Kinshasa girls

An article posted on http://www.plusnews.org/ got me to thinking about the plight of teenagers in urban environments, and about a more expansive definition of the purpose of a Women’s Center.

The following are excerpts from the article:

KINSHASA, 8 May 2012

Sarah, 16, started sleeping on the streets of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC), when she was only eight years old. She doesn’t remember how she came to live on the streets, but thinks it was soon after her mother died.

Sarah is one of an estimated 20,000 children living rough on Kinshasa’s streets, many from homes too poor to feed them, some after being thrown out of their homes because they were accused of sorcery, while others end up on the streets as a result of the divorce and remarriage of a parent whose new partner won’t accept them. According to NGOs, about  one-third of these children are girls, and around 80 percent of girls on the street make a living from sex.

“Some men take you by force, and if you scream for help they beat you,” Sarah told IRIN/PlusNews. “Younger girls can be taken advantage of and get only about US$1 for sex, but if you negotiate, you can get $10 for one whole night… sometimes you go to a hotel, sometimes you just find a dark place to do it.”

Sarah’s face and arms are marked by scars from a fight with a group of girls who cut her with a razor. “When it’s night you have to find somewhere to sleep. If it rains, your usual place may be flooded, and we’re always running from the police,” she said. “If you have no money and have to borrow some to eat, you will pay forever, because a debt on the street is never finished.”

Girls regularly experience violence, but help for street children, particularly girls, is very limited….Many of these girls are raped as often as twice a week, so rape becomes the norm, and they survive by building a wall between themselves and their bodies. … Rape is one of the rituals girls go through when being initiated into sex work on the street, usually supervised by an older girl known as a ‘yaya’, or older sister.

And this telling comment from the director of one drop-in support center:  “We can’t tell them to stop sex work because we can’t give them an alternative [emphasis mine] – what we can do is give them condoms and contraception to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy, but we can’t judge or moralize about their situation.”   

 As Women’s Centers International grows beyond IDP camps into urban environments, it will champion and create options for girls who’ve been thrust into the most demeaning activity a woman can endure. A girl/ women earning money without abandoning her soul is the first step to unleashing her power. From this, the inherent genius of girls begins to flow through the community.

So much need. WCI needs funding to grow!

Definition of Terror

Recently I was researching the life of Herta Muller, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. Inspired by the excerpt below,  I have put her books at the top of my long reading list.

Though I was not a direct target of terror in Darfur, I felt, usually in retrospect (our minds do protect us when we focus on work) that I had been drenched in and shaken by the suffering and grief around me. I am reminded  that the struggle against state terror needs as many faces and voices as are able to muster. We can never be complacent, not here in our cradle of privilege, and especially not about the catastrophic rule of terror in Sudan.

“There is a Romantic misconception that terror has always to be impressive, fierce and appropriately Luciferian – in other words, that terror is nothing if it is not spectacular. However, that’s rarely the case in real life. As Czeslaw Milosz excellently put it in The Native Realm, “Terror is not … monumental; it is abject, it has a furtive glance, it destroys the fabric of human society and changes the relationships of millions of individuals into channels for blackmail.” Terror can be mediocre, even idiotic, yet omnipresent. Terror can be terribly banal, utterly un-Romantic, but never-ending. Terror is when the secret police persuade your best friend to inform on you; when objects start moving around your room in your absence; when the secret police interrogator tells you, right before you leave his office after a day-long interrogation, that “accidents do happen,” or when your friends start committing (poorly) staged suicides.”

FROM  The evil of banality  Reviewed by COSTICA BRADATAN http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/article1464847.ece

 

Rough Mind

I could always be accused of my reach exceeding my grasp. What I’m slowly (re)learning is that this becomes untenable. That “grasp” is the real deal. When too many ideas crowd the picture, I start daydreaming about a road trip in the desert Southwest. Gridlock ensues and nothing gets done in my usual efficient way; I wake up overwhelmed and unable to enjoy the simple wonders of life. At 60, with not nearly as much time left to live as has already been lived, do I get to tamp down the freaky push for a worthy legacy,  to reflect on what has been accomplished?

I’d like not to know a bunch of stuff that I’ve learned, in particular the intractable evil that besets the women in Sudan. Undoubtedly they are strong and resilient – I have seen this – but how much loss and trauma do they have to endure before the neighbors of the global “community” intercede on their behalf. I wonder if it’s cruel to offer them hope in small ways via the Women’s Center when the big picture continues to plunge deeper into darkness. All the billions of words written on the catastrophic mess in their homeland, all of the advocacy purportedly on their behalf have not substantively changed what has been a living hell for more than nine years.

When do you know you’ve done enough – or at least all you can do? If it were me in those circumstances, what would I want from any allies that happened to show up?

A lot more.

Who can rest on the luck of birthplace, surrounded by an excess of comforts when so many have so little?

Deluge

Even without a TV (I seriously recommend giving it up), the flood of information is nearly overwhelming.  The challenge of a worthy life seems to be making the time to find and keep up with kindred spirits.  it’s the only salvation – with work in particular.

Fiction reading, oh my

How do you know if you’re going to keep reading a piece of fiction?  Because the architecture of the sentences catches you up, makes you want to settle beside or gallop along with the phrasing, the hard or dreamy images concocted out of mere letters.  Because you like the character(s), want to hang around and find out what they do and say and how they get hurt and recover. Because you are given a path, something important in the balance, and you want to follow the trail to its heart. Because it’s another world that let you escape for  – or understand – yours.

We are creatures needing stories to survive.