I was having a conversation with a woman about my age and was shocked to learn that she was sexually assaulted by a family member as a young teenager. I was shocked because I seem to be having this conversation a lot, different women talking about sexual assaults that have happened in their lives. It’s shocking how many woman have had this experience and kept quiet about it.

Next week marks the 100th International Women’s Day, yet there’s still so much us women go through that still isn’t properly regarded or addressed. Sexual violence is one of the most brutal attacks that a woman can face that causes years of pain and damage to the woman, sometimes in ways that even she doesn’t recognise. Yet nothing is really done to encourage women to speak out about it, deal with it and bring their attackers to justice.

Something has to be said about how we value, or don’t as the case may be, women. And when it’s black women, even worse. Somehow I don’t think the world would turn a blind eye if it was masses of white men (ok women, but definitely not if it was white men) getting raped daily in the Congo.

This speaks volumes of the strength of women, but why should women have to carry this pain? African women seem to have it worse. Men just seem to assume that women are nothing more than property, or something to control and do with as they please. There is definitely need to get both men and women to value and respect a woman.

I’m obviously not saying that all African men are like that, but I know too many women (African) who have suffered some type of sexual abuse (and sometimes abuse generally) to not question the cultural nature of it.

I’m glad that organisations like Unicef are developing campaigns like Brothers for Life to try and address some of these issues of what an African man should be like, but unless it’s sustained and has a serious investment behind it, it won’t really make that much of an impact. Trying to change the fabric of someone’s being is not a small feat or a job that can be done overnight.

But we also have to start telling the stories of women, and really bringing them to the forefront. I hope UN Women takes the challenge seriously, and really addresses the plight of women globally. This can’t keep happening to generations of women coming up in this world.

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