Are “Women’s Rights” Dirty Words?

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.


Infinite Possibilities


I am creating the possibility of being.
The possibility of being authentic.
The possibility of being a person of integrity.
The possibility of being an extraordinary person.

And if we break that down,
Who I am is the possibility of
Being Powerful
Being Present
Living Outside My Head
Living in Reality
A Changemaker
A Person of Action and Results
Being Transformed
Being Transformative
An Extraordinary Mother, Sister, Friend, Wife, Daughter

Being Constant
Being Unstoppable
Being Persistent
Being BIG

The purpose of declaring and sharing is that I create as I say (Abracadabra), and for the rest of my days, I must be big enough to live these possibilities.

And I need your help to keep me accountable.

My Name Is Insulted That You Won’t Speak It

By Hiwot Adilow

I am tired of people asking me to smooth my name out for them
they want me to bury it in the English so they can understand.
i will not accommodate the word for mouth

I will not break my name so your lazy english can sleep its tongue on top.
Fix your lips around it.
no, you can’t give me a stupid nickname to replace this gift of five letters.
try to pronounce it before you write me off as
lil one afro
the ethiopian jawn
or any other poor excuse of a name you’ve baptized me with in your weakness.

my name is insulted that you won’t speak it
my name is a jealous god
i kneel my english down everyday and offer my begging and broken amharic
to be accepted by this lord from my parents’ country
this is my religion you are tainting it
everytime you call me something else
you break it and kick it

you think you’re being clever by turning my name into a cackle?
when how he what who?
he did whaaaat?

my name is not a joke
this is more than wind and the clack of a consonant.
my father handed me this heavy burden of five letters
decades before i was born with letters,
he tried to snatch his ethiopia back from the middle of a red terror.
he tried to overthrow a fascist.
he was thrown into prison ran out of his home.

my name is a frantic attempt to save a country
it is a preserved connection
the only line i have leading me to a place i’ve never been.
it is a boat a plane a vessel carrying me to earth i’ve never felt
i speak myself closer and closer to ethiopia by wrapping myself in this name
this is my country in ink
my name is the signature at the end of the last letter
before the army comes
it is the only music left in the midst of torture and fear
it is the air that filled my father’s lungs when he was released from prison t
he inhale that ushers in
my name is a poem my father wrote over and over again
it is the lullaby that sends his homesickness to bed

i refuse to break myself into dust for people too weak to carry my name in their mouths
take two syllables of your time to pronounce this song of mine
it means life
you shouldn’t treat a breath as carelessly as this.
cradle my name between your lips as delicately as it deserves
it’s Hiwot
say it right.

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