I was talking to someone about what I do. I told him I work for a women’s rights organization. He raised his hands and backed away. We began to discuss why. He told me he has nothing against “women’s rights” but that sometimes we go overboard. We should take it slow, and go with culture.
But culture is dynamic I told him. It’s not static. Culture is learned, and so it can be unlearned.
You may have heard of Liz, a 16 year old who was gang-raped on her way back from her grandfather’s funeral in Busia, Kenya. She was dumped in a pit latrine. She is wheel-chair bound and has the worst case of fistula, a condition that doesn’t allow her to control her urine and feces. Though she recognized three of her rapists and reported to the police, the police caught them, ‘punished’ them by ordering them to cut grass and then let them go. A campaign to get #JusticeForLiz has been launched – to address the wider issues of patriarchy, impunity, lack of public accountability and the culture of violence that permeates. Please sign the petition and engage in the conversations. Liz is one case – there are countless more like her.
I see my world – and among all the beauty, I do see ugly. I see a culture of violence, a culture of impunity, a culture of disrespect, a culture of absolute injustice. So my question is, do we wait for culture to catch up or do we do whatever we can to make sure that the culture our kids and their kids grow up is a culture that encourages integrity, accountability, respect and justice that allows people to live dignified lives?
At the end of the day, I think we all want respect and we all want dignity. That’s it. And my struggle for women’s rights is to do that.
If this is crossing the line, then yes, watch out – we are crossing lines.