unsilenced and unafraid

Unsilenced & Unafraid

First and foremost, happy women’s history month now and always. 

This one is especially accentuated, the pandemic has harmed all of us beyond belief and unfortunately continues to do so. ‘Fears increased about the effect of the pandemic on women’s and girl’s sexual and reproductive health and their access to care as health services were disrupted and a surge in gender based violence was recorded.’ (World Report) I cannot imagine what it would be like to be stuck with your abuser or not being able to get the help you need during this time, only adding to a crisis situation.

Within the first six months of government lockdowns globally following the outbreak of the pandemic, an estimated thirty-one million additional gender-based violence cases were recorded (UNFPA, 2020). This compounds already alarming rates of at least one in three women (35%) worldwide who experience some form of violence during their lifetime. In Ghana, where my mother is from and where I lived pre-Covid, nearly 30% of every woman has experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 report by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Today, one in every three women in Ghana is a victim of domestic violence, including physical, economical, emotional and sexual violence.

As some of you may already know, I have joined Oxfam Ghana as an ambassador for the ‘Enough!’ project, funded by the European Union. The project’s main purpose is to create an enabling environment for girls and women to know, claim and exercise their rights to end Sexual and Gender Based Violence. The Enough! project’s two key objectives are to:

1. Strengthen institutional, technical and financial capacities of Civil Society Organisations (including women’s associations/groups) through a sub-granting mechanism (Financial Support to Third Parties).

2. Challenge and change discriminatory social norms, attitudes and practices leading to the prevention of SGBV.

These objectives will contribute to concrete changes for vulnerable community members, strengthen and promote the active participation of women and girls in policy reforms and decision-making processes and enable men and boys to challenge negative masculinity. (Oxfam Ghana)

‘Addressing the Gendered Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Sexual and Gender Based Violence’ was last year’s Oxfam Ghana’s 16 days of Activism objective. 16 days of Activism is an annual international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls, which starts on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on the 10th of December, Human Rights Day.

Enough! Project Statement
Enough! Project Ambassador Statement

Last Monday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day. As an #euenoughgbv advocate with Oxfam Ghana, I chose to challenge victim blaming, shaming and gaslighting in response to sexual and gender based violence.

I #choosetochallenge statement
I #choosetochallenge Statement

As a survivor of abuse, watching the singer/songwriter FKA Twigs’s recent interview with Gayle King for CBS This Morning, left me speechless. She was also telling my story, so vividly, so accurately. She seemed to act in the same manner I do when confronted with ‘having to talk about it.’ However uncomfortable, scary and deeply painful it can be, I cannot stress enough how incredibly powerful and important it is to share these stories. I felt less alone, I felt heard, I felt empowered by her strength and absolute courage. When asked “Why didn’t you leave?” She took a stance and refused to answer the question by saying “The question should really be to the abuser, why are you holding someone hostage with abuse? People would say, it couldn’t have been that bad otherwise you would’ve left. No, it’s because it was that bad, I couldn’t leave.” This was an indescribable moment for me, another woman was saying exactly what I had been trying to for so many years.

Last week was challenging to say the least, Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah highlighting the reality women, particularly of color, are expected to accept and comply with. I applaud Meghan for no longer allowing others to silence her. For so many reasons and on so many levels, Oprah’s interview shook me. Although, what continues to disgust me is watching the English press endlessly try to tear this woman apart while ironically pointing the finger at her for being a bully. What they don’t get is that Meghan has already won this battle, by speaking her truth, she has shined a light on what is evident but still denied by some, systemic racism. I cannot urge you more to use your voice. You can never make people like or respect you but you can always speak and live your truth.

“I am tired of having to be ‘careful’ every single day of my life as a woman.”

My horror, anger and sadness hearing about Sarah Everard’s murder, brought flashbacks of the countless times I have been harassed, followed, cat called, touched, stared at on the street, on public transport, on set, in meetings, at parties, the list goes on. I vividly remember one cold winter day in Geneva, it was pitch dark at 5pm. I was absolutely sure I was going to get attacked and raped, a man had been following me for the past five minutes, stopping when I would stop, staring and smiling, whistling and calling me names, telling me he was going to ‘have me’. I tried to act unafraid but there was a storm inside of me. I was waiting for my friend, I didn’t want to leave the main road as the adjacent streets were darker and less crowded. I also needed my friend to see me, this was the Nokia cell phone era and mine was out of battery. I couldn’t get away from this man so I stayed as close to people passing by as possible, nobody offered any help even though I clearly looked distressed. He realized I was going to be all alone so he was now making his way from across the street, walking in my direction until miraculously my friend arrived. 

Or the other time on Parisian public transport when a man accosted me upon entering the train, he was with a group of about five male friends, I was sitting at the entrance of the train with one of my best friends, Morgane. He proceeded to ‘chat me up’ but was getting more aggressive as we sat there completely ignoring him. I was in utter fear and panic, she was too but we forced ourselves as hard as we could to stay ‘quiet’ and ‘calm’, there were only two or three other people in that compartment, none of them acknowledging or bothered by what was going on. His male friends were leading him on. In that moment your body is in shock, you seem to lose all basic ability, telling him off could also make it worse. He continued to verbally harass me until he got annoyed I wasn’t responding so he grabbed my face. I pushed his hand off immediately, with force, looked at him dead in the eyes and told him not to touch me. He was angry now. Morgane and I grabbed each other’s hands as the train approached the next stop, we knew just when to jump off the metro before the automatic doors would shut. Without saying a word to each other, we ran a little after the ‘doors closing’ sound came on and jumped off, praying the doors would shut just as we got onto the platform, leaving him and his group stuck inside the train. Miraculously, we made it. He started banging on the doors, shouting he will catch us at the next stop and did a ‘I’ll kill you’ sign with his thumb across his neck. We ran outside the station and grabbed the first cab we could, shaking in total panic once we got into one. You see, we had the extra cash that day to take a cab but what if we didn’t? What would or could have happened if we had no choice but to stay on that train? And worse, what would have happened if I had been all alone?

Marie Humbert

‘The World Health Organization this week published a report saying one in three women globally, around 736 million, had been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said violence against women was “endemic in every country and culture”, and had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike Covid-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine.’ (BBC News)

I am tired of having to be ‘careful’ every single day of my life as a woman. How absurd is it that society has gotten so used to hearing about violence against women and worse, shifting the problem and responsibility onto women when we are the ones consistently being harmed, harrassed, attacked, violated and abused. I recently read a quote from Dr. Jackson Katz that says it all, “We talk about how many women were raped last year, not how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harrassed last year, not how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenaged girls got pregnant in the state of Vermont last year, rather than how many men and teenaged boys got girls pregnant. So you can see how the use of this passive voice has a political effect. It shifts the focus off men and boys and onto girls and women. Even the term violence against women is problematic. It’s a passive construction. There’s no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women. It’s a bad thing that happens to women but when you look at that term violence against women, nobody is doing it to them. It just happens. Men aren’t even a part of it!”

This month, in parralel with The Identity Talks, I will be having a series of discussions about surviving and reclaiming power over gender based violence with two extraordinary women, survivors and activists in their own right, Mallence Bart-Williams and Dr. Khumo Moetse. It is my aim to keep the conversation going on all fronts, which I find crucial and necessary for change to happen. Please follow/like/share/donate to important organisations, associations, support systems and groups on social media. Some of the ones I follow are @letstalkconsent @pearlsafehaven @oxfaminghana @unfpa_ghana @womenforwomenuk @ndvhofficial @sistahspace_ @seeherofficial @everydayracism_ @feminist @unwomen @i_weigh @metoomvmt 

I am entirely devoted to being a part of the movement and simply demand for the change women universally deserve. Enough.

Love and light,




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