By Sara Loo, Grace Wagner, Rym Talhouk, Eden Chua
Remembering violence against women around the world and celebrating their strength in overcoming trying circumstances
She had been given to her husband when she was 12 as a payment to settle a dispute (ba’ad). The next few years of marriage was filled with beatings, maltreatment and a life that amounted to abject slavery. She endured six years of torment and abuse. She finally fled, to the only place she could go—back to her family home. But the Taliban arrived one night and demanded she be handed over to face justice. She was taken to a mountain clearing where the local Taliban commander issued his verdict. Held down by her brother-in-law, her husband first sliced off her ears then cut off her nose. She passed out from the pain but soon awoke choking on her blood, abandoned by her torturers and the ad-hoc judiciary of the Taliban.
She felt the brutal force of male- dominated tribal society. She rebelled. She survived.
She is a 24-year-old Syrian girl. She was approached by a man who claimed he was recruiting for waitresses at a restaurant “Chez Maurice” in Lebanon for $1,000. Eager to leave her war-torn country, she accepted the job. However, once she was smuggled over, the man told her she was going to be a prostitute and began beating her with cables and an electric baton, a bathroom mat in her mouth, until she surrendered. She was put in a brothel in a suburb of Jounieh, Maameltein, the largest sex trafficking ring in Lebanon and forced to have sex on an average 10 times a day, in a decrepit house without even a glimpse of sunlight. She had to collect at least $50 in tips which was confiscated. On a Good Friday, seven of them escaped from the backdoor, barefoot and in pyjamas. She finally saw sunlight again.
She lives in Kenya. A nurse by profession, she started a small “Matasia Nursing Home” 25 years ago. It now has a license, an operating theatre and a Voluntary Counselling Centre. She has a heart for the Masai People—a famous warrior tribe in Kenya whose lives centre around herding cattle. Masai has dry, rocky and sandy land and is very hot most of the year. Water is very scarce and mothers travel as far as 5-10km down and up hills to fetch water on their backs to get muddy and salty water. A pastor by heart, she believes that everyone should have the privilege of drinking water so she carries water in plastic containers just enough for their drinking needs in her weekly visits.
She educates, she leads, she heals.
She was a medical student in New Delhi. She was at the cinema with her male friend watching The life of Pi. They took a rickshaw but was dropped in the middle of nowhere. So they got on a white mini-bus. Then, the men who led them up locked the doors and switched off the lights. They launched a vicious, relentless attack. The men snatched their phones as they called for helped, beat them senseless with iron bars, dragged them by their hair, tore their clothes. Her friend had blood pouring from his face and a shattered right leg. They dragged her to the back of the bus and savagely gang raped her with a rusty iron pipe. Finally, the pair were thrown naked, covered in blood from the moving bus onto the road.
She underwent 84-minutes of horror. She was murdered.
She had dreams of becoming a nurse. However, after her family split up due to her violent father, she was forced to work as a day labourer in the fields harvesting crops for local farmers, at a wage of only 100 baht, or $3, a day. After she had her daughter, the necessity to earn more money finally drove her to Bangkok into sex work, despite strong initial resistance on her part. She recalls: “my first customer was a Western man in his thirties, it was scary and I didn’t like it, but I just kept thinking about the money.” Safety was also of significant concern to Pim, who recounted a Japanese man following her home at the end of the night while shouting at her. Fortunately for Pim, she managed to find work at a jewellery-making business which employed former sex workers, which she says has given her the opportunity to “look forward to life” and given her hope of returning back to school.
Martha (second from right) plays with her young grandchildren in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro. Here, women are often the primary source of income, and still have traditional responsibilities like taking care of the elderly. Martha, like many other women, is part of a multigenerational, which are often impact by extremely young teen pregnancies. Martha’s environment lacks food, water, electricity and proper sanitation, but led by the women of the favelas, residents demonstrate incredible resilience. Here, women are key to the family and societal structures, and their world continues despite total abandonment from the Brazilian government.
Helen likes playing with dolls, wants to be a veterinarian and goes to sleep at 8:30 each night. She fled Honduras with her family in July of 2018, as a refugee. After an arduous journey, Helen was forcibly separated from her grandmother at the Texas border, and detained by the American government, who claimed they were going to reunite her with her mother who lived in the U.S. After detention, she was transferred to a foster home at the end of August, and was only allowed to see her grandmother for a brief hug. Finally, she was released to her family at the beginning of September. Helen still struggles with fear. Her grandmother says she hides in the closet before bed sometimes, afraid her family will abandon her in the middle of the night.
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