Fighting GBV Through Empowerment
Wangechi is a 33-year old woman with these amazing brown eyes that seem to undress anyone they land on. Every time she looks at someone, you get the distinct feeling that she sees more than she lets on.
She doesn’t talk much, unless after downing a glass or seven of that nasty colourless stuff. She has charisma, though to her, it’s probably just the way she gets money to buy a glass of the colourless shit. Or seven.
Wangechi lives in a tiny house; one door, one window and four small glass panes. Her house smells stale, almost like everything she owns is borrowed from that suitcase into which everything that should be donated goes.
You know the one; it was the bomb back in the day, but now it’s just old, and in it is a trove of memories. From the dress that you wore that one time you got ran down by a goat to the sock that disappeared 2 years ago. You blamed the dog for that one.
She hates how her house smells; she is not a dirty person, she just never seems to be able to afford anything new. And when she can afford a new clothe, the minute it lands in that dungeon of a place she calls home, it instantly turns into one of her old-smelling stuff. Plus, it’s not that often her husband can spare any money for new clothes.
Her husband is very skinny; as if when he was molded, God had just made Johnny-Ule-Mbiggy (their caretaker), and was fresh out of clay. Supply and Logistics were out on holiday, and instead of postponing the work to the next day, he scrapped the remaining clay off of the ground and plastered it on his frame. In a crowd of equals, he looks like he could be taken down with one backhanded slap. But when he dons his “security” boots, and downs some of that nasty stuff he is equally fond of, he turns into a different sort of monster.
The monster that crushes his hard-bottomed boots into his wife’s face.
There seems to be a general consensus – around here at least – that men don’t beat up their women for nothing.
“She must have done something to provoke him” is a common defence, and one effective enough to turn heads away from the blacked, swollen eye of a woman who clearly needs help,” they say.
And it’s not just women like Wangechi, a woman who can barely feed herself, who undergo physical abuse at the hands of their spouse. Women who seem to have it all together are also victims.
Twice now, Wangechi has been hospitalized because of her husband’s boots. More times than any of her neighbours care to count, she has screamed for help in the middle of the night. Most times, neighbours intervene and for a night or two, lend her a place to sleep.
Then after, she goes back to her husband’s house.
When fighting against gender-based violence, we concentrate our fight on the eradication of it by punishing anyone who is a perpetrator. If he beats his wife, he should be punished, yeah?
The perpetrators should be punished. I am not arguing against that. However, a lot of effort should also be put into empowering the victims as well, to show them that leaving an abusive relationship is okay. That no one is allowed to physically harm them on the pretext that they made a mistake, no matter what they have done.
When Wangechi understands that the minute her husband lays a hand on her, she can walk out and be better for it, we will have won half the fight. When she is empowered enough that she is okay with choosing her well-being before anything else, winning against the perpetrators will be much easier.
After all, there are two sides to the coin, right?