Day 2 of #16DaysofActivism
By Stephanie Mooney
I was recently asked why we are focussing on the issue of gender-based violence, as many people do not recognise the scale and the impact of this issue. Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights abuses in today’s world, and affects all countries and all societies. When we hear and acknowledge a woman’s experience, wherever she is from, we are supporting her to reclaim her dignity and free her from the shame that she may be feeling. We are also speaking as part of a global collective voice to say that it is not okay to be hurt or abused because we are female.
I met Mercy*, who was going to school in Uganda, after she had been raped by a trusted family friend and became pregnant. She hadn’t told anyone about her pregnancy. She felt ashamed and she thought her family would ask her to leave. In her culture, an unmarried, pregnant woman cannot stay in the same house as her family. Mercy was so desperate she thought about suicide. A family friend noticed Mercy’s changing shape and confronted her about her pregnancy, before going to tell her family. Mercy’s grandmother did not believe what had happened to her and was angry and started to beat her. Fortunately, Mercy’s grandfather did believe her and put her in contact with a Christian support service that helped her to have her baby and look after her. Mercy was able to return to school and is now attending university. Her relationship with her family continues to be difficult. But Mercy wanted her story to be told.
As the mother of a young daughter, I recognise the importance of raising a child who knows she is loved and knows her voice will be listened to. We pray for Mercy and her daughter as she grows up, that they will continue to find care and support despite the suffering they have experienced. We also pray for other women in Mercy’s situation and that women and girls everywhere are increasingly able to find their voice and be free of the violence that affects so many.
*Not her real name
If this article raises any personal issues please contact your local professional services or contact the helplines below.
In Australia: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
In UK: National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247