Proud to be Beyond the Stereotypes!
[Before plunging into the text of my post, I'd like to offer you a little background. I work with the Women in War Zones International, which is an organization that is devoted to telling personal stories of women in areas of conflict in order to promote women’s human rights and health, prevent war crimes and achieve victory over abuse of women living in war zones. The effort originally began as a documentary film by the same name, but soon became a full fledged project. Those of you who are interested in having a look at the site, please visit www.womeninwarzones.org]
Last night, I met a long-lost friend. In conversation, we happened to ask each other what we were doing, and I casually made mention of my present position as a Writing Intern with WIWZ, among other things I do. I’m not sure what caught her fancy specifically vis-a-vis WIWZ, but she was intrigued enough to ask me what it entailed. So I plunged into an animated explanation of the kind of work WIWZ does, and the situation in Congo that was being addressed by WIWZ and its trajectory from a documentary to a full-fledged movement.
‘Oh. So you help a bunch of rape victims. Big Deal.’
Exactly. I was shocked, too. And I expressed what I thought, then and there.
‘Um... loads of women get raped. No big deal.’ She retorted.
That’s right. No big deal. That’s what she said. I couldn’t believe it either. But that conversation got me thinking. What hope do we have if the world just believes that rape is ‘no big deal’? What use is any rhetoric, if everyone just stands and watches? Inaction, apathy and simply turning a deaf ear actually encourage the perpetration of such evil. How could a girl anywhere speak that of the predicament that many of her own counterparts in Congo face? How could she have treated the issue in a manner that suggested she was bereft of any care? A girl of the same age in Congo would have faced harsher reality than this girl could possibly fathom. A girl of the same age in Congo would be living a life far, far away from what’s ‘normal’ for this girl. And here this girl with a 'normal' life is completely apathetic, bordering on contemptuous nonchalance, even, to the situation that women and girls in Congo face.
In a trice, after her rude retort, she walked away from me, typing a text message at breakneck speed. The brand imprinted on her cellphone caught my eye. I’d recently read about the brand’s tryst with using Conflict Minerals in its manufacture, an action that earned ample criticism. I was fuelled into action. I ran up to her, and told her that she had quite a role to play in the predicament that the women of Congo face today- her action of buying and using a cell-phone that had the blood of scores of abused women from Congo, in it. Her face paled, and I walked away, disgusted. I’m sure she did her homework with Google, soon after, and I hope she’s wiser, and a little more sensitized.
On countless occasions, I have been ridiculed for my choice of being a volunteer for causes by a small pocket of people. With ridiculous name-calling being the foremost amongst a host of other profanities, I was monikered “NGO”, “Activist”, “head-case” and “Missionary”. I’ve been awarded these epithets owing to my pursuit of intern/work options that let me do something in some little way that help causes for places like Congo. At first it bothered me that people were harsh in their judgment of me. But today, that conversation I had last night has completely taken away any sense of irritation that the aforementioned nomenclature ushered in, because I am proud I am not one of those apathetic, inert people, who believe that crimes like rape are no big deal.
With a heart brimming with gratitude for Women In War Zones, for letting me be a part of their team, I am only too happy that I am "Beyond the Stereotypes"!!