Some years ago on March 7th someone close to me was sexually assaulted in her own house. A man broke into the house through the back door. Her room was the nearest to that door and he made his way in and she was attacked. When she was able to scream and her mother heard her, she also began to scream (perhaps even louder) and it was then that the intruder fled. The ensuing events were just as invasive with the police crawling all over the house dusting for fingerprints, with her having to stay ‘in state’ for a medical examination, with the actual medical examination and with the emotional trauma that remained and revisited in the form of nightmares as he was never caught.
I remember that it was March 7th because while my brain was trying to process what happened to her, the radio was on and an announcer made reference to an International Women’s Day event to be celebrated to following day. I laughed to myself at the fucking irony and every year since, on this day, I recall vividly what happened to her and my thoughts at that time as it had hit so close to home.
There is a feeling in Trinidad and Tobago that because of the seeming uptick in gender-based violence that women have nothing to celebrate. We are being attacked, we are being abused in all manner, we are being beaten, we are being raped, we are being killed. No one seems to care enough to make it a priority more than telling us to keep pepper spray in our bags and stop wearing tight clothes. Why are we celebrating being a woman in Trinidad and Tobago? I would argue however that even in the midst of the marching, tears, anguish and despair, we must still lift up and salute the very essence that is woman which empowers us. This is probably even more important as we continue keeping the spotlight on women in our society. Think of the matriarchs that hold families together, the grannies who command strength, diligence and intelligence, the mothers who sacrifice and suffer in silence pondering in their hearts, the sisters and aunties who offer fresh perspective with a dose of reality, the daughters who open up the world and show more than what was originally thought, the friends who can gas you up but also keep you humble, the boss babes, the mompreneurs, the Proverbs 31 women, the independent ladies, the hot gyals, the dreamers, the creatives, the phoenixes, the challengers….all of this is woman and a thing to be celebrated!
So on this International Women’s Day 2021 I recognize all women today using the given hashtag. I #ChoosetoChallenge the notion that women are unequal and unable simply because of the XX chromosome. I #ChoosetoChallenge the view that women ought to live in fearful protection of themselves and of their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing while there is no focus on the same for men. I #ChoosetoChallenge the idea that there is stillll a need to discuss a woman’s place in the world. Why? This should be obvious by now, two thousand and twenty one plus years of existence!!
In the same breath, I #ChoosetoChallenge us women to be supportive of one another (because there is strength in unity), to understand that we are all worthy no matter our circumstance, to be supremely fearless, to find the faith rooted deeply in ourselves and to believe that our individual purpose (even if we may not know what it is as yet) holds magic in its fulfillment.
Happy International Women’s Day! Salute to all women today! Do you know a fabulous woman who should be acknowledged? Honour her in some way today, big or small and remember to #ChoosetoChallenge for a change.