Silent no more.
This is the name of the movement against gender-based violence in Malawi that WOW is a part of. It is a choral of voices crying out in the aftermath of countless acts of sexual violence against women saying “Enough. We are human. We are not objects to use. We will not be silent against injustice.”
In the wake of the story that stole global attention- 21 Chibok schoolgirls being returned home after 2 years in sexual captivity- I cannot avoid thinking about the horrors of rape. Being part of a non-profit that works in sub-Saharan Africa I am exposed to stories from cultures that have unfathomable practices that allow for the sexual exploitation of women. It is these stories that are the driving force behind our work in ending gender- based violence in WOW communities.
Recently Time Magazine released an article called “The Secret War Crime: The most shameful consequence of conflict comes out in the open.” It illuminates one of the darkest and most sickening acts of humanity that is rampant around the world – Rape as an act if war. One rape survivor describes the crippling trauma of this sexual violence, “At least with a bullet, you die. But if you have been raped, you appear to the community like someone who is cursed. After rape, no one will talk to you; no man will see you. It’s a living death.” (Jeanna Mukuninwa, 28 years old).
Rape is the complete exploitation of a person’s vulnerability, and in areas of sub-Saharan Africa where war has ravaged communities, and people are living in situations of extreme poverty, vulnerability defines their life situation. This is where sexual violence proliferates. Predators prey on those they view as weak. They attack as a form of torture, as a way to assert power, as a weapon to use against their victim.
This is horrific and should leave us feeling deeply burdened.
The impact of these heinous crimes against women and children leave both physical and emotional scars that forever change a person’s life. As I read these stories in the Time Magazine article I wonder, “Why is this not talked about? Why do we only hear of the numbers dead in war-torn areas? Or left without homes?” These numbers are important, but what about the thousands of women and children that are raped multiple times a day by countless men? Why are we not giving them a voice? Why are we not doing something about it? Because simple knowing about it is not enough.
There is hope, but it is dependant on us. You see, God has chosen to work through His Church to enact justice here on earth until He returns and makes all things new. This inherently gives us a responsibility to respond, and let me tell you people are responding. Movements are happening at the local level. The Congo, where some of the worst forms of mass rape have taken place throughout the war, is now a leader in efforts to combat this atrocity.
I have read stories of women in various African countries using their powerful God-given voices to speak loudly against the violence they and their children have been subjected to, and enact change.
WOW is also on the front lines of this fight. Our partners in Malawi have chosen to be ‘ Silent No More’ about the violence women and girls face on a daily basis in their communities because of their vulnerability. They are taking a stand, starting a movement, and making change. Systems of protection are being put in place, counselling and support for victims is available and the justice system is being held accountable to prosecute offenders.
The stories of rape are sickening and often unfathomable, but the movements of justice are inspiring. Mourn for the brokenness of our world, but let’s make sure that our grief does not turn into bitterness but spurs us into action.
For those who would like to read the Time Magazine article, click here.