Tuesday, October 20, 2009
There are no pretty ways to describe the range of thoughts and emotions going through me now as I write. Tuesday evening found me in Amsterdam at the Opzij Magazine award for the most Powerful Woman in The Netherlands. Big event? Yes. Great networking ? Yes, but not my reason for being there.
The matter at hand and the reason I left my enormously pressing workload and family was to support a cause I believe in. I went to publicly give my support to Rebecca Gomperts and Women On Waves, the famous abortion ship, by allowing myself to be photographed wearing a T-Shirt Captioned : I had an Abortion. This in order to support Women On Waves, a non-profit human rights organization who fights for the prevention of unplanned/unwanted pregnancies and the eradication of dangerous illegal abortions in countries where abortion is still illegal. She does this by sailing ( on invitation from womens organizations in these countries)with a group of activists and doctors to these countries to share knowledge, provide information, moral and medical support(no surgical procedures are ever carried out) and the abortion pill (+97% effective and safe)to women in need.
As we speak, women especially in the 3rd world are dying every 8 minutes due to complications arising from illegal unsafe abortions. This is usually the case for the poor and uneducated women and girls who get pregnant from rape, incest, lack of knowledge about- and the means to afford- proper contraceptives.
So Holland being a country known for her political emancipation, I expected to witness a strong turn up of sisters to support this cause. To my surprise the turn up totalled only 5 women; delegated to a secret little corner it seemed, to do our “dirty little job” while the other 200+ women were busy toasting the most powerful women in Holland. My surprise was quickly replaced by a mental power point changing slowly and repeatedly from DISBELIEF to ANGER and DISGUST at the hypocrisy and lack of balls I was witnessing. Coming from an African country where abortion is still a taboo, illegal, not to mention life-threatening; I feel that this cause is about going beyond ones' self(read privacy)for a greater good. I, a survivor of illegal early teenage abortions that almost cost me my life, felt that the time had arrived to cast all vestiges of shame and false privacy aside and make a stand to support this dire plight.
Surely, we owe it to those girls and women dying every 8 minutes to support a campaign that would provide knowledge and information as to how to avoid pregnancies and where to find help in cases of unwanted pregnancies?
I am deeply disappointed by the betrayal I witnessed today by the massive head-in-the-sand action shown by the women. I know that at least 1 in every 20 women has had an abortion.
Determined not to throw in the towel, I drew the attention of all the women I spoke to while networking to the area in the large hall sectioned off for the abortion photo. They all shook their heads and vaguely mumbled something about taboos and privacy. Finally burning with icy heat and on a silent war-path, I brought the issue up to the editor-in chief of the feminist magazine hosting this event. Why was there no official acknowledgement of the I had an Abortion campaign this evening? Out of bored politeness, she explained that she hadn’t thought of publicly mentioning it. Hastily adding that she could perfectly understand that women would want to be discreet about this ….blah blah blah, she extricated herself in record breaking time from our conversation.
I am asking all women, mothers, daughters and sisters living in countries where abortion is legal, safe and a luxury to tell me in God’s name how privacy can prevent us from making a stand? What on earth have we got to be ashamed of? What have we got to loose? What about those desperate lives we could be saving every 8 minutes if we were but to cast our false shame or privacy aside and realize that this is about something much bigger than our pathetic little egos?
How luxurious it is indeed to have privacy when multitudes don’t even have a choice. How can we speak of privacy when we over here have nothing to loose? Loosing face counts only if you allow it. Women where I come from could be stoned and lynched and threatened for doing what I did this evening. Women in some countries would be excommunicated, alienated and even killed for doing this simple thing I did today.
Every 8 minutes somewhere on this planet a sister dies a wretched, lonely and painful death because we, her better-off sisters heard her plea, considered aaaaaaaalllllll of that precious f**king commodity called privacy that we could loose. We turned the other way, toasted the powerful and the mighty and picked at our cuticles instead.