Day 13. Stories of Women*: Untitled

[ES]
A los 7 años fui violada por un amigo de mi familia, a quien tenía que llamar “tío”, todo paso en una cena donde estábamos todos los familiares reunidos. Siempre me llevaba caramelos y él me sentaba arriba suyo, parecía normal, hasta que esa noche me llevó al galpón que estaba al fondo del patio donde abusó de mí, mis padres me estaban buscando y justo me encontraron en el acto, ensangrentada y llorando. Toda mi familia se enteró esa noche, lo golpearon (mi papa casi lo mata) hasta echarlo. A mi me llevaron a la guardia y por suerte no tenía ninguna herida grave. Él solo una denuncia, yo no era la primera a la cual había violado pero si espero haber sido la última (en la actualidad ya está muerto).  

Después de años de terapia y acompañada de personas que me quieren, lo pude superar.  Es un proceso que lleva años y es muy doloroso, pero es posible superarlo. Quedan muchas secuelas como los ataques de pánico que sigo teniendo, pero sé que es algo del pasado y aún queda mucho. Gracias al feminismo me di cuenta que no estoy sola y que no soy a la única que pasó por esto, por eso sigo y voy a seguir luchando por los derechos de todas las mujeres para que ninguna de nosotras pase por lo mismo.  

 ¡ABAJO EL PATRIARCADO! 

 [EN]
When i was 7 years old I was raped by a family friend, whom I had called “uncle”. It happened on a day when all the relatives had gathered for a dinner. He used to always bring me candy and I would sit on his lap. It all seems so normal and innocent. But that night he took me to a warehouse located in the backyard of the house.  

He abused me. My parents were looking for me and found me while he was still in the middle of the act. I was bleeding and crying. My whole family found out. They beat him up, my dad almost killed him. They kicked him out.  

They took me to the hospital but luckily I did not have any serious injuries. He went through and impeachment after. I was not the first one he raped, but I hope I were the last one. He is not alive anymore.   

It took me years of therapy and being accompanied by people who loved me to overcome what happened.  It is a process that takes years and is very painful. But it is possible to overcome. I still suffer panic attacks.   

Thanks to feminism I realised that I am not alone and that I am not the only one who have gone through this. That is one of the main reasons why I continue and I will continue to fight for the rights of all women so that no one has to go through the same things that I did again.  

    SMASH THE PATRIARCHY! 

   

 

Day 12. Stories of Women*: Biografías politizadas y la porfía del sur feminista 

[ES]

Tengo presente en mi memoria, desde muy pequeña, haber presenciado, pero también vivenciado desigualdades y violencia de género. Fui criada principalmente por mi madre, siempre con el apoyo solidario de otras mujeres, mi abuela materna a quién nombro hasta el día de hoy “mami” y mi madrina, ambas mujeres de la costa centro sur de la región del Biobío, la maravillosa comuna de Tomé.  

La experiencia de la maternidad para ella nunca fue una tarea sencilla, tuvo que migrar desde la región del Biobío a Santiago, para incorporarse a la fuerza laboral y desempeñarse como trabajadora de casa particular puertas adentro, comúnmente conocido en Chile como “nana”. Vivimos procesos de cambios importantes en ese periodo, nuestra genealogía deriva de cirulos de pobreza y limitadas condiciones para culminar la educación formal, a ello sumado la dificultosa posibilidad de ser mujer trabajadora y madre, más aún en pleno proceso de transición democrática de los 90. En ese momento, la única opción que mi madre creyó viable para nuestro “buen vivir” fue matricularme en el internado de la Escuela Nº 328 de niñas y niños, perteneciente al Hogar Español, ubicado en la comuna de Las Condes, muy cercano a su lugar de trabajo.  

Desde los 6 años estuve interna de domingo a viernes, compartía con otras niñas y adolecentes de distintas regiones, comunas de Santiago, inclusive de otros países -recuerdo una amiga del internado que llego de Nicaragua producto de la represión y violencia política de su país- que se encontraban en situaciones similares. Éramos más 100 mujeres con historias entretejidas por la pobreza, la violencia, el no reconocimiento de nuestros padres o la ausencia radical de estos. Si bien yo estaba reconocida por el mío, el ejercicio pasivo de la paternidad y muchas veces su ausencia en mi proceso de desarrollo, no favoreció que esta realidad fuera distinta.  

La experiencia en ese lugar tuvo de dulce y agraz. Lo significativo fue encontrarme con niñas de distintas latitudes y saber que no era la única en la misma situación, además compartir experiencias siempre fue muy enriquecedor. Asimismo, contábamos con las necesidades elementales cubiertas: alimentación, refugio, educación, salud y entretención. No obstante, me llamaba poderosamente la atención la imposición del catolicismo, disponer de una sala de muñecas, con coches, cocinas, enseres del hogar como escobas, platos, carros de supermercado, y otra sala de televisión solo con películas Disney como La Cenicienta, La Bella y La Bestia, La Sirenita, Blancanieves y Los Siete Enanos; todas reproducen un estereotipo de mujer rescatada por un “hombre que resulta ser el amor verdadero y para toda su vida”. En consecuencia, las normas establecidas por nuestras cuidadoras “Madres de los Desamparados y San José de la Montaña”, consistían en negarnos la posibilidad de usar faldas cortas y trepar árboles, usar maquillaje y estaba tajantemente prohibido las relaciones amorosas heterosexuales y mucho más las lésbicas.  

Lo que no supieron y/o quisieron prever en el internado fue nuestras biografías cruzadas por contextos de vulnerabilidad, algunas arrastrábamos dolores profundos, silenciosos y muchas veces traumáticos.  

Mi experiencia da cuenta de una situación de abuso sexual a los 5 años, por un integrante varón de mi familia, que me ocasionó un daño irreparable que nunca pude verbalizar -hasta hace 3 años atrás-. Luego, a los 8 años fui abusada nuevamente, en el espacio que se constituía como mi segundo hogar, el internado. Cuando comencé a crecer y me cambiaron de colegio, emprendí el desarrollo de mi autonomía desplazándome sola por la ciudad, presencié el peligro en ella con el acoso sexual callejero, los agarrones en la vía pública y roces intencionados en la locomoción colectiva, la inseguridad que me provocaba caminar sola por lugares oscuros. Pero también tuve la protección y defensa irrefutable de mi madre cuando estaba presente.  

En definitiva, solo por ser mujer tuve que asumir determinadas conductas, roles y expectativas que el mandato cultural depositaba en mí, pero que también permeaba mis relaciones familiares, de pareja y/o con mis pares. Al ser objeto de la violencia sexual, tempranamente me percaté que las desigualdades culminan en expresiones concreta, que transcienden la experiencia individual y el ámbito privado, y cuando lo devaluado es lo femenino siempre puede seguir afectando a otras. Inclusive cuando colectivizamos ese ejercicio de agudizar la mirada respecto de las opresiones y dominaciones que vivimos, tomar consciencia y compartirlo por medio de la conversación con otras mujeres, puede ser dolorosamente revelador, pero también puede constituirse en nuestra principal arma de lucha, para desnaturalizar que lo común no debía ser las historias de violencia que arrastramos en distintas etapas de nuestras vidas, sino más bien el deseo por derribar el orden que las reproduce.  

Cuando utilizo el habla como herramienta de comprensión del mundo subjetivo con mi madre, tías, amigas, mujeres con las que trabajo, compañeras de militancia feminista y política, aparece alguna expresión de la violencia patriarcal en sus biografías, en el tipo de educación que hemos recibido, en la forma que nos hemos incorporado al mundo del trabajo y la cada vez más precarización del mismo, en la desigualdad salarial, en los accesos a los determinados servicios por pertenecer a un contexto territorial más empobrecido, en el ejercicio muchas veces solitario de la crianza. 

Por eso estoy convencida del valor emancipatorio que representa politizar las biografías, tomar consciencia del potencial transformador del feminismo para las mujeres y las mayorías sociales, así como reconocer el valor de las estrategias plurales que convergen en una lucha común: liberarnos de las opresiones y dominaciones que el capitalismo y el patriarcado refuerzan sistemáticamente en nosotras.  

Las mujeres que vivimos en Chile, como en otros territorios del sur y en el resto del mundo, nos encontramos en un proceso clave de transformación social. El cariz de las demandas que hoy impulsamos en cada territorio deriva de un proceso de acumulación histórica que mujeres y feministas antecedieron, apunta precisamente a evidenciar la crisis del modelo capitalista que está llevando al limite la explotación humana y el planeta que habitamos.  

Lo anterior, producto de la depredación de los recursos naturales por empresas capitalistas transnacionales que despojan del buen vivir a miles de comunidades indígenas y generando zonas de sacrificio, asimismo ocurre con la mercantilización de los derechos sociales, la privatización de la tierra y el agua que culmina anulando el goce de la existencia y precarizando aún más la vida de las personas. Pero también, establece nuevas formas de dominación y exclusión instalando un nuevo germen fascista, la pandemia femicida como expresión radical de la violencia de género y los cada vez más presentes desplazamientos masivos por la legitima búsqueda de nuevos asentamientos. 

Es indiscutible que la articulación e incidencia política del feminismo en Chile busca revolucionar todos espacios, y en lo personal, me ha posibilitado contribuir en la reconstrucción de ese nuevo tejido social que parece cobrar cada vez mayor sentido y fuerza. Los procesos en curso de transformación cultural en las universidades por las denuncias de violencia, acoso y abuso sexual, la lucha por el aborto libre, legal, seguro y gratuito, los preencuentros hacia la Huelga General de Mujeres el 8 de Marzo próximo, la campaña nacional 19 de Diciembre Día Nacional Contra el Femicidio, las luchas antirracistas y contra el extractivismo, las reflexiones políticas y movilizaciones masivas de mujeres y disidencia sexual, como de la clase trabajadora en su conjunto, se desprenden de biografías politizadas que buscan mejorar las condiciones de vida de las mayorías sociales, erradicando la explotación capitalista y patriarcal. Sin permiso y con la porfía característica de los feminismos del sur.  

Cinthya Jara Riquelme, Trabajadora Social Feminista –Juventud Socialista de Chile

[EN] 

Politicised biographies and the obstinacy of the feminists from the south 

 I keep in mind, from a very young age, having witnessed, but also experienced, inequalities and gender violence. I was raised mainly by my mother, always with the support of other women: my maternal grandmother whom I name to this day “mommy” and my godmother, both women of the south-central coast of Biobio region, the wonderful commune of Tomé.

The experience of motherhood for her was never an easy task, she had to migrate from the Biobío region to Santiago, to join the work force and to work as a private home worker, commonly known in Chile as “nana”. We lived through processes of major changes in that period. Our genealogy derives from poverty cycles and limited conditions to complete formal education, coupled with the difficult possibility of being a worker and mother. This was even more apparent in the process of democratic transition of the 90s. At that time, the only option that my mother believed was viable for our “good living” was enrolling me in the boarding school of the School No. 328 of children, belonging to the Hogar Español. It was located in the county of Las Condes, very close to her workplace.

From 6 years old I was at the boarding school from Sunday to Friday. I shared a room with other girls and adolescents from different regions and counties of Santiago, and also from other countries. I remember a friend of the boarding school that came from Nicaragua as a result of the repression and political violence of her country, who were in a similar situation. We were more than 100 women with histories woven together by poverty, violence, the non-recognition of our parents or the radical absence of these. Although I was recognised by mine, the passive exercise of paternity and many times its absence in my development process, did not make my reality different. 

The experience in that place was both sweet and bitter. The significant thing for me was meeting with girls from different places and knowing that I was not the only one in the same situation. The sharing experiences was always very enriching. Likewise, we had basic needs covered: food, shelter, education, health and entertainment. However, the imposition of Catholicism attracted my attention, having a doll room, with cars, kitchens, household items such as brooms, plates, supermarket trolleys, and another TV room with only Disney movies such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Snow White and The Seven Dwarves; that all reproduce a stereotype of a woman rescued by a “man who turns out to be true love and for his whole life”. Accordingly, the rules established by our caretakers “Madres de los Desamparados y San José de la Montaña”, consisted in denying us the possibility of wearing short skirts and climbing trees, wearing makeup and we were strictly forbidden in having heterosexual love relationships and even more so lesbian relationships. 

What they did not know and/or wanted to see at the boarding school was our biographies crossed by contexts of vulnerability, some of us kept deep, silent and often traumatic pains. 

My experience includes a situation of sexual abuse at age 5, by a male member of my family, which caused me irreparable damage that I was never able to verbalise until 3 years ago. Then, at age 8 I was abused again, at the place that was considered as my second home, the boarding school. When I began to grow and I changed school, I undertook the development of my autonomy by traveling alone through the city; I witnessed the danger in it with street sexual harassment, the clutches on the street and intentional friction in the collective locomotion, the insecurity that was created when I would walk alone in dark places. But I also had the protection and irrefutable defence of my mother when she was present. 

In short, just because I was a woman, I had to assume certain behaviours, roles and expectations that the cultural mandate ascribed to me, but that also seeped into my family relationships, as a couple and / or with my peers. Being the object of sexual violence, I realised early on that inequalities culminate in concrete expressions that transcend individual experience and the private sphere, and when what is devalued is feminine, it can always continue affecting others. Even when we collectivise this exercise of perfecting the view of the oppressions and dominations that we live through, becoming aware and sharing our experiences through conversation with other women, can be painfully revealing, but it can also become our main weapon of struggle. A commitment to changing that the everyday stories should not be the stories of violence that we have gained in different stages of our lives. We need to be dedicated to the desire to tear down the order and system that reproduces them. 

When I use speech as a tool for understanding the subjective world with my mother, aunts, friends, women I work with, companions of feminist and political militancy, some expression of patriarchal violence appears in their biographies. For example inn the type of education we have received, in the form that we have incorporated into the world of work and the increasingly precariousness of it, in the wage inequality, in the access to certain services for belonging to a more impoverished territorial context, in the often solitary exercise of the upbringing. 

That is why I am convinced of the emancipatory value of politicising biographies, becoming aware of the transforming potential of feminism for women and social majorities. As well as recognising the value of plural strategies that converge in a common struggle: freedom from oppression and domination that capitalism and patriarchy reinforce systematically in us. 

The women who live in Chile, as in other territories of the South and in the rest of the world, are in a key process of social transformation. The expression of the demands that we promote today in each territory derives from a process of historical accumulation that women and feminists preceded. It aims precisely to highlight the crisis of the capitalist model that has taken the human exploitation and the planet that we inhabit to the limit. 

This is the result of the depredation of natural resources by transnational capitalist companies that deprive thousands of indigenous communities of good living.  It creates zones of sacrifice, as well as the commercialisation of social rights, the privatisation of land and water. It culminates in ending the enjoyment of existence and makes the lives of people even more precarious. But it also establishes new forms of domination and exclusion by introducing a new fascist seed, the femicide pandemic as a radical expression of gender violence. It also increases the mass displacements by people going through a legitimate search for new settlements. 

 It is indisputable that the articulation and political influence of feminism in Chile seeks to revolutionise all spaces. For me personally, it has made it possible to contribute to the reconstruction of this new social fabric that seems to take on ever-greater meaning and strength. The on-going processes of cultural transformation in the universities emerge from politicised biographies that seek to improve the conditions of life of the social majorities, eradicating capitalist and patriarchal exploitation. The fights include the denunciation of: violence, harassment and sexual abuse, the fight for legal, safe and free abortion, the pre-encounters towards the General Women’s Strike on March 8, the national campaign on December 19: National Day Against Femicide, anti-racist struggles and against extractivism, political reflections and mass mobilisations of women and sexual dissidence, as well as of the working class as a whole., The defining characteristics of the feminism of the south is not asking for permission and being obstinate. 

Cinthya Jara Riquelme, Feminist Social Worker – Socialist Youth of Chile

 

Day 11. Stories of Women*: Untitled

When I was physically assaulted for the first time, I was not aware that I was the victim of an attack so I forgave him. I thought maybe it was an isolated incident. However, that happened again, again, and again.  Why did I suffer and remain silent? I do not know. Soon, also verbal attacks began. Although, I believe they probably happened earlier and that I did not notice them because I was so in love.  

The combination of physical and psychological attacks affected me deeply. One of the worst attacks – at the time. We were at a celebration. Of course, we had some drinks. I just wanted to go home while he wanted to stay and his needs were more important than mine. I started to leave to go home. He did not let me go. He started to assault me. I was running, but he caught me and threw me on the asphalt. He ordered me to give him the keys of the car. I gave them to  him, I was afraid. He continued to insult me ​​and threw away the keys and left me to look for them and bring them back to him. When he threw them away a final time, I could not find them anymore. He blamed me for losing them and I had to look until I found them. My only happiness on that night was that he hurt his ankle and I managed to escape.  

The next day I forgave him. I just couldn’t leave him. Likewise, his abuse could not be stopped –  when he was drunk. Every time he drank alcohol he became a terrible person. Our agreements were no longer valid. He said that it is my fault for everything bad that happened, because I did not know how to behave. One day we had decided to have a celebration – just him and I. I was waiting and he came. But  he was drunk. I sadly asked him why are you drunk? Because of that question he  dragged me out of the car and started to hit me. I forgave him.  

After a while, he was drunk again. We were at my place. He wanted me to bring him everything he decided he wanted, which I did not want to do. Then he started explaining to me how much he had done for me, and that I did not do anything for him. I asked him to leave and he even started to go. But when I got down he started to hit me. He was saying everything bad to me. He did not go home. I cried a lot. I forgave him. 

For some time he was calm and good to me. We went to another celebration. A lot of my friends were there that I had not seen for a long time, and I greeted them happily. He did not say anything. Until he drank a little more. He hit me wherever he could. He threw me. Probably he would not stop if he hadn’t hit my head so strongly. He was afraid that he had killed me. The next day I could not walk. At that point I decided I did not want to forgive him anymore. He cried, telling me that he was sorry. When I forgave him he  put all the blame on me. After a short time, he hit me again. That day I hardly ran away from him.  

Then I decided it must be over no matter how much I love him. I decided to report him to the authorities. I did not get any result – he did not receive any punishment because we were nobody and nothing in front of the law, we were not married.  

But I found my peace. I got rid of the big cargo. And that is very important. Finally, I live a happy life without fear that somebody will hit me ​​because of some of my movements or behaviour. Today I am a happy woman, but back then I was only 23 years old. 

 

Day 8. Stories of Women*: How long will we be oppressed by men? 

This is a question each woman should ask herself because women have suffered for thousands of centuries on the hands of their counterparts, men. As we approach the 16 days of activism against women abuse, I take this opportunity to get my voice heard. The objective is to empower and inspire women who still struggle to be independent from oppressive men. My story will cover matters of religion, tradition, relationships as well as social implications that have been the fuel to the blazing flames of oppression and abuse against women. 

Firstly, I believe religion [here I refer to Christianity which is predominant in Swaziland] has played a major role in supporting patriarchy. This is a system whereby a man is given absolute powers at the expense of a woman. A woman is expected to adhere to whatever a man instructs her to do without question. The old testament has compiled many laws and stories which portray women as nothing but mere objects for men. In Genesis the first story of creation sheds a glimpse of light as far as my argument is concerned. Genesis has the first of the two narratives relating the creation of mankind. Adam is created first, then its only when Adam gets lonely that God decides to create Eve. This is exactly where even men of the cloth derive the interpretation that women were created to serve men with loyalty and respect, to be entertainers (sexually and otherwise) in the world of men. 

Secondly, tradition also contributed hugely in undermining women’s rights. Before the bible came to Africa, Africans were guided by oral traditions (folk tales) which were passed down generations through the word of mouth. These traditions were what constituted the African religious beliefs, practices and wisdom. Traditions created a culture. African cultures may vary but they are almost the same, in theology they are known as African Traditional religions. They all put women under the control of men. When it comes to management in the household, village, government, judiciary, church, sports etc., women are placed at the back seat. Men run everything; from funerals, ceremonies like weddings and most social gatherings. In my observation it’s clear that male domination is a disease that has been passed from generation to generation through traditional beliefs, norms and practices. 

Thirdly relationships too are controlled by culture, for example; in many cultures [ as is the case in Swaziland] men can take more than one wife which brings hell to any woman. The polygamous Swazi King, Mswati has over a dozen wives now and he keeps on adding. The bible too has not saved the situation when you look at the fact that David and Solomon, God’s favourite kings in biblical history, had many wives. It gives men the authority to put their wives through the most monstrous experience of sharing a man. Culture dictates when and how to get involved in a love relationship as well as how a man and a woman is expected to behave. It gives man the absolute powers in a relationship, he dictates what is to be done and what not. Men hate the idea of a woman getting a job because it makes them feel insecure. Men are taught to be brave and be fighters while women are taught how to love a man, to be a servant who is loyal and scared of her man. Such a status quo has led to the widespread abuse imposed on women by men since donkey years ago. Women don’t have a voice in a world dominated by men. Men are groomed to be warriors and fight for themselves, but little is done to help them deal with emotions like anger. This could be the reason why men explode into violence every time a woman tries to break her silence. Women are trained to be tender, emotionally strong and loyal, to arm them for the unfair status quo. 

In addition to that we have the social issue where women are portrayed as inferior compared to their male counterparts. It is believed that women’s brains and body aren’t brilliant and as strong as men. That is why it’s rare even today to find a woman in leadership. Women are reduced to spectators and followers in a world led by men. Government officials, judges, lawyers, pastors, principals, politicians etc., the majority is men. This gives women an unfair competition in the corporate world. A widow can’t support her kids unless she finds another man who will help her with the kids. When my father quit his job in the mines my mother had to defy the odds and break the cultural barriers by going to work in the sugar cane fields just to ensure we acquire education [education is not free in Swaziland]. I’m currently doing a Bachelor of Science at University of Swaziland. The society is the driving force behind oppression of women. My mother got ridiculed and vilified for leaving my father at home to work for us. The sad part is that even women blamed her too.  

In conclusion, I would say it has been argued though that women only have themselves to blame because they don’t support each other. I will agree and disagree. My take is that, women are to blame because they don’t support one another instead they are busy competing for attention from men and the public wearing skimpy clothes exposing their nakedness in the name of freedom. They look down upon each other they gossip about each other, but I see it because of my above arguments where I pointed out that women are taught to be men’s amusers. They want to please men. I disagree because the whole patriarchal system allows a small chance for women to hold meetings and discuss their plight. Women need more than a miracle to get their voice heard they need to shout so loud until the Babylon walls can’t stand it no more. I look forward to seeing them crumble down and fall before my eyes, so I could pronounce true freedom. WOMEN NEED TO TEACH THEIR OWN MALE KIDS TO RESPECT A WOMAN AS AN EQUAL NOT A SUBORDINATE. I THEREFORE, URGE EVERY WOMAN TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I don’t want women to take men as enemies but remember that they are also victims of the system. It is the system that is in control of their thoughts and actions. what they do is what they were taught, what was instilled trillions of days of their lives. It’s hard to teach an old dog some new tricks that is why I suggested that we start teaching our gospel of gender equality to children and the youth. Teach them real love and enlighten them on human rights. 

Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarchy led by polygamous King Mswati. Political parties have remained banned by the monarchy since 1973. A total disregard of human rights and the crackdown of human rights defenders who call for multiparty democracy is endemic in sustaining the royal dictatorship. Religion, and culture/tradition is used to socially control the gullible masses. The brutal police force is used suppress those calling for change. 

 

Day 5. Stories of Women*: Untitled

[ES]

Soy una abogada y militante feminista del Paraguay. Pasé tres años en la cárcel por un crimen que no cometí. Mi caso se convirtió en uno paradigmático, porque como pocas veces, se hizo justicia.

Fui acusada de asesinar a mi esposo en el año 2011, y estuve en la cárcel del Buen Pastor durante tres años. Sin embargo, he sufrido violencia intrafamiliar desde el 2008. He sufrido golpes y maltratos del que en ese entonces era mi esposo. Habiendo realizado las denuncias a las autoridades pertinentes, igual la violencia y el calvario continuaron. En uno de los ataques que sufrí, mi ex esposo me atacó con un arma de fuego, y en un forcejeo él terminó herido y finalmente perdió la vida.

La fiscalía me acusó de homicidio doloso, y pidió una pena de 30 años de prisión. La situación federó a una cantidad importante de activistas y ciudadanos alrededor de mi libertad, y mediante la incidencia y la presión y de un trabajo laborioso y sacrificado de un equipo de abogadas y abogados, finalmente se logró que la Corte Suprema de Justicia, por unanimidad me absuelva.

Considero que la participación es importantísima porque por falta de información muchas veces las mujeres no podemos zafar de una situación que es considerada como normal. Es igualmente importante la ayuda mutua y la sororidad, así como el apoyo ciudadano.

Es cuando hablamos con las personas que nos damos cuenta que en realidad nosotras estamos siendo víctimas. En varias charlas que estoy realizando, la gente se me acerca para decirme que había sido ellas eran víctimas, recién al acceder a la información se dan cuenta de eso.

Lo que me tocó vivir hizo que asuma un compromiso. Si yo pasé por todo eso, otras mujeres también están pasando por lo mismo, o muchas podrían sufrirlo en el futuro. La ayuda que recibí por parte de la ciudadanía, que luchó por mi libertad, hizo que yo también quiera luchar contra la violencia machista.

Todos los días se ven casos de feminicidio, es por la propia convicción que decidí luchar, porque hay que ir ganando espacios. Mi caso rompió un esquema tradicional, porque les cuesta a las mujeres acceder a la justicia.

La unidad por todos los derechos es el único camino para lograr victorias en contra del sistema machista. El problema de la violencia machista tiene que ser combatido desde la educación primaria, para lograr cambios estructurales. Actualmente estoy incursionando en política en el Partido País Solidario, y pugnando por un escaño en la Cámara de Diputados, ya que los cambios estructurales se darán si copamos los espacios, y con políticas públicas a nivel nacional.

Esta es una problemática no solo a nivel nacional, en Paraguay muere una mujer cada 8 días por casos de feminicidio. No debemos renunciar a nuestros derechos, debemos acudir a pedir ayuda donde corresponde, no se sientan solas, porque si nos callamos, nos exponemos a nosotras mismas.

Lucia Sandoval, abogada y militante feminista del Paraguay

[EN]

I am a lawyer and a feminist activist from Paraguay. I spent three years in prison for a crime I did not commit. My case became a paradigmatic one, because as a seldom case, justice was performed.

I was accused of murdering my husband in 2011, and I was in Buen Pastor prison for three years. However, I have suffered intrafamily violence since 2008. I have been beaten and abused by my husband at the time. Having made the reported it to the relevant authorities, the same violence and the ordeal continued. In one of the attacks I suffered, my ex-husband attacked me with a firearm, and in a struggle, he ended up injured and eventually lost his life.

The prosecution accused me of intentional homicide, and requested a sentence of 30 years in prison. The situation united a significant number of activists and citizens. Through advocacy and pressure and a laborious and sacrificial work of a team of lawyers, finally, the Supreme Court of Justice unanimously acquitted me.

I believe that participation is very important because, due to lack of information, women often cannot escape from a situation that is considered normal. Mutual support and sorority, as well as citizens support, are equally important.

It is when we talk to people that we realise that in reality we are being victims. In several talks that I am doing, women come to and tell me that they have been victims too. Only when they have access to information they realise that their situation is not normal.

What I had to go through led me to make a commitment. If I went through all that, other women are going through the same thing, or many may suffer in the future. The help I received from the citizens, who fought for my freedom, made me also want to fight against sexist violence.

Every day we see cases of femicide. It is because of my own conviction that I decided to fight, because we have to gain more spaces. My case broke a traditional scheme, because it gave women access to justice.

Unity for all rights is the only way to achieve victories against the sexist system. The problem of sexist violence has to be fought from primary education, to achieve structural changes. I am currently entering politics in the Partido País Solidario, and fighting for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, since the structural changes will occur if we take the space, and with public policies at the national level.
This is a problem not only at the national level. In Paraguay, a woman dies every 8 days due to femicide. We must not renounce our rights, we must ask for help, do not feel alone, because if we do not speak up, we expose ourselves to continued violence.

By Lucia Sandoval, a lawyer and a feminist activist from Paraguay.

Day 3. Stories of Women*: Untitled

At seventeen I just wanted to die
And to deal with the pain I got drunk and I got high
See, I was missing this boy, he was the love of my life
But he was living on the other side –
Of the world, and every day I woke up scared that he’d killed himself
Cause all we ever did was killing ourselves.

So when my cousin got married, of course I was feeling it
Made me too damn emotional, so at some point I stopped feeling it
Well the thing is, I stopped feeling anything at all
Instead I drowned my thoughts in wine and some schnapps
I didn’t realise that there was a point where I should have stopped
– and there was this “sort-of-cute-guy” and he just wouldn’t shut up
So when he offered me a cigarette I said “let’s go”
And I guess it would be naïve to say I didn’t know
on the way to his car in which direction this would go.
When he kissed me I guess I enjoyed the distraction
But then his hand started going in a different direction
– and I guess he expected a different reaction.

I said “there is no way in hell I will let you do this”
But the thing is, he kept going through this
And the truth is I let him do this.
Cause I was too drunk to care
Damn it, I was too depressed to care
I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t move. I didn’t say stop.
But the thing is – I think I didn’t want to do this.

So when we finally got back to the wedding reception
My mum caught me crying, cause he didn’t use protection
The next morning she drove me to the pharmacy
But I threw up the pill that was supposed to help me

And I played it cool.
Told my friends what had happened alight
Cause I guess it is quite a good story, right?
To lose your virginity at a wedding in a car at night.

It’s two years later and everyone is screaming “Me too!”
And I am so angry, cause who the fuck did this to you?!
But I never felt like I meant myself too…
Until it started sinking in drop by drop
And I did everything I could to make it stop

Told myself that I was crazy and that you can’t just decide
Two years later that something wasn’t right
So I kept pushing the thought aside…

See, I thought I fighting for them and not me
And it took me two and a half fucking years to see
That maybe it also happened to me

No. It can’t be true, cause it didn’t even hurt
(that much) and there’s a million other girls who have had it so much worse
And I didn’t say no. I didn’t say a word.
But it’s 11 am and I am crying in the bathroom at work.
No, I don’t get to do this, I don’t get to cry
I don’t have the fucking right!
So why am I suddenly feeling this pain inside?
No. This didn’t happen to me.
I am sure it didn’t cause it cannot be.
Cause this isn’t how we defined rape in this society.

Cause they will never blame the guy who was like six years older
And he’d fuck me when we both weren’t sober
And every second I just wanted it to be over

No, if I told them they would just blame me
Just like I am blaming myself
Cause I should have just said stop
I should have cried for help

Hey, I am not saying that I was raped that night
I am just saying that maybe this wasn’t exactly “alright”
That maybe this wasn’t his god-damn right
That maybe this wasn’t how I wanted this to happen
That maybe this wasn’t who I wanted it to happen with

Hey, I just wish this wouldn’t happen every single night
All around the world, to girls who can’t even stand upright
Even less pick up a fight
Man, please tell me how good this must feel like
For you and your weak ass, who apparently can’t get a girl when she’s sober
Who doesn’t ever remember her name when it’s over.

But not anymore, our time has come to take over
And I will not rest until this world is a better place for our daughters to grow older
Man, I am writing this because your time is fucking over.

Day 2. Stories of Women*: Untitled

I was young and in love. He was 19 and in college. I thought it was such a boost to my social status to date someone who was in college and in a rock band. Who wouldn’t want that? I was only 15 when we met. He had been playing basketball in our community park and I was teaching catechism in the nearby church. I was naive and wanted to be in love. I approached him one day and asked for his number and we started texting. He said he had only broken up with his girlfriend and wasn’t ready to date. I was okay with that. We became friends and I thought maybe he’d learn to like me.

A month had passed; he started seeing me in a different way. Maybe he was starting to like me. Alas, just like that, he did. We were hanging out by the park, that night and he told me he liked me. It was music to my ears. I told him I’ve always liked him. He held my hand as we were sitting by the bleachers of the community basketball court. We talked about everything, our hopes and dreams. I felt like maybe I can be part of his plans eventually.

It was young love. Well for me it was. We went on dates, mostly at night as I escaped from my house because I was not allowed to have a boyfriend. After all, I was little miss perfect. We spent those nights just talking and making out. And months had passed, and he started wanting more. He asked to hold my boobs and I felt uncomfortable but he said that’s what happens in relationships. He was my first boyfriend so I wouldn’t know. Against the no screaming in my head I let him touch me in all places. Not long after that he started initiating intercourse. At first he let me suck his dick and I felt scared because I didn’t know how to do it. He pushed me on the floor and commanded that I knelt in front of him. He pulled my hair and told me to open my mouth and stuck his dick in my mouth. I tried sucking him but then he slapped me saying what I was doing was wrong. I was so scared. I was shaking. This was the first time he hit me. When I got home I brushed my teeth several times to get the taste of his dick out of my mouth. But I can still feel it in my throat. I threw up in my bathroom just thinking about it. That night was so traumatic I cried myself to sleep. I wanted to text him that I didn’t like what was happening. He told me it was my duty as his girlfriend to please him. I apologised.

I didn’t know why I did; I didn’t feel sorry at all. I was in love with him or at least I was infatuated with him. The next night he said he wanted to fuck me, I said I wasn’t ready. Again he slapped me, pushed me on his bed and started taking my clothes off. At that point I was already shaking. As he kissed my body, I froze and tears just started running down my cheeks. And just like that he thrust his erected dick into me. I was screaming inside but my voice was gone. I wanted to stand up and run away but my body would not cooperate. My body betrayed me and it was my fault for even meeting him again that night. After he came, he told me to put my clothes on and he’d take me home. I sat in the shower that night just crying and shaking. I was disgusted with myself. This wasn’t how my first time was supposed to be like. After that night, I didn’t reply to his texts.

Then I started receiving threats like “what would people think when they find out little miss perfect is not a virgin anymore?” or “do your friends know you’re a slut?”. I got scared so I kept meeting with him and we’d have sex every time. Every time I would do something wrong he would punch me or slap me. I started wearing a jacket to school to hide the bruises. It became a trend but what they didn’t know that inside I was dying. I was dead. It went on for months when he would threaten me and physically hurt me and I let him. He would say it’s my fault for being a shitty girlfriend.
One day I finally got the courage to tell him that I didn’t want it anymore. That it was over between us. I wanted to leave. But, he pulled my hair, dragged me into his room and started beating me and when I wasn’t resisting took my clothes off and fucked me. I was young and in love but I knew that love wasn’t supposed to hurt. I cried myself to sleep every night and during the day acted like everything was fine. I played the part of little miss perfect perfectly.

At that point, I didn’t use my phone anymore. I just wanted to disappear into thin air. One day, I got a friendster message from him saying, “I am breaking up with you. You are a shitty girlfriend and I don’t want you anymore. Besides, my girlfriend and I have gotten back together.” Just like that it was over. But the nightmare did not end. I felt betrayed and hurt and lost and angry. He was not even sorry for what he did. I felt like the world was closing in on me.

My world completely fell apart. I started harming myself, slashing my wrists. It felt like I wanted to escape this world. The black hole was eating me and I was letting it. But, I stopped myself, I started coming to terms with the past and focused on moving on. I continued to be little miss perfect. Besides, it was only a few more months until my high school graduation and I got to leave that place and try to forget all the pain. So I did, after graduation I went away, and never looked back. At university, I started being active in women’s rights. I realised that what happened to me, was rape. I never gave consent. I was threatened, I was abused.

I felt the guilt of having done this to myself that it was all my fault and thought about all the what ifs, what if I hadn’t approached him? What if I just left him and walked away. Up to this day only my closest friends know what happened that year. Even my parents don’t know. I was never really ready to tell anyone. I was scared of what the world would think. It’s been more than 10 years but it still haunts me. I am hoping that by sharing my story, young women would not let any guy guilt or threaten them into doing sexual acts just like that. We go through hell and we survive. Surviving just doesn’t end when the acts end. I hope that one day I will completely heal from this dark moment in my past. Healing is a long process but it get’s better.

Day 1. Stories of Women*: I am a Survivor not a Victim

I dreaded writing this story because of the wounds of abuse become fresh and I wish the strength I have now, I had back then.

I am a 25 year old Swazi woman, a daughter to a woman who was abused by her husband whom I had to call my father no matter the painful scars that he embedded on my mom. This is what at first made abuse normal to me because my mother would always make an excuse on behalf of my father whenever he beat her. It was a long cycle of abuse with some days being the days where my father would make my mother feel so special like a queen before the storm broke; she was bruised and covered in blood. I came to accept that men can beat women up in the name of love and it was fine.

I started dating at age 17 after completing school due to the strictness of my parents who later separated as my mother had enough of the abuse. I met him at church during youth camp and he was every girl’s dream boyfriend at church, but he only had eyes for me. I think I appreciated being the chosen one for a while, but it was too good to be true. He was caring, really caring that he wanted to know everything about me; my whereabouts, friends, hangouts and sometimes who was calling on the phone. At first it felt sweet and caring and I enjoyed his attention. He loved knowing what time I would knock off work, so he could drop me off at home and I felt that it was his way of showing support.

I felt he loved me too much to let me travel by public transport. But he sometimes never asked but just pounced on me and did not negotiate whether I had plans to travel with friends or not. He never wanted to take NO for an answer and felt like as a couple we should be open enough to share each other’s phones as a sign of honesty and trust. I believed him and gave in even though I did not understand the significance of that. He would bring the phone in the middle of the night claiming men were calling and he would threaten to beat me up.

Threats escalated to beatings 
It started off as threats and then one day it was executed. It was a night out with friends at a colleague’s house, I forgot to tell him my plans for the night and co-incidentally we met as we went out to shop for snacks for the house party. He pretended to be understanding as one of my friends explained where we were going. He pulled me away from the crowd, so we could talk and before I could explain he slapped me so hard, I kissed the ground. My lips brushed through the soil and I wished to scream but it was so surreal, my lips felt numb then a hard knock hit my buttocks. I screamed, suddenly I heard him groan in anger and then he reached down for my hand and pulled me up to face him. I cried in shock and screamed but tears in his face made me stop. He was crying too and that touched my heart. He apologised teary and as much as I was in pain, it didn’t feel right to cry when I saw the level of regret he had written all over his face. He got away with it as I ended up blaming myself for making him angry thus leading to the beating.
The beatings started to become a pattern. He would beat me up for not taking his calls when I was busy at work, commenting on someone’s status with a ‘dear’, dressing up in clothes that he felt were revealing. Everything I did was wrong in his eyes. All arguments ended up with me lying on the floor screaming hysterically. I had devised a routine plan to fake seizures when he beat me up, so he could freak out and stop. I could not tell anyone about the abuse, not even the ladies I stayed with because it would have been hard for them to believe it. He was the “ideal man” in the eyes of others, always to the rescue when there was a need. I could not even bring myself to explain the bruises that were all over my body, so I hid away and cried myself to sleep.

Then one fateful day, this is still hard for me to admit. I realised I was pregnant a few days before my birthday, he had planned for everything in relation to my birthday party. I was excited about everything until I discovered that I was pregnant. He bought me a dress which was too tight, and I doubted if my growing tummy would not be too prominent in the dress. The day of my birthday party came. I failed to wear the dress he bought me, but I opted for pants and a flare top. Mr. party had to come fetch Miss party and as he came through the door I felt his shoulders drop and a fist clench on his hands. He smiled coyly and asked to be left alone then all hell broke loose. I was kicked, bashed and stamped upon. I played the seizure trick but that moment it did not help, he forced me into the dress like a corpse and carried me into the car.

The journey was rough, but one thing was for sure it was not to the venue for my birthday party. He called my cousin to apologise that I couldn’t make it because he had to rush me to hospital, but the road had no hospital sign. The pain was unbearable, and I passed out.  I regained my consciousness to his loud shouting, but I couldn’t make sense of any words. He finally stopped the car. It was a bushy place as I could see pineapple plantations around. He opened the door for me and helped me out and then the beating continued. I tried explaining that the dress was too tight and I was not going to be comfortable. But he maintained that I did not wear it because I wanted to wear clothes bought by my other boyfriends. I was kicked, forced to apologise and beaten for saying sorry too soft or with arrogance.

The last kick landed on my abdomen before I screamed out that I am pregnant. But it was too late as I had already started bleeding, the dress was covered in blood in the lower extremities and he acted too quickly. He finally took me to hospital. The baby was no more. My heart was aching so hard I couldn’t speak. Nurses told me that they could not give me care because I had to do a police report, but I told them I was mugged by unknown people. Due to fear of hypovolemic shock the nurses attended to me. I woke up in the morning to the sad confirmation that I miscarried and had broken a rib. As I lay in the post operation bed, I made up my mind that I will vanish either by death or by choice in this world. I decided to start my life anew.

The cycle had to end
Upon release from hospital I contacted my uncle and asked to recover in one of his apartments where I was sure my boyfriend would never find me. The cycle had to end.  I was not about to let my life end with the cycle of abuse. I disappeared three months of no cellphones, jobless, but the support my family, gave me was my source of strength. At first, I could not tell anyone what had happened but as the wounds were healing I started to talk. I regained courage as I talked and shared my story of abuse, I had visible and invisible scars, but all hurt the same.

I started to share my story with other girls in my community; it was not easy the tears would well in, as the memories felt new and fresh. Some would show empathy and others would tell me to my face that when a man beat you up it was a sign of true love and commitment. I didn’t blame them; society had made us believe that it was a norm for a woman to suffer in the hands of the one person that they love. After all, culturally a woman was thought of to be part of the children in a household and children can be beaten so it was justified if a man beat his wife. I was made to experience these harsh beatings of my mother and she endured them in the name of refusing to be called a marriage defect in the community, so I grew up knowing it is fine to be beaten.

Currently, I have learnt to note the signs of an abusive man way before he even decides to lay a finger on me. I refuse to be controlled by any man, all issues are discussed, and an agreement is made. If he fails to do that then we are better off separated. A man cannot control my movements or me, he must understand that everything comes to the discussion table. I refuse to hear someone play around with words like ‘I’ll beat you up or I could kill you’. It shows me he has potential of being abusive.

There are boys in these abusive households, they learn the norm and adapt it and take it as good practice because they see it done continuously and no action taken. Is this not the reason today our boyfriends opt to kill us because they feel like beating us only has made us used to their beating so better death. I may never have children because of the abuse but I refuse to see any more women be barren in the name of love or be made statistics of intimate partner violence. When will our culture stop protecting men in the name of Godly given powers that they should treat women as children which makes them feel right to hit them as method of correction. More and more women are being killed in the name of love. But this can’t be a November cry. Authorities only notice that women deserve to be protected when we commemorate the 16 days of activism. Do women only die during the November and December era? Was I abused only in the November and December era? The answer is NO.

Abuse is not seasonal, it is happening everyday within different households and more and more perpetrators are being groomed as they watch abuse being normalized within the society. Why can’t we uproot the normalized abuse in the minds of young boys and empowering the girls that they can break free from the cycle of abuse. However, this does not mean we are not noting the number of men that suffer abuse in the hands of women, that also must be condemned in the same manner that abuse against women. As a woman who has suffered abuse, I refuse to be quiet in the name of being in love. I want more women to speak out and act.

By a survivor 

Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarchy led by polygamous King Mswati. Political parties have remained banned in Swaziland since 1973. A total disregard of human rights and the crackdown of human rights defenders who call for multiparty democracy is endemic in sustaining the royal dictatorship.  
Swaziland is a highly patriarchal society where abuse of women is systemic. The problem of gender-based violence is deep seated.  Sad statistics show that, 1 in 3 females have experienced some form of sexual abuse by age 18 years, and 48 per cent of women report to have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. The story of Siviwe is not an isolated one. Many women are facing abuse daily and unfortunately some lose their lives. The struggle for democracy in Swaziland cannot be separated from the struggle for gender equality.