Women and girls around the world have been trapped for several years in the web of evil, a very terrible situation to most of them and a necessary evil for others. Violence against women. A cankerworm claiming the lives’ of several women and preventing several others from living up to their own God given potential. So what happens when women who make up more than half of the worlds population are constantly threatened by a cankerworm that prevents them from contributing economically, socially, culturally and politically? More than half of the worlds potential is stifled and we all suffer. So the big question for several years has been how can we stop violence against women and girls so that the world can start enjoying what they have missed for as long as the world exists? Researchers ,advocates,activist,have neen using the speak up approach so that you can get the appropriate support . This has worked so well for some women and has even so far proven to be the most effective and efficient prevention against gender based violence. In 2013 I started a campaign against rape and other forms of sexual violence and I used the speak up theory to carry out a training with 28 journalists in the North west region of Cameroon and to produce radio programs which were aired on some of the local radio stations in the region calling on women and girls who were victims of rape to shun silence, to speak up and get the support they need.
I didn’t do any concrete assessment to measure the impact of that particular assignment but I was confident that I had sent across a message to a few people. In 2014 while working for a Non Governmental organisation in Bamenda Called COMINSUD, my colleagues and I mapped out some activities to carry out from the 25th of November to the 10th of december 2014( 16 days of activism against gender based violence). One of the activities we decided to carry out that year was to sensitize women in public markets on the importance of speaking up against violence. While we were in one of the local markets carrying out the sensitisation campaign,one of my colleagues who was not part of the team called me to inform me about a case of gender based violence. A horrific incident had happened in one of the neighbouring villages -Mankon. A man had beat up his wife so terribly because he wanted to use the kitchen where she cooked for him and his kids to build a piggery and she dared to say No. This man beat her up so terrible, pulled out wood from a fire which she was using to cook lunch and punched her left eye,he left her handicapped. My colleague called me and I told her to go to the scene(she was closer),gather facts and give me a call so we can know how to proceed but when she called me back,her reply was even more devastating for me than what had happened to her. I published an article later on world pulse about that disturbing situation and I have never gotten over that incident. I later found out that the colleague of mine who called me to report the case was experiencing worse things in her home. She was been battered , emotionally abused sex starved ,bullied and more by a man she wasn’t even legally married to. I worked in 23 local communities later and heard all sorts of horrific stories related to gender based violence. From widowhood rites to ,Female genital mutilation, through domestic violence, to rape and several cultural practices that have been normalised in these communities, preventing women and girls from Living up to their own God given potential. Some of these stories were new to me while others weren’t. When I made up my mind to compete for a place and take part in the weltwarts intercultural exchange program, I was looking forward to living in as society I imagined will have so much to offer in terms of knowledge on how to tackle this issue of violence amongst several other development issues once and for all. Setting out to Germany in 2015 to work and live in a country where the world most powerful woman Angela Merkel was chancellor was for me a dream come true and the peak of my career at the start. However I had watched a few times on the news that girls were being raped or assaulted in public spaces in Germany and I particularly recalled a case during my interview to be shortlisted to take part in the program where a girl was assaulted in a public restaurant. I wanted to understand how this could be possible in a country that seems so advanced in terms of security,policy and where women seemed safer and free from the challenging stereotypical society where I came from. After 13 months I got my answer Gender issues are universal, they cut across but just reflect differently according to cultures..But this is a topic of another day. Fast forward to when I started working on other projects like women beyond representation in decision making and my first major project women on the move,documenting stories of women in decision making to give them more voice and visibility. I had the chance to learn from women who were not so poor about their experience on gender based violence. At some point I felt like well this should be accepted it’s normal, its like trying to fight a hopeless war. But this is what changed my mind. I made friends later in 2017,activist against gender based violence who were and are still going through the worse kind of gender based violence. 4 women, powerful opinionated activist who are on the front line of women’s rights activism are actually going through the worse kinds of violence you can imagine but then what I cant understand is the speak up theory which they preach ,which they get funds from international organisations to stage these campaigns isn’t being put to use by these women. I start thinking about the dead aid by Dambisa Moyo. The big question of why isn’t aid working? Are we proposing solutions that we cant even use? Who is deceiving who? Am I also guilty. I have been asking myself many questions lately and doing a personal assessment as well and I realised that I am guilty on so many fronts .I may not have been battered physically but how about the times when I didn’t want sex and said No but then become powerless after struggling and decided to let it slide? I woke up the next day and I didn’t even tell the man who did that to me that it was not right,I didn’t speak up for myself because I felt like well don’t be too much before he thinks you are very unsexy. How is it possible that most times I am abused and I choose silence? That I work and live in environments where the worse kinds of cat calling happens ,where you meet men in the elevator and they talk about your breast and others automatically think its touching time and I find it funny sometimes and always try to bee polite? That I simply say hey that’s violence and laugh about it? Where did my voice go? Did my voice get swallowed by the sea of normalising violence? Is that me? My guilt has pushed me to start this campaign. We women are doing something horrible,we are conspiring to do something horrible to ourselves and this has to stop! Today November 25th is the day against gender based violence and Mark’s the start of the 16 days of activism campaign against gender based violence. Today I have decided to break the silence I have decided that I am no longer part of that conspiracy of silence ! For the next 16 days I will be the voice for 15 women experiencing gender based violence, I will share their stories and solicit support for them. I will publish their stories on a blog I have created for this campaign and I will share audios of their stories on several platforms so that their gruesome stories can scare someone off the conspiracy of silence.I hope that someone will be inspired to break off the conspiracy of silence and share their stories with the whole world without being ashamed of identifying themselves. This is the purpose of this campaign. Women let’s Break the conspiracy of silence. We hold the key.! My name is Linda Neh Ngobesing and I Break the conspiracy of silence.