The long walk IS freedom

Daydri
Posted October 10, 2018 from South Africa

I did not walk outside after dark on my own for the whole of last year.  I was living in Johannesburg, South Africa, and walking alone as a woman meant being at risk.  I was aware of this even during the day while walking my then one-year old daughter, whenever we found ourselves on a quiet path in the park.  And even though I lived in an affluent neighbourhood, the elevated presence of electric fences and private security only served to emphasize the fact that you were not safe.  Of course, this was not anything new. I was born and grew up in South Africa, a country where the rate of sexual violence against  women and girls is among the highest world-wide.  The impact of the fear of rape, in particular, was further imprinted on my mind when I worked on a reserach study some years ago, and heard all the women we interviewed echo the same phrase: I don’t walk; we can’t walk, you mustn’t walk…  And then the words of one woman, asked about when she was most scared: I am walking down the road; two men approach.

Having lived in Europe for more than a decade (and having returned here now), I had, however, somewhat forgotten what it is like to not have this very basic freedom. I have always loved long, solitary walks -  it is how I clear my head, hear my heart, make my way to finding my words.  And the image of the flaneur, freely wandering the city streets, has always been an inspiration. But then, even here, where I did feel safer to roam, where I have gone out alone at night, I was confronted with the realization that the ideal flaneur was male and European; and I was decidedly not.   As a woman of colour, the sexual harassment I experienced while walking around (from being followed to being propositioned) was also often tinged with racism.

Still, I have realized that this is a path on which I am not alone, that women everywhere are taking brave steps by taking to the streets and by speaking out, and that we have to continue to claim public space as a place where we have the right to exist and resist: we must stand; we can march; we will walk.  I dream of a time when the sound of my footfall on a dark street will no longer carry an echo of panic, but the resounding beat of freedom.

This story was submitted in response to The Future of Security is Women .

Comments 10

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yvoneakoth
Oct 10, 2018
Oct 10, 2018

Beautiful. I love your story Daydri. I agreee that all women should be free to walk any day and at anytime without fear.

Daydri
Nov 01, 2018
Nov 01, 2018

Thank you!

Jill Langhus
Oct 12, 2018
Oct 12, 2018

Hi Daydri,

Thanks for sharing your sad, but inspiring story. I share in your in dream. How do you feel is the best way to make our streets safer?

Looking forward to seeing more posts from you. Good luck with your story submission.

Daydri
Nov 01, 2018
Nov 01, 2018

Thank you!

I think working together to dismantle patriarchal and rape culture is the ultimate way. But of course, that is not easy... and I don't think there are any simple solutions. The MeToo movement has made some strides and acknowledgement of the dire impact of sexual harassment (as a crime) could be a move in the right direction too...

Jill Langhus
Nov 01, 2018
Nov 01, 2018

You're welcome:-) Yes, that makes sense.

I hope you have a good day.

Ngala Nadege
Dec 12, 2018
Dec 12, 2018

Hello sis
What a beautiful piece, women should and must be free of all insecurities whether hers or the one given by the society.

otahelp
Feb 06
Feb 06

Daydri, hmmmm it is the same every where. from east to west and from north to south. women are not free anywhere. i dont know how this came to be but i know for sure that it will stop some day. we must continue to show the world that we are afraid to confront them so they must give way to us. thank you for sharing this front burner.

Hello, Daydri,

Thank you for sharing the situation in South Africa, and how similar it is to the cases of the woman globally. You are right to say that walking in public spaces is a basic right. Apalling it is when we have to fight for it. Thanks again for raising your voice.

J Brenda Lanyero
Feb 14
Feb 14

Hi Daydri,
Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for making us know that freedom is not that big thing for the entire country but start with these basic things like taking a walk in the neighbourhood without fear.

Tola Makinde
Feb 22
Feb 22

Thank you for the boldness in sharing your story. I agree with you that its women's right to feel safe walking on the streets irrespective of where they live