popular media as sexual objects. I have grown weary of reading the news that yet another schoolgirl has been abducted and raped. I am sickened from withholding the scream in my belly every time I hear that a woman and her children have been bludgeoned to death by her disgruntled spouse, boyfriend, 'baby faada', or live-in-lover. I am tired of silently shouting, "Where is the outrage?!"
More than anything, I am haunted by the looks and attitudes of hopelessness, resignation. and indifference worn by people around me. Worse than doing nothing about the problems, many Jamaicans have simply accepted them as the norm.
I hope to become a World Pulse Voice of the Future Correspondent in order to bring these issues to the forefront while advocating for change. Having recently started a blog for the first time, I would like to be able to write with clarity and authority on critical issues which will generate thought and discussion. I hope to harness a range of traditional and new media tools to empower women and girls, and to challenge men and boys to examine their notions of identity and masculinity. As a documentary film aficionado, I one day hope to produce documentary films as tools for education and advocacy.
Lastly, I dream of creating a physical space in my community where both men and women, who may have missed the opportunity to acquire an education, and find themselves unemployed or in low-skilled professions, can access basic adult education and life skills training. I envision this space as one of upliftment and empowerment, where they will come to 'lean-in' for support, encouragement, and guidance. I believe that through mentorship, training, networking, and resource-sharing, I can bring these visions to reality.