Every woman deserves a safe and abuse free environment. An environment where she's free to express herself and free to be the woman she wants to be.
Sadly, this is not the case in many countries and my country, Zambia is no exception. My country has a rich culture that promotes peace and harmony but the same culture promotes the abuse of women and girls. It strips them of their ability to develop as individuals by limiting many of their rights.
Girls are forced into marriages, denied an education, denied basic health needs and silenced concerning important matters to do with their well-being. Men hold the power in a marriage and make all the decisions without fully consulting a woman. Clearly there is no gender equity and a woman is less valued or given equal opportunities.
A Zambian woman is prone to all forms of abuse because cultural and traditional norms detect how she should conduct herself in society even if it infringes on her rights as a human being.
I grew up in a traditional home and my freedoms as a little girl were limited in many ways. I was not able to express myself fully and my opinions did not count. Because of my failure to express myself I was sexually molested by my two elder brothers from the age of seven to fourteen.
I did not know how to express myself because I was not taught how to. I suffered in silence for many years. I was robbed of my childhood and innocence as a child.
My story is similar to that of many girl children in my country. The number of child defilement cases have risen over the years and more than 6,000 girls have been abused since 2012. As we are about to celebrate International Women's Day I have joined millions of women from around the world to expose and speak against the ugly tales of sexual exploitation of women , girls and children.
We have a right to make decisions concerning our own sexuality. We have the right to say no to any form of sexual exploitation and abuse. We have the right to be heard. I was threatened and told no one would believe me if I revealed that I was being sexually molested. We have the right to express ourselves too.
The sexual abuse took away my ability to be confident, I had low self esteem and developed deep hatred for myself for many years. I blamed myself for what I had been through and I saw myself as a worthless woman who would never add up to anything.
Despite all the hardships and pain I had been through, I chose to rise up and refused to remain defeated. I chose to be a voice for the voiceless , I chose to stand up for those who were not able to stand up for themselves. I chose to be bold and confident because I did not want my abusers and tormentors to win.
I'm glad that I'm helping to change the lives of women ang girls who are from similar backgrounds and also glad that I'm reaching out to school boys and girls as well as having dialogues with young people to instill in them positive values so that they can become better citizens who are aware of the importance of respecting human rights and being drivers of social change.
My plea is that all forms of violence against women and girls should stop because women and girls deserve protection from harm and deserve much more than what the world gives.
Let's us speak out and let the world know that we will no longer look away but take action by raising our voices until we break the silence on violence against women and girls !!