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Untold stories

Friday 6th August 2010

Satang Nabaneh from The Gambia celebrates the role of young women in building peace.  

“My sister, her 3-year-old baby and I were alone in the house when her husband travelled out of town.  At 1 am we heard noises. We looked outside the window and saw a man cutting the wired fence around the house. We were so frightened, we decided to stay in the house praying that he would not be able to enter. He was able to, however, and asked for our jewelry and other stuff around the house. Thank God he did not hurt any of us.” said Debbie

Elizabeth on the other side of the room also began recounting her story. “Late one afternoon in October 2005, I was travelling with my friend when we decided to go to the neighboring country. We managed to get  a ride from a truck driver and we thought him to be a Godsend since we did not have enough money on us. By sunrise the following day, we had passed the border. The driver then indicated that he wanted to have sex with me. Upon realizing that I could not stop him, I asked him to use a condom. He did – but it burst. Since then, I have been living with AIDS. It has been more than 5 years. Passing that border was the beginning of a tragic end which will deeply affect the course of the rest of my life.”

Silence descended in that room full of young women from 21 different African countries. Each of us had tears in our eyes. “This is unfair, this is inhumane, we deserve better. We each have our untold stories.”

 These were the thoughts echoing in everyone’s mind.

 Young women have always been excluded from critical institutions – be it on the local or regional levels of society and we are among the group that is most affected by conflict. We are the ones whose voices are not taken on board. We have always been marginalized and this has resulted in the continuous, vicious cycles of exclusion, violation and discrimination.

 What can we do as young women of the continent to build peace and to ensure our security and that of our sisters?

 In our societies, we know that we don’t do anything. However, we agree that young women can serve as agents of peace. Peace cannot be addressed by government or institutions alone but society as a whole.

Young women can and are changing the world. We do it all: from respecting the rule of law, to speaking out against the injustices we face, to involving ourselves in community development to other initiatives which solidify our role as peace builders.

In my society, we do not only talk about our challenges and limitations as African women, we also celebrate our remarkable contributions throughout the history of our continent. We take pride in the abilities and acheivements of women as outstanding leaders and agents of change in our society.

To be effective peace builders, young women do not only need to be given the skills and the knowledge, but the resources and solidarity networks required to survive.

 Think of your own role in building peace.  You are the place to start.

 We will always be stronger, however, when we join forces in this struggle.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. satang nabaneh permalink
    Friday 6th August 2010 5:11 pm

    even though i wrote the article, i do love it 🙂 i hope you do too….

  2. Rob permalink
    Friday 6th August 2010 5:51 pm

    Wow… what a powerful statement. These blogs are really providing food for thought.

  3. A.D.D. permalink
    Saturday 7th August 2010 12:07 pm

    Thank you for your moving and inspiring post, Satang. Do you think that a prerequisite for increased political representation of women, and women taking a stronger role in peace-building, is that women must first be afforded an equal position in wider society as a whole? It feels like we, as women, are still fighting for the most fundamental human rights in some parts of the world.

    • Satang permalink
      Saturday 7th August 2010 6:43 pm

      Its is not just in some parts of the world. it is in most part of the women. even in developed countries, women do not stil enjoy most of their fundamental human rights. it is true that women are still fighting for the most basic of human rights, be it education, participation, health etc. if we cannot attain these rights which include political participation there is no way that we can make our role stronger as peace builders nor have our efforts recognise.

      What do you think?

      • A.D.D. permalink
        Monday 9th August 2010 1:36 pm

        Hi Satang- You’re right, even in the so-called ‘developed’ countries of the world, women suffer prejudice and discrimination. I suppose the important thing is to understand- and spread the understanding- that the role women can play in peace-building is deeply intertwined with progress in other areas such as health and education- that a peaceful society is a society that can spend money on schools- for both boys and girls- and hospitals, instead of arms.

  4. Zean Shiung permalink
    Sunday 8th August 2010 6:05 pm

    Hi! I am one of the Nkabomers 2010 too!
    Just a question right, has anyone did a research into why in the very very first place were women placed in a lower position than men? In what sense or in which way are they lower? Was this applicable back then? Because I have known of certain ethnic societies who practiced a culture of equality for both genders while some even placed women of higher social status than men. For example, in the place where I am from, in the Malay Lands back then probably during before 1500, there was this ‘adat perpatih’ (in Malay Language, it means culture of perpatih) which was practiced, placing women above men in property inheritance, social status etc… And this is still practiced in certain states in Malaysia now, as a respect to long tradition. So it means historically, women’s status may or may not have been as bad as advocated, or probably it was even worse… Can anyone of you comment on this?

  5. Mehwish Zuberi permalink
    Monday 9th August 2010 5:00 am

    Truly heart-wrentching. And all the more it makes me proud to have been born a female in a male-dominated world, a part of this clan of the most brave warriors of every race and colour, who have faced the jeering crowd that is our society and came out with spirits unwavering. Hats off these women!

    P.S. I am also a Nkabomer this year and am bursting with the excitement of visiting Africa this September!

  6. Fale Andrew Lesa permalink
    Monday 9th August 2010 8:23 am

    Warm Pacific Greetings from New Zealand, a fellow Nkabomer for 2010.

    The historical plight of women’s suffrage is instrumental in New Zealand, it was here that an early pioneer for Women Activism, by the name of Katherine Wilson Sheppard, championed the right for NZ women to vote in all elections; making New Zealand the first country to introduce universal suffrage (the vote for all women).

    I can also speak as a Christian, Mary Magdalene is described, in the New Testament of the Christian bible, as one of the most important women in the movement of Jesus throughout his ministry. A historical defamation of character against Magdalene was introduced by those (with influence) who refused to acknowledge her service because of her so-called “inferior sex”. I would argue that the inequality between genders is predominantly a symbol of human ignorance, rather than anything else. Some interpret the creation of women by the rib cage of a man as support for this notion of inferiorism, particularly within Christianity. Other religions have similar interpretations of the role that women should play in society, if not by consent; than by submission.

    However, I would suggest that there really is no empirical foundation for the ignorance of humanity against women in either faith or secularism. Great women such as Mary Magdalene, Elizabeth I, Katherine Wilson Sheppard, Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc, Ellen G. White, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benazir Bhutto and so many other examples are an indication of their equal capabilities to their male counterparts.

    It is unfortunate that it has taken so many centuries to realise this brutal honesty. So much blood has been shed, so much pain has been felt, and so much sorrow has been experienced by the divide that separates man from woman.

  7. Monday 9th August 2010 6:17 pm

    This is a true untold story !

    Dear Satang, you’re doing great and what I like more in your commitment is the topic you are working on: violence against women and young girls ! These two categories are always victims of the phenomenon and we should intensify action to tackle violence among them.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your experience ! Keep like that.

  8. satang permalink
    Monday 9th August 2010 6:42 pm

    Women have always had lower status than men, but I do agree the extent of the gap between them varies across culture and time (some arguing that it is inversely related to social evolution.)

    According to Gerda Learner in the Creation of Patriarchy, gender is the “costume, a mask, a straitjacket in which men and women dance their unequal dance”. As Alan Wolfe observed in the “Gender Question” “of all the ways that one group has systematically mistreated another, none is more deeply rooted than the way men have subordinated women. All other discriminations pale by contrast”

    Coming to religious patriarchy and women, religious books have been predominantly interpreted by men and still are to their own benefit. They have serve to cement the already vulnerable positions of women. As well as the continued emphasis on controlling sexuality and other critical aspects of women’s lives.

    To be candid, the world owe the women folk a duty to move them out of the cycle of hunger, misery, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination and disease to a better life. Africa’s continued political and economic marginalization which increases powerlessness and poverties are the bedrock in which fundamentalism strives and we need to address these. Similarly, women’s exclusion in the discourses and negotiations on peace building needs to be addressed particularly within the context of fundamentalism.

    Women may reach dreamy heights, explore the world, master the masses, but within the confines of their homes, they continue to be treated like slaves. Now we think that things are improving, but actually they are as bad as ever.

    I love the words of Meenaksi Madhur in ‘Listen to they heart and heed what it says”
    Listen to they heart, oh woman
    Heed what it says
    Listen to it despite the din and the noise
    Listen to it even if sometimes it may make you lose your poise
    Listen to it when it cries out loud and clear
    Listen to it when it palpitates in fear
    Listen to it when it wants to dare and enjoy
    Listen to it when it wants to play coy
    Listen to it to get a clue and to find who you are
    Listen to it when it gets closer to dreams that seem so afar
    Listen to thy heart, oh woman
    Heed what it says

  9. Tuesday 10th August 2010 11:51 am

    An emotional read! I whole heartedly agree with all the comments here.”To be candid, the world owe the women folk a duty to move them out of the cycle of hunger, misery, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination and disease to a better life.” It would be a glorious day that the Women are given their due right what they deserve,

  10. Sait Matty Jaw permalink
    Thursday 9th September 2010 10:45 pm

    Satang: You did told a part of the untold stories facing women. You are right looking at all the issues you’ve mentioned a lot needs to be done, and I believed your really doing your part to make sure that issues affecting women and children are brought to the light and table before world leaders and policy makers.
    keep the good work peace shall one day prevailed and your efforts as young people will forever be in our hearts for you doing great to better society.

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