Mutare, Zimbabwe – Being part of the One Billion Rising 2014 campaign was an emotional experience for me. I would say it was an awakening moment; it helped me realize the work that lies ahead of me and also served as my energizer. After hearing the several testimonials of the struggles of other women, I felt a force, an urge to rise even higher, sing even louder and dance even harder. The 2014 edition of One Billion Rising has etched memories in my heart and my mind and has provided me with the much needed insight, relationships and courage to pursue my work, as my sister’s keeper.
The testimonies shared by the women that took part in the Odzi rising were deep. To me they were an indication of women ready to move from a position of being regarded as victims of abuse to conquerors and agents of change. The sharing of information on how to deal with violence and abuse revealed to me that women want to be quiet no more, they want to speak up and speak out, they want to be seen and heard. I felt honored that the group of women I worked with trusted me with their stories.
One issue that was interesting to me was the inclusion of Shona proverbs cited as promoting silence and customs and culture entrenching the aspect of perseverance even in violent courtships and marriages. As the women present spoke out, they challenged oppressive tradition and culture and put it all out there. Initially some individuals were unwilling to share and were not very open but after hearing testimonials from other women, they gained the courage to share their stories. For me this was a reflection of how if we work together for a common cause, we can be able to bring about change in our communities.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” The words of the late humanitarian Mother Teresa echoed in my head from the preparations for the rising right till the end of the day on the 14thof February 2014.I appreciated the power of coming out and sharing experiences and I experienced he emotions of seeing one woman draw the courage to share their story from another woman.
Being part of the OBR coordinating team made me feel like I was a part of something big, something important and something necessary. I was overwhelmed by the turn out at Odzi. Young mothers brought their children along and some came with their husbands, their brothers and their friends. As a young person, this to me was a point to note, young men gathering together with their wives, their sisters and their girlfriends to speak against violence against women and girls. Men are often the perpetrators of violence against women and girls but part of the Odzi male population came to rise with us, to demand justice for us and this to me was a priceless revelation. I bowed when they read their pledge to stop raping and abusing women and girls and start protecting and respecting them.
I drew strength from the harmony of shared song and dance and at times the occasional cheering from onlookers. The unity and oneness were to me indicators of solidarity and I believe this to be a very important aspect if we are to successfully claim justice for women in all aspects and spheres of life.
The moment when a request for more platforms to engage, discuss, speak out, rise and dance was made was priceless for me to say the least. I felt challenged and also felt encouraged. This was a reassurance that indeed the battle against violence perpetrated against women and girls was not a losing one but one that we could win.
The ideology of the One Billion Rising brought to mind one of my favorite quotes,” Transformation is only valid if it is carried out with the people, not for them…Liberation Is likened to childbirth, a painful one. The emerging person is a new person, no longer the oppressor or oppressed but a person in the process of achieving freedom….It is only the oppressed who by freeing themselves can free their oppressors.”(Paulo Freire; Pedagogy of the Oppressed).Such is the process that I feel the Odzi community is going through, the ushering in of a new era. The song and dance signified a revolution, a denunciation of oppression and silence; it signified the launch of a revolution, the acceptance of the duty and responsibility that each and every one is their sister’s keeper.