A sister’s keeper is one mouthful from the sea
“I can’t do this anymore!”
Those were the words of my colleague and I looked up at her wondering “what now”?
She repeated “I cannot do this work anymore”. And that was when it dawned on me what she was talking about. I was trying to block it out of my mind and I even made to her a gesture of ‘block it” but I knew I was lying to myself. We had just had a brief meeting with a lady who visited our office. I will call her Hope, since that’s all that can help her live on. Hope had made a decision earlier in her life as to how she want to live, but when I was called and met her she was not living that dream. She was holding her 2 month’s old second born baby boy who seemed more interested in watching the lights, shades, and other colors than breastfeed. He is happy, and ignorant of circumstances around him.
Hope wanted to consecrate her life to God by living as a nun. People chose different vocations in life, and hope to find God in those vocations. It could be marriage, single life or religious life. She had chosen the religious life and she was living the best of what she could until it happened. One day, some man abducted and raped her, and took her to be his 9th wife! South Sudan has been at war for a while, until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. The violence is not completely over, but to a large extent in most areas there is peace. But not for Hope! What does peace mean to this woman who was brutally raped, forced into marriage, ran away, was taken back and now has her second child from a man she hardly knows and fears. To make matters worse, the man tore all her certificates so now she can only say she has done some academic courses but nothing to prove. She has no resources to enable her travel to Uganda where she schooled to get some copies of certificates. She is now living with her mother and hardly able to fend for herself and her children.
How does one continue encountering these and remain sane? That was the question my colleague was alluding to. Her passion for women’s emancipation and more on gender based violence against women is an issue we have in common, no wonder she called me to also meet this young woman. As I listened to Hope amid tears that she struggled to control, the thoughts that crossed my mind were nothing hopeful. I was wondering how many more ‘HOPES’ are barely existing due to low self-esteem caused by such violations. Women’s violations during war are so common that one shudders thinking about these. Where will our sisters, mothers, be safe? This is not only in countries in conflict but common even in the so called ‘peaceful’ countries.
Last week I saw a clip aired on a Kenyan media house about gang rapes happening in some part of Nairobi. It is insane!! Why do human beings subject other human beings to such? When will women be safe? The helplessness that one feels encountering such women makes one feel like closing eyes very tight and assume it is not happening. It can get overwhelming, very sad, very draining. The saddest part for every woman knows it can happen to you, me, my sister, my mother…to any woman or girl. The ‘sadddestestest’ knowing that such perpetrators usually go scot free and continue causing harm all over.
When will it ever stop? Sometimes it feels like trying to scoop water from the sea. I am encouraged by the words of the Late Wangari Maathai, that like a humming bird I can do the little I can, everyone passionate about the cause can do something little. Get one mouthful of water from the sea. Sometimes it’s the least we can do, touch one woman’s life and be a sister’s keeper. Sometimes it is what one sister just needs.