By Fatou Wurie
Read the original piece on Huffington Post here
THE BACKGROUND YOU ARE MOST AWARE OF – 11 YEARS OF WAR IN SIERRA LEONE:
Birth. I choose to not tell my protected friends that I was born in a small house in a small village nestled in the small corners of Africa. I cannot tell them that we did not have running water, or that my grandfather died in a small colorless room–he was a man who came from a life of rags to one of riches and back to rags. Privacy is important to my family. We do not talk about fragmented family members who still reside in a time where proliferated guns, machetes and knives were central to a landscape they know as home. We are private. My friends, they cannot understand that the black child without arms in media mediated images is a by-product of a war that demanded other black children become killers. War, it conjures images of men with weapons, of death, of blood, of the decapitation of family structures. It conjures the infinite nature of the human spirit.
I see black corpses, Bosnian corpses, Jewish corpses, Palestinian corpses, Syrian Corpses, corpses from the DRC–corpses that have lived in the small house I was born. I smell tears; they are the only signifiers and tellers of endured pain, of survival. When I hear phrases like the private life of war a sad smile forces my lips into movement. War is never private; it may be pocketed and isolated but collectively we all mourn and grieve. Private is an illusion maintained by the powerful. Fools, we even tell those who return from battle that they must uphold the fabric of illusion. That their grief can only spill within, and if they cry, we will collect their tears and hide them.
Hide hidden, even if our visibly invisible limbs are reminders that we were once at war. The little colorless house I was born in is a battlefield on its own. It has birthed, screamed and lost. It has endured rape, trauma, laughter, community, strength, and mental breakdowns. It has housed dreams and bears witness to the deaths of the owners of those dreams. There is no negotiating war. It is alive in the body; it seeps into our collective consciousness even when we try to forget.
THE SILENT WAR YOU ARE NOT HEARING ENOUGH ABOUT:
We are shouting between silences, covering what continues to spill through muffled cries, here is the present reality – much too many women and young girls are been raped in Sierra Leone. Too often, too fast, too much. Action only comes from momentary outrage, too often too fast too much. In the last 2 months alone based on social media news buzz with images that serve as evidence, over 10 young girls nation-wide have been raped, maimed and some left dead.
Three years ago on an ‘End Fistual Campaign’ I traveled to the Southern Province of Sierra Leone and met an 11 year old girl who suffered from Fistula. She was quiet, almost peaceful as she stood erect looking afar. Her eyes were vacant. She had been raped since age 9, which is how she came to suffer from Fistula.
Hannah Bockarie at 19 years of age was found sprawled, half naked on Freetown’s popular beach, Lumley. Raped, beaten and dead. Her death sparked outrage among many Sierra Leoneans, the indignation of her rape and death, a sharp reminder that far too many young girls and women experience sexual violence every day in our small nation. Often their stories go unnoticed. Hannah’s death forced us to remember the brutality at which women’s bodies were being attacked without impunity. Yet, a good number of people also believed that Hannah deserved what happened to her because she was a commercial sex worker, citing that “they were not Hannah” in opposition to the rally cry for her death, ” we are all Hannah!” which aimed to reinforce that Rape is not about sex, it is about Power.
There is a war launched on the bodies of Sierra Leonean women.
World, know this today.
The stories about the decapitation of women’s bodies are spilling, war is never private.
Fatou Wurie is a health communications and policy advocacy activist, writer and photographer. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Okay Africa, Amnesty International Blog and the Standard Times- a leading local newspaper discussing women’s health, maternal and newborn health, sexuality and politics. Her passion lies in curating spaces and places through community designed projects, technology, and advocacy policy to drive improved social services for marginalized communities – especially women. She is the founder of The Survivor Dream Project – a community led project that creates sustainable change in the lives of vulnerable populations across Sierra Leone. Fatou participated in AWDF’s 2015 African Women Writers Workshop. You can follow her writing at her blog.