Our Movement Was Made For This Moment {{VDay 2018}}

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One out of three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence within their lifetime. One in 3. 

The statistic alone is terrifying, yet in the wake of #MeToo, The Larry Nassar trial, pussy-grabbing Presidents and Weinstein’s ‘open secret’ in Hollywood, it is no longer that hard to believe.

Twenty years ago, when Eve Ensler wrote ‘The Vagina Monologues’, the mere utterance of the word ‘vagina’ was groundbreaking. When people wouldn’t even say the word, much of the truth about what happened to vaginas was repressed, denied, kept secret, and coated in shame and self-hatred.

Now, in the 20th year of the resulting VDay movement, people might ask if what we are doing is still relevant – are ‘The Vagina Monologues’ still relevant? My answer is yes, yes and yes. In fact, they couldn’t be more important at this time.

Over 51% of the world’s population has vaginas, clitorises, vulvas, and many to this day do not feel comfortable, familiar, free, or endowed with agency over them. Let’s remind ourselves of that statistic, shall we: One out of three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.

For the third year here in Arusha, we are producing ‘The Vagina Monologues’ in a benefit production as part of the global VDay activist movement to fight violence against women and girls. Our beneficiary this year is the Network Against Female Genital Mutilation which works here in Northern Tanzania to eliminate all forms of FGM through information, awareness, and sensitization campaigns which target the grassroots and empower them to stop the practice. The magnitude and persistence of FGM continues to shock those who come across it, as it affects vulnerable girls by violating their child rights and entitlement to bodily integrity.  FGM is a form of gender-based violence and has been recognised as a harmful practice and a violation of the human rights of girls and women. According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old. Like many African countries that practise FGM, there are significant regional variations in prevalence here in Tanzania. The regions of Arusha, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Mara and Singida all have rates of FGM prevalence between 20-70%. Yes, 70%.

I sometimes wonder, in the midst of such statistics, if what we are doing is even making a difference. And then I will look at what VDay has done in the past 20 years, and what we have done here in Arusha in the past 3 years. VDay globally, since 1998, has raised over $100 million dollars for grassroots anti-violence groups, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and safe houses in places like Kenya and Afghanistan. V-Day supports and launched the City of Joy, a revolutionary center for women survivors of gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has graduated over 1000 women leaders. In over 100 countries, VDay activists have impacted their own communities, educating people in women’s rights, opening people’s eyes to the realities faced by women across the globe, breaking taboos and creating space to talk about that which has been kept in secret and hidden for centuries.

What we do makes a difference. What we say is relevant.

Our movement was made for this moment.

 

 

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“The heart is capable of sacrifice…

The month of February is a wonderful month in my world. This is my 8th year of being involved in the international VDay movement. My involvement over those years has gone from online activism and raising awareness to last year being part of the organisation of Arusha’s first VDay event. This year, I was production manager for our production of The Vagina Monologues and I could not be more proud of what this movement stands for.

The Vagina Monologues is an incredible play that tackles some of the most difficult and controversial topics. It’s funny, heartbreaking, confrontational, educational and empowering. As a cast, we laughed together, we cried together and we fell head over heels in love with each other through this movement.

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One of my favourite parts of this process is the bonds that are made and solidified throughout it. I love the conversations that happen as a result of this movement, the friends that stand beside you and support you, and the incredible new people you meet along the way.

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I’m always amazed by the generosity of people – and not just financial generosity. People are generous with their time – my entire cast and crew were volunteers who gave up nights and weekends to make this event happen. People are generous with their ideas and their expertise – all I had to do was ask and help was swiftly on the way. People are generous with their conversation – discussing the issues raised and understanding the reasons for my involvement and how much I care.

And people are generous with their hearts. The love I felt from my friends here and the support and love that came my way from the people I know care about me, my community, was incredible.

It is incredible.

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I could write for days about this movement but for now I will stay thankful for this continually amazing experience and my beautiful community.

“The heart is capable of sacrifice. So is the vagina. The heart is able to forgive and repair. It can change it’s shape to let us in. It can expand to let us out. So can the vagina. It can ache for us and stretch for us, die for us and bleed and bleed us into this difficult, wondrous world. So can the vagina…”

Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues

Where words fail…


I don’t have the words for what I have seen happening in Aleppo. The scenes being broadcast from within the destroyed city have become imprinted on my mind and my heart is broken. 

The desperation of the people, the complete absence of humanity and mercy – it is almost impossible to make any sense of what is happening and I don’t think it ever will be possible. How did we let it come to this? How did blind eyes get turned for so very long? How did we give headline space to Donald Trump, Brexit, the Kardashians over this complete hell unfolding in what was once a thriving and beautiful Middle Eastern country? 

Every piece of news that emerges from Syria is shattering. Every bomb dropping, every mother killed trying to protect her child, every displaced or orphaned child, every starving and terrified family… It is too much. It is too far. 

What can we do from our little corners of the globe, so far and removed from the carnage? Doing nothing is no longer an option. We must stop brushing under the rugs all things that make us uncomfortable. We must erase the notion that out of sight can mean out of mind. 

We are here, together, and we are wasting our precious time killing one another for our differences rather than loving because of them. 

After Rwanda we said never again. After Srebrenica we said never again. After Darfur. I can only hope that after Aleppo we can truly say no more. For we cannot dare say we didn’t know it was happening. 

Words are hollow if not given shape with action, and so we must act. There are numerous charities that are on the front lines of this tragedy and all of whom need our help so desperately. If you are able to, please put your money where your heart is. Open doors. Watch. Research and learn. 

Stand with Aleppo in love. They have not been forgotten.

https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/syria/

https://www.whitehelmets.org/
http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/
http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/emergencies/syria-appeal

{with thanks and credit to Tyler Knott Gregson}