"My breasts developed when I was barely 10 years old. I was the only one among my mates with breasts.My mom could not afford a bra for me,so I went around with my breasts dancing from left to right when I walked,ran or played with my friends.I was mocked by boys and girls in my neighborhood and in school. Every time I went to fetch water from the stream, the boys will throw unripe mangoes at me and call me “Mami bobi”,referring to my breasts.One day,while I was fetching water alone in the stream which was surrounded by a bush with raffia palm trees, one of the boys jumped on me and forced himself into me,taking away my virginity. That is the day I died.I am moving about like a normal woman but inside, I am dead.I went home that day straight into the kitchen and warmed the grinding stone on the fire and began pressing my breast.I did that every night for months with the hope that they will disappear and I will never have to be molested or mocked by anyone again.Instead of disappearing they grew bigger but this left side became flat due to burns.It itches and oozes a clear liquid,that is why I came here to be examined.What if your doctors tell me I have cancer?Will I ever forgive myself?In trying to solve a temporal problem,I created a permanent one.It`s been 12 years since then but I have never known peace,I don`t feel secure.I always feel like someone will attack me again.''
Edna 27 years old.(Real names withheld for privacy),Participant,Gender Danger`s Women Health Fair,Santa,Northwest Region Cameroon,May 2018
Penned above, is one of the touching stories I listened to during one of our expeditions against breast ironing in Cameroon early this year. After we finished our talk on breast ironing, many of the women walked up to me and recounted their experiences so far as the practice is concerned.A common cry among them was the lack of a sense of security.The feeling of not being enough,of shame,guilt and fear of the unknown.When you are told that the natural state of your body is a nectar to rapists,the burden of rape ceases to be that of the perpetrator and lies on the shoulder of the victim or potential victim, who lives in fear of the unknown.Mothers are forced to go the extra mile by pounding away the breasts of their daughters in order to keep them safe from predators.This is insecurity at its best!Security to me therefore refers to world that is safe for women and girls.One which is void of fears of attack and the absence of justice.Definitely not the world we live in today.
Everywhere in the world, if anyone breaks into a private space and takes away property,they would be prosecuted for trespassing and theft. Unfortunately, when a woman`s body is violated in the same way,she is blamed,shamed,labelled a liar and a whore then asked to keep quiet. Online,offline,domestic,corporate,name any sector, there are always customized and culturally acceptable methods of inflicting emotional and physical pain on women.The greatest insecurity lies in the fact that perpetrators are often not brought to book and in some cases live under the same roof with the women.Sadly,some of the worse crimes against women are committed by other women in the name of tradition and culture.(See video above)If a sheep cannot find safety in the midst of other sheep ,why blame the wolf?Culture in most parts of the world says women are to be seen and not heard. They have to internalize the pain and keep living in fear of the next attack.
Across the globe,at every ticking second of the clock, a woman or girl is being stripped off her dignity and security.Come with me…..There is girl being raped somewhere in the Bronx of New York City as you read this post.In Arusha,Tanzania,a woman is being beaten to death by her husband .Right now in the slums of Kibera,Nairobi, Kenya, a 12 year old is being forced by her mother to sell sex in exchange for sanitary pad, meanwhile somewhere in the suburbs,her cousin is losing her clitoris to a razor.This second in far away Pakistan,a girl is being roasted to death for the honor of her family,meanwhile in Benin Nigeria, some are being smuggled into Stuttgart ,Germany where they will be undressed and packed naked in brothels and sold for sex daily.Come …without exaggeration, I am telling you,there is a new mother fresh from the labor room in Dakar,Senegal with painful birth induced vagina stitches who is being raped by her husband every night.She has to choose between being beaten and rape every night.She cries every night while her fellow new mom in Edea,Cameroon cries every morning because her mother deeps a traditional broom in hot boiling water and whips her belly in order to flush out the after birth debris in a bid to ritually cleanse her and safe her from ndjeg gwal(delivery insanity).In a nearby village,a 13 year old girl is being given out for marriage to a man as old as her grandfather in exchange for 3 pigs and 6 bags of salt.Their closest neighbor is married to six wives,thereby making his home an arena of jealousy,competition and hatred.A constant state of emotional and physical torture makes the home as deadly as a war zone for the women and children.If there are 20 of such homes in a village,there maybe no visible arms or signs of war but a silent magma is boiling,a volcano waiting to explode at the least provocation.
There can be no security in a world in which almost half of the population is living in a state of emergency.(Fear, pain,shame and uncertainty=INSECURITY).So far as I am concerned the world has been at war from the day woman was created.Unfortunately ,Violence against Women is a professional jargon and not a painful reality to those who have the power stop it.Maybe grassroots women are often brought to the table for peace talks just for the decor of diversity and not for any concrete change.That is why we go from one event to the other,speaking and shedding tears, plunging some soft hearted ones in the audience into our river of tears for a brief moment,after which we go back to ground zero with no resources to end the war.
Violence against women is often trivialized and not perceived as a threat to national security.Unfortunately when it is ignored during moments of political stability,it becomes deeply entrenched and standardized, waiting to manifest on a larger and more complex scale in times of war.The general feeling of fear,uncertainty and insecurity that looms in communities when there is war is the same feeling women and girls who are victims of violence harbor at all times even in the absence of armed conflicts.Everyday,thousands of women and children worldwide are forced to leave the comfort of their homes to face the unknown as a result of domestic violence and harmful traditional practices .This war also leads to internal displacement of people.
The past decade has registered some giant strides to world security at the global level, as more and more women are using online platforms like World Pulse to outstrip their pain,birthing the audacity to transform their lives and communities. Just like me,they believe that placing priority on justice and security is a sure route out of this quagmire of violence into an unbiased world where the contentment of one gender is not owed to the denigration of the other.We want the stripes of our tears of suffering to be the foundation on which we will build an anchor that will guarantee a secure tomorrow for humanity.When we demand a place at the peace table it is not only ensured ceasefire in armed conflicts but also the wars that are being fought in homes and on our bodies.
The most evident path to ensuring global security is the release of women`s caged voices through the provision of safe spaces online and offline where they can speak out and use their stories as pathways to the creation of a new world of security and equity.