By Frederick Philander
A book on Aids and violence against Namibian women and children was launched at the Katutura Community Arts Centre on Tuesday evening.
The book, We Must Choose Life, was written by ordinary Namibian women under the auspices of a community-based organisation, Women Leadership Centre.
The Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, was the keynote speaker at the launch that was attended by invited guests and representatives of donor agencies.
“I am extremely glad to be associated with the successes, challenges and triumphs of women particularly Namibian women, as we celebrate and launch the Women Leadership Centre (WLC’s) second anthology. This anthology pays special attention to women, culture, violence and HIV and Aids,” said Ndjoze-Ojo.
In her view, Namibian women are writing and the country’s intellectual resources are growing!
“This book is about the power of women who are choosing life in every aspect of their lives. Through the written narratives compiled we gain an insight into the everyday lives of Namibian women: their experiences, fears, joys, trials and triumphs,” she said at the book launch event that was interspersed with poetry recitals, dramatisations of some of the stories and singing.
She also recounted her reading experiences of the book to the appreciative audience and said: “Reading through the stories I asked myself: Choose life instead of what? Does it simply mean choosing life instead of death through Aids, violence, abuse, carelessness or harmful cultural practices? Or does it also mean choosing life instead of a more invisible kind of death? That is food for thought!”
The anthology depicts many true-life stories about physical death, mainly because of HIV and Aids.
“There are even more stories and poems about the dying of a woman’s soul, and the withering of a woman’s spirit. We read how women die inside, die emotionally, because of the fear of being HIV positive, the pain of stigmatisation, because of continued mistreatment and humiliation, contempt, carelessness and greed, and because of the loss of basic trust in the people around them – in their husbands and friends, in their families, their churches and their communities,” she asserted.
By telling their stories, women have had the courage to bare their hurts and open their deep-seated wounds.
“By publishing this book these women are showing their stories to the world so that we, the readers, can recognise the growing tumours inside our society. It is we see these tumours, and talk about the increasing pain they are causing, so that they can be properly treated and healed,” she said.
One very visible social tumour that is exposed in many stories is the misuse of culture and tradition for hurting, abusing and humiliating women.
“I am sure that it was not easy to name and write about things that used to be taboo in many communities, and in fact still are. The authors in this anthology were obviously no longer afraid to pinpoint Namibian human rights violations, which are being justified and shamelessly applied in the name of culture – even if they are known to lead to permanent trauma or death,” she said.
Naming and exposing our social ills is the first step towards healing of individuals and thus also healing our society as a whole.
Because if one part of the society is sick, the whole society is sick, and if one half of the society is treated without respect and freedom, the whole society remains oppressed and dis-empowered.
“I have read with great pleasure and pride how women have managed to regain their spirit and reclaim their rights as fully recognised citizens of our society, recovering their humanity and dignity. And more than that, by healing themselves, they were able to help their sisters, friends and families to heal as well and to recover their humanity and dignity. This is for me the true meaning of We Must Choose Life,” she said.
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