Speak out-Dorothy Johnson-Laird

“Your silence will not protect you.”

~ Audre L

“One in four women will experience severe Depression at some point in their lifetime,” and “Women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse are at much greater risk of Depression.”*  Depression can cause a woman to slowly die.  It may be deadly in Zimbabwe, where it often goes undiagnosed or untreated.  It is not spoken of.  It is unacknowledged.  However, Betty Makoni, CEO of Girl Child Network, asks us as women not to ignore our suffering, not to be quiet about it.  She writes, “I will not be silenced and every Sunday I host Muzvare Betty Makoni radio program on Zimonlineradio.com Zimbabwe where I encourage women and girls to be empowered.  Join me every Sunday as our platform for women and girls gets bigger and stronger. Don’t be silenced, speak out and heal!”

When girls and women do not speak out, they suffer.  They may be tolerating situations of abuse and be fearful to speak up.  Women may stay in violent marriages for the sake of their children.  Betty says that Zimbabwean women often may feel obliged to be quiet, because they are staying in England on their husband’s visas and may fear deportation if they split from them.  Yet some of the situations that women live in are simply abusive and unsafe.  Even when a man is not outright violent, he may be verbally or psychologically abusive.  The marks may not be visible, yet years of living in these situations can greatly damage a woman’s psyche and can cause an inner death.

Today on Betty’s radio show, a young woman began to cry as she described becoming sad as a result of witnessing her mother’s Depression.  She related that sometimes people in Zimbabwe may know so little about Depression that they may not look for help.  She believed there were limited resources in Zimbabwe to assist her mother.  She also said that unfortunately sometimes mental health conditions are blamed on witchcraft or evil spirits.  Then she expressed that she could not continue to speak, because she was becoming too upset.  Yet, Betty calmed her, and creates a warm, welcoming environment through her radio show.  Betty encouraged the young woman to “speak to the pain” as a way to work through her sadness.  Jurline Redeaux, a woman of wisdom and long time social worker was also on hand to provide support and information regarding Depression.

Speaking out about our experiences, our sadnesses can help us heal as women, but importantly, it can make us see that we are not alone and can lead us to act.  While the experiences of Zimbabwean, even African women can often be incredibly oppressive and harsh.  Rape does not happen to one kind of woman, it cuts across race, class, all boundaries.  We as a movement of global sisters can understand each other to some degree because we too have been violated, we too have suffered in silence.

When we speak, we are not only moving the pain outside ourselves, but we are sharing with others.  And it is in this sharing that we come together, no longer silenced, no longer afraid.  Many years ago, Audre Lorde, the great African-Caribbean activist, writer and woman warrior recognized this when she wrote that as women, “Your silence will not protect you.”  Audre taught us that as women we must speak up. She encouraged us to celebrate our differences as women but also what unites.  She believed that it was impossible to stay silent on issues that mattered to us.  The more we speak, the more our experiences become known, we move from being victims to survivors, we move from being wounded to healed.  But it is when we make our pain known to ourselves and others, when we name it and claim it that we can start to move through it.  Speaking then becomes a political act for us as women and girls.  Speaking means that we refuse to tolerate or accept situations of oppression or injustice.

We invite you to tune in every Sunday to www.zimonlineradio.com (6pm United Kingdom time, 1pm EST), bring your voices and experiences, both good and bad, to Betty Makoni’s radio program.  Bring a sister, a friend, your daughter, a supportive male to participate in our work at Girl Child Network Worldwide.  We want to invite more and more women and girls and male allies to share their words, to volunteer with us, to participate, so that we can all move from a place of voicelessness to voice.  With Girl Child Network Worldwide we want to create a global platform for change, so that women and girls can speak to their pain, stop violence and rape, and finally be empowered.

* Statistics from The National Institute of Mental Health