"One In Three Women On The Planet Will Be Raped Or Beaten In Her Lifetime. One Billion Women Violated Is An Atrocity. One Billion Women Dancing is a Revolution." -One Billion Rising Movement
On Valentine's Day, we danced in protest of gender-based violence as part of a worldwide movement, One Billion Rising.
We are members of the youth advocacy team at One By One (www.fightfistula.org), a Seattle-based organization committed to treating and preventing obstetric fistula in the developing world. An obstetric fistula is an injury caused by prolonged obstructed labor, which can leave women with a stillborn baby and a hole in the birth canal. This hole, or fistula, leads to numerous physical complications including fecal and urinary incontinence, a foul odor, and pain. Women in developing countries are often unaware of or unable to access treatment, and therefore may live with this condition for years or even decades.
Fistula sufferers often experience violence and ostracization from their family and community because their condition is poorly understood. In addition to the emotional abuse and stigmatization that these women face, they are often beaten by their husbands and forced to live in isolation without the support of their families or the means to support themselves. This violence stems from the perception that these women are less valuable and less able to perform their expected duties as wives. It is also at times a reaction to the odor that their condition produces.
Eunice is one of these women.
Even three years after she had surgery to repair her fistula, people would throw rocks and spit at her as she walked to get water. This kind of "every day" humiliation and violence is commonplace for fistula sufferers and even for some women like Eunice who experience shunning and violence even after repair. When the Kenyan regional representative from One By One learned Eunice was living in a shack alone in a dangerous location, she organized a team of Kenyans and Americans to build a safer and more dignified home for Eunice.
Eunice with her new home and the volunteers who helped build it. Photo credit: One by One.
The group was able to build her a new home in one day, which would restore the community's sense of her as a full human being, thus reducing the violence against her. One By One works to address the causes of violence against fistula survivors by providing counseling, resources, and training that enables them to educate their communities about fistula. By educating communities, we hope to end the stigma surrounding fistula, and therefore end the violence associated with it.
One By One's youth advocacy teams from around the world took a creative stand against gender-based violence in the One Billion Rising movement. In Kenya, Washington, D.C., and Seattle, our teams danced and spoke out against gender-based violence on Valentine's Day this year.
To learn more about One Billion Rising events in your area: http://onebillionrising.org/
To take action against obstetric fistula, visit our website: www.fightfistula.org
This post was written by Kyln Beeson, Emily Kase and Lindsey Youngquist. Lindsey completed pre-medical studies at Seattle University before spending a year in Nepal doing community health work as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Emily Kase and Kylin Beeson work as interns for the Young Global Leaders Program with One By One.
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