What does peace mean in your life? In mine it would involve a few hours to myself in a quiet home, void of phone calls, text messages, emails and Facebook notifications. In a life that seems to have a never-ending to-do list, peace would entail a moment to breathe with no worldly distractions. Aah sounds nice. Then I imagine what peace might mean to a woman who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who is a survivor of sexual, physical & emotional violence. Her concerns are safety, feeding her children, finding employment or maybe finding a man who will give her money in exchange for a sexual relationship. She will take the risk of getting HIV, having a loveless, even abusive relationship and do it happily in order to take care of her children.
Is peace imaginable for this woman? Can she rid herself of the fear that someone may attack at any given time? Can she rid herself of the memories of her rape? Can she even believe for a minute that she is deserving of taking a moment to breathe? If she lets her guard down it can be detrimental to her life and the mouths that depend on her. What does that burden feel like? How do you find peace in your mind, your soul, your heart when the atrocities of the past remain a threat, today?
We are living in the same world, but experiencing two completely different universes. Peace is attainable in my life, hope prevails and my dreams seem achievable. Why do I get this life, and she, that one? What right do I have to enjoy this life while a woman my age suffers and lives in fear every moment of hers? What we ought to realize when imagining peace on a global level is that our inaction enables this violence to continue in her life.
We sit in our homes, watch the news, the documentary, the 1-hour special on the human rights injustices that occur around the world and other than feeling guilty, we do nothing. We have the ability to turn that TV off and go to bed. If only that woman in the DRC could turn off what seems like a horrifying episode in her life and return to a peaceful bedroom. It isn’t my intention to guilt you into feeling undeserving of the life that you have now, instead I hope to inspire you to take action.
Women’s rights are not a topic of the past. Bras were burned, rallies were held, the word feminist was coined and then what happened? To date, girl babies are killed, women are systematically raped as a weapon of war, face barriers to education, are forced into marriages, and the list continues. Why did we stop fighting? Because we personally don’t have to face these barriers anymore? Is that the attitude our ancestors had when they were fighting for our rights? I doubt it. But what can you do? “How can I really make a difference?” Believe in the power of one. If Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi and many more gave up on their dreams and claimed defeat because the issues of the world were “too large” for them to make an impact, where would we be today?
Let me bring you to where we are now. Although the plight of women and peace in the world can be discouraging, I will leave you with a positive story. The birth of an organization called Women for Women International by Zainab Salbi happened in 1993 and since then this team has empowered, educated and trained thousands of women in order to lift them out of poverty. Their mission and their work is inspiring but their campaign Join Me on the Bridge is what has brought me to write this blog today. After watching The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo by filmmaker Lisa F Jackson I could not continue my life without taking action. I wanted to do my part and I had no idea what that meant, so I did what most of us do, donate to a charity that will do the work for us. Ease that guilty conscience and continue on with our lives. I sponsored a sister through WFW and they starting sending me information on my sister and their work. When I got the email for Join Me on the Bridge, I knew this was my opportunity to actually do something. I was introduced to Leigh Bowen and we organized Join Me on the Bridge, Toronto which began as a humble but touching gathering on the Beltline Bridge. We wanted to keep people engaged for a longer period of time than just the few months leading up to our bridge event on International Women’s Day. A Facebook page was created with the idea that we can keep the interested folks updated on the event in 2012 as developments occur.
Recently we’ve added to our team social networking expert, Gloria Roheim, who asked of us, “what’s the bigger picture?” That was the moment We Talk Women was born. Our mission is simple; we want to engage men and women in a women’s rights dialogue. We are starting with a documentary screening and Join Me on the Bridge, 2012. Join us and stand in solidarity with women globally. Let that girl in a remote corner of the world know that we do care and that are working towards a better future for her. We Talk Women does not want the younger generations to become passive about this topic, we need to come together as conscious human beings and work towards the eradication of violence against women. Let’s talk about what’s going on, why it’s happening, and what we can do to make a difference. Because every girl not yet born, every girl and woman already alive, they ALL deserve a chance. They are worthy of a moment of peace.
- Kavita Dogra