DEVELOPMENT | October Inspiration in a Field of Hope8.10.13
I remember the day I met "June", a mother of three from Uganda, who had found herself living in Muthare, the second largest slum in Nairobi. It was brief, but unforgettable. She approached me after the screenings of two S.A.F.E films, of which I went to view with the Director of the NGO, and introduced herself whilst her youngest child, a little girl, clung to her tightly. She told me that she was happy with S.A.F.E.'s work on informing communities about HIV/AIDS, as she had become more accepted in society. You see, June is not only a person living with HIV/AIDS, but was also a victim of rape (another topic covered in one of the films, Ndoto Za Elibidi*). She told me that this happened when she was coming home from school, and how she soon fell pregnant with her first child. She relayed this with so much familiarity, that I was taken aback. I only managed to introduce myself, whilst she was able to divulge her history in the short moment we had before the crowd became too overwhelming. As we drove off, I saw her bend over and grab one of her children's arms, in preparation for their journey home. She never looked up.
Prior to and since meeting June, I've met many survivors of gender-based violence, particularly rape victims, and in most of these cases I was able to sit down and listen to their stories; ostracised by their family, friends and communities for violence against them, riddled with sexually transmitted diseases, close encounters with death, unwanted pregnancies, psychologically scared, hopeless, and lost. Many times, I found these women in Women's Groups, most of them failing to maintain their operations, but succeeding in creating a new community.
As I sat and watched the Al Jazeera Documentary, Field of Hope, on rape victims in the Congo (rape in the Congo and many African nations has been used as a weapon of war/psychological warfare throughout the history of conflict), and how Hope is reaching those who were once without it, I am only reminded of why Emma and I started The Conscience Collective. Yes, we advocate fairtrade and social entrepreneurships, and ultimately empowerment, such as the case of Masika and her centre, but at the root of it, we are more interested in humanising what it is we wear, consume, and use. When I use the term humanise I am referring to giving a face and a voice to those who are hidden and voiceless. When we look at a grain of rice, we are not thinking of the people who work in horrendous conditions in the rice fields, or when we buy our clothes, we are blind and deaf to the Indian cotton picker who has committed suicide due to unavoidable debt that has stifled him into submission. We want to be part of change, and work to help people like June and Masika. We want to lift the veils a bit, challenge our own beliefs, and engage in a world that sees the people behind the product, the faces that have been twisted by poverty, isolation, and violence, and the possibilities ahead.
This is my October Inspiration...what's yours?
*Ndoto Za Elibidi (The Dreams of Elibidi) is a film by S.A.F.E Ghetto (the Nairobi constituents of S.A.F.E) that addresses the issues of HIV/AIDS and sexual violence. The film uses both footage from their real performances in the slums of Nairobi as well as film footage.