Mesmerize by the enchanting beauty of the sky, where colors were parading as the night faded away and dawn began, I was delighted as I walked to my starting spot. I had finally been able to wake up early enough for a good run. But a familiar sound brutally took me away from my enchantment at the beauty of nature. Again, the sound resounded in my ears, yet I was determined to ignore it and not allow my morning to be spoilt. Alas, added to the grotesque whistles I had try to ignore by walking faster, came scourging my heart, words that cut deep within the soul: Insults and sexual comments flooded in my direction, words way too common in the mouth of men in the street of Libreville. 100 times a day I must choose to ignore them, but that morning I could not! Full with fury I crossed the road without paying attention to the few cars that had started driving so early and I told my aggressor how shameful and scandalous his behavior was. More so as he was wearing the uniform of the national army and was posted in front of a national institution. And as to be expected he answered by further insolent insinuations, thus displaying the tragic state of mind many men in our society hold. His misogynic and sexist declarations are the mantras repeated by way too many men in all spheres, public or private, professional and personal, in street, in institutions, at all levels in every community in this city, even in the whole country. The daily lot of women here is to be humiliated, belittled, insulted everywhere we are. Regardless of our age, social class or physical appearance, our gender marks us for the torture inflicted constantly. Our executioners: men! Men who live along side us in this nation, who share our lives, faces who look like fathers, brothers or friends whom we should cherish but who we began to despise and sometime hate. The instruments of their dirty work are multi layered; they take on the form of words, comments in the street on our bodies, sexual insinuation shouted at us when we walk either near or far from the perpetrators. In densely populated areas or at pick hours when people wait for public transport or go to market places, some even dare to touch us with a smile and mockery in their eyes. Their arrogance fueled by the fact that very few women react by fear of being brutalized because we know that there would be no rescue from the police or other witnesses around us. But the ignominy could not stop there; it goes further, spread in society like a cancer, it has polluted and destroyed all virtue and dignity in the nation. It’s a common practice to impose sexual favor to a female employee to keep her job or to have a promotion. It is so normalized in the work environment that I m surprised that it is not yet legalized. It is so embedded in people’s mind that any woman who complains or would attempt legal pursuit against her superior is mocked at and intimidated by her boss or colleagues. Often discouraged to act by her friends or family’s members and even by police officers when she courageously makes the huge step of going to a police station. And in a developing country with such a high unemployment rate as ours, losing a job and risking having the reputation of rebel in the professional environment is a luxury no one can afford. So most women consent, accept the unacceptable by fear, sense of duty toward a family where they are often the main financial support. Perversion never has enough, so the ignominy against the so called “weaker sex” goes on yet another level; hearing the sound of a neighbor crying because she is violated by her husband is as normal as hearing the rooster sing. Men treat their wives like their cattle, and they believe that they have the right to behave toward them as they wish. Being beaten is according to some part of marriage. Family, friends and neighbor as passive accomplice to the husband accept and justify such behavior and like good ostrich put their heads in the sand so that they won’t see the disfigure faces of wives or hear the traumatic sounds of their screams. Before this horrible painting representing the tragic and wretched state of a Gabonese society where actually gender relations rhythm mostly with discrimination, humiliation, violence and abuses, numerous questions unceasingly resound in my mind. How come men treat women in such a way without punishment? Why do women tolerate such behavior? What is the way out of this unbearable climate becoming increasingly more dangerous for us? In-rooted in people’s mind and heart is the disfigure vestige of traditions that are interpreted to justify the unjustifiable, the unacceptable and abominable. Traditions, according to the instigators and accomplices of the discrimination suggest that women are inferior to men. Layering on top of the foundation of their distorted views, some even add religion as another argument to toughen their presumptions. As women our identity is high jacked in an environment where certain roles have been attributed to us. Boxed in by culture, tradition and religion, we have become prisoners of a society that relegate us to valueless objects. The pitfall of the roles we have accepted to assume in taking the position of victim is that the so called ‘stronger sex’ is free to constantly push the line of the acceptable, leaving us at the mercy of any form of cruelty and brutality. No master negotiates to give freedom to its slaves, it is taken by action, and it is demanded with force. So called ‘African traditions’ that have been romanticized to perpetuate and excuse injustices, inequalities and cruelty. And that morning, I had enough! So I decided to take a stand no matter the consequences. I could have been physically assaulted and I doubt any men around would have helped me against that ignorant masochist who insulted me. But I can no longer keep silence. Since then, I have been speaking with most women I know, and we all know that it is high time that we organize ourselves for a strong and determined stand. The battle will be long and difficult, I know our cause will be fought against, but as I left the shameless soldier that morning I was convinced that I could no longer accept to be a victim, I m now a warrior and I won’t apologize for it. I love everything that is beautiful, just and enriching in our culture and traditions, but I cannot tolerate to remain silent before the drama where half of my population is being crushed down. So we must speak out and take action until our streets are safe for all women to walk in dignity that work is a place of growth and security and our homes are places of peace and joy.