women in conflict

When Memories Remain Undigested

whats-your-trigger I know the panic which rises, gripping and pulsating, when a certain number flickers on the phone. I am a well-seasoned avoider as my heart races and I wait for voicemail, confident I am in trouble. I stall. Do laundry. Later, I listen.

The same anxiety wakes me on days I meet with her. Well before the sun rises, my stomach begins its tumult, flooded with adrenaline, fueled by an incoherent fear. Because no matter the voicemail, no matter the meeting’s topic, I am never in trouble. Ever. She thinks the world of me, yet evokes such a visceral response I grow ill.

I endure this crazy for years while wondering its source; Until I begin preparing for a trip back to a time and place when another woman triggered similar panic. Suddenly, finally, I realize how alike they are. The firm, set way in which they share opinions. The sweet salty manner of disagreeing with me. The method of inviting participation while maintaining control. And with the former woman, the one whom I would vividly recall on my trip down memory lane, I was always in trouble.

My recent panic has nothing to do with the present day person, but everything to do with the one from before.

I wonder how many of us struggle with these current triggers unaware of their source? The marital fights over seemingly benign things: he gets uncharacteristically angry when the fridge is empty because deep down are unprocessed emotions from his childhood home, with its little food and arguments over money and diminished father. Her blood rises on the playground and with every emotional recounting of the day from her five-year-old, not remembering, but feeling, all the playgrounds and lunchrooms in all the new schools she entered as a child. I'm over at The Mudroom Blog today, sharing a space with fellow women as we process memories and triggers this month. Please head over to finish reading.

Can 1 million thumbprints change a woman's life? #1MThumprints

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We gather with our best friends every week for a family dinner. Eleven of us squeeze around the table and without fail, answer a "prompt" that the host gets to ask. This week Greg asked, "If you could change any problem in the world, what would it be?" Mine was easy. I would eradicate the devaluing of women that leads to so many more problems.

My 12-year-old daughter gave me a fist bump. She's learning a lot this year and somewhere along the way, I gained a friend, a comrade in my concern for our sisters around the globe. We're on a mission she and I.

Because when women are devalued, they cook the meal and serve the men and then the boys and eat whatever remains, even if there is no more meat, no more milk, and only a meager broth. So girls grow up malnourished and suffer physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

When women are devalued, they are not given an education because all they are ever meant to do is serve the men. So girls grow up illiterate, unable to read religious books used to control them or laws meant to protect them.

When women are devalued, they are groped, stared at, or cat called in public. So girls grow up feeling like sex objects and in some countries, cover up entirely to prevent such daily violations.

When women are devalued, they suffer horrendously in conflict and war. Subject to violent rape, kidnapped to become sex slaves, impregnated by their abusers, and other heinous forms of sexual violence.

Photo Credit Benjamin Edwards

And there is a lot of violence in the world right now. There are conflict zones in which women are suffering... alone. If they survive the sexual violence, they live with psychological and physical damage. If they overcome the effects of these, they live silenced and unwelcome in the community conversation. Why? Because they are devalued. Their voice is not respected, even less so once they have been violated, ruined.

Photo Credit Sean Sheridan

This needs to change.

But how?

Here's the thing. The UN has made resolutions, calling for an end to sexual violence against women and children in war. In fact, there is an International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on June 19. So, first off, we need to advocate for rigorous implementation of the UN's resolutions.

If that were to happen, and we saw a reduction in rape as a weapon of war, we still need to work on increasing the value of women. What happens after they have suffered? How do we remove the stigma of sexual violence? How do we engage their voice in community change? How do we empower them to be their own social change? They need to survive, then stabilize, then be sustained. And 1 Million Thumbprints seeks to do just that.

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Inspired by Esperance, a Congolese survivor of sexual violence, who after asking her story to be told, sealed her request with her thumbprint, 1 Million Thumbprints is advocating for and supporting local initiatives to address this very problem. Esperance's thumbprint became their mandate: Violence against women in war zones is violence against each of us. Each thumbprint collected for 1MT is a visual representation of solidarity, but it’s also a call to action. Each thumbprint collected will advocate for change and peace in the most dangerous nations for women: Sudan, Iraq/Syria, and the Congo.

On March 8, International Women's Day, a group of 15 women and 1 man will summit Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise the banner of thumbprints in honor of the women being fought for. In partnership with World Relief, this inaugural event hopes to raise awareness and funds for those whose voices have been all too absent in the conversation about peace in war zones. You can add your thumbprint or participate by giving here.

Personally, I'm excited to support two fellow Redbud Writer's Guild members, Kimberly Yim and Ruth Bell Olsson. Would you join me in adding your thumbprint to this campaign and taking one more step of your own toward solidarity with our global sisters?