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Every Woman's Battle.

“Say you are one of them” is a book that I read few years ago. The book is a collection of many short stories that highlight the battles that women face in the streets of Nairobi Kenya. As a selection of the Oprah Book Club, the book sold millions of copies and spearheaded a global movement of women and men that realized that the whole world is connected. The character of “Maisha” (a Swahili word which means life) is a young girl who was born and brought up in the streets and clearly outlines what I like to call “every woman’s battle”. Her struggles beautifully paint out the proactive power of an African girl who decides to work with her hands to change the trajectory of their street family. She suffered in the hands of unjust individuals yet she managed to shield her siblings from a future filled with poverty and suffering. You see, many individuals in this world have not woken up to the reality that you cannot live your life reactively. As long as it is “their” problem then the responsibility is shifted to “them”. The truth of the matter is that “they” is “us” and it’s just a matter of time before “their” problems catch up with us.

As an African woman I realized that the task ahead of me is humongous. It’s even harder when I come face to face with a situation where I deal with individuals that seem to be unconscious about the reality of the issues that women and girls face at grassroot level. I find myself almost embattled in a never ending struggle with individuals that purport to speak for us in Africa yet some have never even been to Africa. With every small step I take, I find more obstacles. A consistent obstacle that I often find recurring in my path is in tackling strategies that completely keep Africa behind. I have always heard Oprah Winfrey confess that her journey towards the Oprah Winfrey show started when she realized that “bad news” was the only news that would make headline news. In her own words she said “I sat at the news desk and realized that every headline news item had to be “bad news” to catch the viewer’s attention. Why do people enjoy bad news? Is this not one of the leading causes of depression?

Unfortunately, developing countries have been the casualties of making “bad” headline news globally. 23 years ago in my community 71 girls were raped and killed in a night. This news item was reported by almost every global media house. Unfortunately, my sibling was a survivor of that terrible incident. Even today, she still struggles to find calm because she escaped narrowly and lost her friends in that incident. My question for the women of the world is this; “Are you one of them” We face a battle that will require sometimes everything we have. In a world dominated by poor strategic planners, availing the internet for the women of the world is a challenge. I witnessed that the bestselling story of Africa is a sad one when my sibling’s story of survival was reported with focus on only rape and murder and not the survivors. It is very sad that even some of the journalists that wrote the story of my village won Pulitzer awards yet my own sibling has to live with that story of her life without a good ending. I have to live with it too. Even though I was a little girl when it happened, it was also my pain, our family’s pain to bear.

I am determined to continue to be part of the women that will ensure that the solutions made for the women of Africa focus on including them in technology and access to the internet. The time for the African woman’s issues to be tackled without technology is gone. We are behind even in the developing countries access to the internet statistics. I know that every continent is different; therefore I will continue to raise my voice for Africa as a subject matter expert. I am glad to be part of the trailblazers in a journey that will ensure that the world can embrace a story of hope, development and proactivity from the continent of Africa. If we had the internet when 71 girls were raped and killed in one night, my entire village would have let the whole world know our side of the story! We could have started a social media group for give survivors a platform and a working group for emotional wellness. The internet would have enabled us to use crowdsourcing to keep our story balance and the negative would have been depleted by positive reports. We would have discredited the inconsistencies that were reported to exaggerate the “bad story” about Africa online. We could have started another #BringBackOurGirls Campaign and prevented institution rape and murder of adolescent girls.

I know that the internet will not find it’s way to my village overnight, but I am confident that our iVillage Girl Hub will be kissed by heaven one of this fine days and we shall have the internet. We shall make small steps and ensure that we avoid getting distracted or derailed by anything that wastes our time. Our journey will have some days when we shall feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, but if our lives will amount to anything we have to be ready to go the extra mile. Recently, we participated in a challenge that would have given us a chance to solve the issue of insecurity in Africa by implementing a solution that would give rural women access to the internet. The outcome lead us to understand that we have to press on. I received hundreds of emails on social media most of which were an outcry from women and girls. They wondered why the outcome did not include solutions that would move African women towards innovation and access to the internet. We look forward to brighter days ahead and for every door that we find closed ahead of us, we quickly regroup and take it as a necessary redirection that will lead us to our open door. I implore the women of our world to keep on in the struggle towards availing the internet for every woman in the world. It is through the internet that our team will manage to avail a distress safety manual for women in the entire continent of Africa. I had promised to keep our followers posted on our progress so I am attaching our current status on the attached documents below.

My Poem

To say that I do not know you would be a lie,

I know you because I see a portion of myself in your life.

To act like I do not care, is to act like I am not alive,

I am alive so I care.

To act like I cannot see you is to act like my eyes are blind,

Yet even if I am blind, my heart can feel your presence from your voice.

To act like I cannot speak for you is to act like my lips are dumb

Yet even though I could be dumb my heart whispers your name.

Say you are one of them,

Say you are one of us,

We are the women who weave the web,

Our voices rise in the midst of every noise!

Support Technology Through Internet Access and innovation to #BringBackOurGirls

Please Click this link to access the story of my community on New York Times Archives
http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/29/world/kenyans-do-some-soul-searching-a...

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

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Comments

olutosin's picture

Thanks for your beautiful voice

How I wish that every rural girl has access to the internet. We must do everything within our power to raise this issue and save the future of our girls in the rural communities. in the area we work, we do not even have access to electricity, talkless of the internet, and I begin to wonder, if we are struggling with electricity at this age, when the whole world is moving away from electricity to other energy efficiency discoveries, then are we part of this progressive world???. How do we expect our young ones to compete favourably to other children who have access to the gadgets needed to develop and sharpen their brains......

We have a lot of work in our hands and thank God, we have realized this and started from somewhere...

When they fight their war, when they loot and destroy, they target women and girls, this is because of patriarchy, but one day, we will say enough is enough and we will fight back and win this battle against our body.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much!

Dear Olutosin,
As a woman in the grassroots you totally articulate my sentiments. I am so glad that we can see a bright future together, I also appreciate the way you can clearly isolate the issues that can be solved to empower women in Africa; specifically the internet as a tool that keeps us safe. Please stay intouch!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

libudsuroy's picture

Dream on towards action

Dear Woman of Paradise,
You have asked the piercing questions and have gone further by seeking out answers and solutions to the problems faced by your own womenfolk. Indeed, safety for young girls is a significant concern everywhere, especially in the rural areas. Technology, like the internet, can be a weapon and a tool in women's hands. You have pointed out a significant point: digital justice means equal access for women. Here my hope that you be able to harness the potential for change in your own community.

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

egatuma's picture

Thank you very much!

Dear Libudsuroy,
Thank you very much for echoing my sentiments as a grassroots woman weaving the web in Africa. Our dream is being executed and I can promise you that we shall achieve our goal. Please stay in touch, you never know, I may come to the Philippines to scale up in implementing our technology for women's safety.
Blessings!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Kadidia's picture

Egatuma, Thank you for your

Egatuma,

Thank you for your story. Our world has nurtured negativity to the point that sadness and violence have become normal elements of our daily lives.
I agree with you, it is time for African women to take ownership of their lives and to speak up. In our era of technology we are offered so many possibilities to communicate.

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

We need to learn how to prepare for the journey.

Kadidia Doumbia

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much

Kadidia,
I appreciate your feedback and I am ready to welcome you to our journey, please keep intouch!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Kadidia's picture

Our journey

Thank you Esther.

Kadidia Doumbia

Bheki's picture

We must keep on

Dear Egatuma,

Your story touched me very deeply. I can hear and feel your commitment, persistence, and determination, even in the face of great odds. I appreciate your courage, and your keen understanding of what it will take to move the issue of equality for women forward. Yes, the internet has opened many doors and has created a global community of support. But unless women have reasonable access to it, and education about how to use it for the greatest impact, they will be left behind and their stories and voices will be silenced.

Your poem is so elegant and tells the truth--that we are not separate, that we are all connected through the heart. Thank you for showing up, for speaking up, and for all you are doing for the women of Africa!

With gratitude and respect.
Bheki

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much!

Bheki,
Thank you very much for your feedback, my team and I appreciate your very encouraging words. We are confident that we shall deliver our very achievable goals. Please keep intouch!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

novine's picture

TOUCHING STORY

Dear Esther,thanks for sharing your story,really we have alot to do to help more women access and know how to use the internet to make our voices heard. The internet has played a vital role to my success in life,it is helping me to achieve my goals in life,it can also help other girls and women, whem my father died 17 years ago my mother and her children were abandoned by the family members,we were living in poverty but education and digital skills helped me to break the cycle of poverty,now i own my own social enterprize that empowers women and their kids www.facebook.com/mmbl4w . i know with more people like you,we help more women digitally included.

Okocha Nkem

Founder,
Gbekele Ecosystem (Behavioral Modification loans for women)

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much

Dear Novine,
Thank you very much for your wonderful message, I encourage you to keep up the good work. You will succeed because you have what it takes, please keep in touch with me and I may every visit your business in Africa.
Be Safe!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

novine's picture

We look forward to your visit

Thanks we look forward to your visit,i will definety keep in touch,because i believe the fastest way to help more women come online is through their MOBILE PHONES, thanks,do you have a facebook page?

Okocha Nkem

Founder,
Gbekele Ecosystem (Behavioral Modification loans for women)

egatuma's picture

Yes!

Dear Novine,
World Pulse is cool like that! Connecting women leaders at grassroots level to bring sustainable change! I will see you soon....
Thanks

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

annamarie's picture

Safety of Women

Dear Esther,

Your story inspired and reminded me that "we need to be the change that we want to see in this world" (Gandhi) I salute your focus and resilience in creating a space for women to raise their voices, using technology to create a safer world for them and to focus on the positive. We often sit down in shock and horror when we here the negative, sad stories of Africa (I am a South African woman) as it happened in your village but still happening every day. The questions is what do we do about it? Statistics on rape of women and girls in South Africa is of the highest in the world and women get killed by their partners on a daily basis -- I don't want to wallow on the negative, sad stories but the need for empowering women, through the web in this case, is crucial. Best of luck with the work you are doing - you made me think of what I need to do in my country. As an old mentor of mine said: "If it's to be; it's up to me" - Lou Tice.

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much

Dear Annamarie,
Thank you very much for your wonderful message, I am happy to know that I have inspired you to make a difference in your country! Thats what World Pulse is enabling us to do, we are catalysts of change firing each other up and inspiring hope in one another's work. Please keep in touch!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Jumi's picture

Your voice is powerful

Dear Egatuma, you are a strong woman and the power of your voice came through in your writing. Thanks for sharing the beautiful poem as well. I hope one day all girls, whether in urban or rural areas, will have an opportunity to take advantage of the possibilities Internet access affords us.

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much

Dear Jumi,
I am strong because of your voice rising with mine. You are the one's who resound in every word I utter and write out, we are the women who weave the web. I appreciate your wonderful words and I look forward to keeping intouch. I am more excited because our journey has began and our story line will inspire so many women to use the internet for safety.
Thanks!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Anita Muhanguzi's picture

amazing Story

My dear sister I am praying that the heavens kiss your village quickly so that the women and girls can access internet. I keep telling people that our neighbours problems are ours and its time we join hands and make our continent a better place. Thank you for such an inspiring story. I AM ONE OF US.

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Head of Legal and Advocacy
Centre for Batwa Minorities
a.kiddu@gmail.com
cfmlegal@gmail.com
Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much!

My dear friend! You said it! Say you are one of us.... Keep in touch!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Rachel J's picture

Beautifully written

Dear Egatuma,

Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that negative stories are too often glamorized in the media, and it is so unfortunate that, without the internet, it is so challenging to share the truth from the perspective of those who experience the things that are being reported. Your story helped me to understand how very frustrating it must be to see writers receiving awards for bestselling books about your village while the stories of the survivors are left untold and and are the cause of great pain. It was heartbreaking to read that having the internet after the horror of rape could have helped in creating a platform for emotional wellness and one in which the story of survival could have been shared in a positive light. The hope that you have for a brighter future gives you strength to persevere, and I admire your determination. You are a true trailblazer, and I hope that all of the work that you are doing to reach your goals for the women of Africa will raise awareness and bring positive change. I hope that the world will soon hear many more voices of courage.

Respectfully,

Rachel

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much

Dear Rachel,
Thank you very much for your wonderful words of encouragement. Your message just proves to me that in your heart, "You Have Said You Are One Of Us" Thank You! Please keep intouch, our innovation is getting ready to disrupt the insecurity that women deal with in the entire continent of Africa. The internet will be used for the safety of women and the whole world will soon give the women of Africa a chance to access the opportunities that other women have from the internet.
Thanks!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

PohChing's picture

Women movement

It is sometimes sad to get to know that women in many parts of the world are still not given equal opportunities, though we are now already in the 21st century...with advanced technology and sciences...developments everywhere. But what is rather relieving is that many women are not giving up the fight, to advocate for women rights and joining movements as well as spreading the words around, and gathering together, even in platforms to discuss. Voices do count, numbers matter. Let's continue the works for the benefits of current generation and for the future.

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