I want to start by leaning into the joy and embracing the strength women possess before we unpack the second pandemic that is taking place. I am fortunate to know and love a wide range of phenomenal women. Women who inspire me daily. Women who motivate me to take up space and use my voice at every table. I am constantly in awe of their ability to navigate several crucial roles in society seamlessly. They have proven their adaptability through the ages and continue to illuminate us all with their light.

I am blessed and honoured to have grown up around remarkable women. I have watched my gran & mum hustle and switch gears with ease to be everything I need in any given situation. I saw them be brave even in times when it was hard to be. I have witnessed their hard- work and reaped the benefits of their struggle. I observed them in the heat of the moment become problem solvers, quick thinkers with solutions. I’ve received their unfiltered advice and guidance even when I didn’t want to. I have leaned on both their shoulders and given them an earful. Still, they listened. I have experienced their natural-born nurture in full force, too many times to mention. I have seen them play the role of fathers with such security that I never felt the gap.

They, like many women, play a central role in society which has provided stability and progress. Women have proven themselves in all parts of society and afforded us a voice that we would have never had.
Women everywhere have fought a long fight that gifted us with the ultimate opportunity. The chance to freely participate as active members of society. History details the obstacles of gender inequality and years of oppression that women endured. They fought for their seat at the table and decided to make the change. A change that in addition to taking care of themselves through the fight for basic human rights, they never dropped the ball on their families. They consistently took care of their homes while fighting to be heard. A true testament to their inner strength, tremendous resilience, and selfless nature.

With the crucial contribution, women continue to make, you would think they would be valued and appreciated, yet they are met with violence- at the hands of men. I’m gonna have to throw some shade on men, but it’s all factual. If you’re offended, then you’re probably part of the problem too.
Men have silenced women for years with violence. A patriarchal world that holds them on a pedestal despite their injustice and deems women as second-class citizens.
Yes, we live in a male dominate society where men are offered respect and considered ‘strong.’ But true strength exists in the battered and bruised women who volunteer themselves in the protection of their children. Real strength- lies in the women who place a meal in front of their abuser each night, plotting their next move. Or the pure strength it takes for a woman to refuse to taint the image of their child’s father (the abuser).
The force you use on a female is a sign of weakness if anything.

Women have been victims of violence for as long as our species has existed. Beaten into submission. Men have built their manhood around being the provider and dominant decision-maker of their household. Most, contributing in a financial sense. When you think about how a woman participates in a household, the idea of them being inferior even in a traditional nature is absurd.
Violence against women is a hidden crisis that has no limits geographically and culturally. Across the globe, women still grapple with inequality. Socially excuses have been made for men while women are seen as feeble. Let’s allow that to sink in. So a man taking advantage of a woman has been translated in society as a ‘woman being weak.’ Automatically the narrative is switched to – what did she do to provoke him?
With a world stat of 1 in 3 women experiencing violence sexually or physically by an intimate partner – we still out here trying to flip the script. No wonder why fewer than 40% of women subjected to violence seek help. Who wants help from a society that blames you. Women paralyzed by fear of opening up and seeking help are shut down and persecuted. It’s a vicious cycle that is an everyday battle for women worldwide.

Men’s manhood has been reshaped with the participation of women in society. You can imagine that doesn’t sit well with many of their egos. So they continue to assert their dominance by using force on women with a false idea that they own them. Anyone who knows me personally knows I reject traditional roles of women and men. It is in these twisted beliefs (gendered roles) that have further intensified the issue of violence against women. Allowing society to determine our worth and place in this world.

I’ve witnessed this in my community, where rigid gender roles set the expectation that women must be submissive to men. They must obey their husbands and not go against their decision-making. If you dare to, violence is exercised as a means of control and punishment. It makes me think of that line in the Great Gatsby, “And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” An important line in the book which illustrates the value men place on women in a narrow appearance-based view. All they could offer is beauty to barter a mate.

In many countries, women must become mothers and bear children. They are never to deny their husbands sex. A falsehood that a man can determine how and when you use your body. You see it creep up in your upbringing. Growing up, my family rarely approved of me wearing my hair down and dressing in skirts or shorts. A fear they had of the predators it may attract. Even with the freedom women now have, many still wrestle with the simple act of choosing what to wear. Our voices, silenced by the confinements of how we should appear in society. The provocative dressing of a woman is used as an excuse and means to justify male sexual entitlement. As if our safety is dependent on a button-up knitted sweater. Every day you hear of men forcing their way with women. Such a heinous act is reduced to the clothes she is wearing.

Something that exacerbates the issue of violence is the presence of poverty. Women are often dependent on their abusers financially. They endure the violence for the sake of their kid’s survival. It sets up a crippling cycle. Leave the abuse but risk being homeless. Or have a roof over your head but endure violence that affects both you and your children. This type of trauma can affect one’s ability to relate to others and their view of themselves. It can alter one’s view of men (male or female) permanently. A lot of women grow up with versions of the same man. Women’s first experience with violence or neglect may be with their father or other male family members. They may mature to find similar partners, behavior they are accustomed to that feels like home.
From a male perspective, they may be more inclined to engage in abusive behavior because of a history of exposure to child maltreatment. Many witness family violence that becomes a norm and is eventually transferred into their homes. “Hurt people hurt people.”

The unseen damages of violence penetrate deeper than the physical injuries sustained for both women and children. The psychological and emotional impacts women suffer from can have long-term mental health effects. The abuse – whether physical, sexual, or verbal may increase one’s risk of developing a mental health condition. Some of which include depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety & borderline personality disorders. In severe cases that go unchecked, this can lead to self-injury and suicide attempts. Many women engage in substance abuse by misusing alcohol and drugs to escape the thoughts and feelings that haunt them. Abused women may want to fill the void by chasing highs to avoid memories that could cause them to relive traumatic moments. Survivors of abuse experience sleeping difficulties, severe fear, and stress. Some struggle with eating disorders as they wrestle with finding a sense of control. Eating for many is ‘something they can control’ either in a restrictive eating manner or through overeating as a coping mechanism. Many find comfort in food and feel like this can bring them joy in times of anxiety, stress, and fear. Temporary pleasures to mask pain and trauma can lead to habits that become difficult to break. However, often this feels like the only option.
Women turn to short fixes, especially in my community, due to the lack of access to facilities and programs that assist victims of abuse.

In my country, where this type of violence is rife – we are not equipped with the necessary amenities that provide a hands-on approach for women. Many come from disadvantaged and undeveloped communities, where paying for professional help is not an option. When putting food on the table is a struggle. We need a combination of prevention, response approaches as well as policy development to tackle this issue. In a weak economic climate and a tight job market, most women need financial security to relieve themselves from their current situations. The government has a lot of ground to cover. Government has to prioritize funding shelters, existing non-profit organizations, and professional mental health services for women. Aid programs that are currently available for women and give women more options. The same energy we put into vaccination programs for Covid 19 is what we need for gender-based violence. Communities have to rally together with both men and women- silent men are part of the problem. If all men don’t wish to be painted with the same brush, then they must show in their actions that they are different. They must show their support for women and call out the acts of other men. This growing issue must be a matter of urgency for individuals, families, communities, and the government. We must work in unison to protect our women and children.