I believe it is safe to assume that being a woman in Addis Ababa is dangerous, life-threatening or even fatal. This is not a statement that I am making lightly, it is one that keeps playing in my mind over and over again and comes with a sentiment of utter helplessness.
I read the story of Naomie, the 17-year-old Bole secondary school student, who was fatally stabbed by a stalker as she was on her way home from school. Her stalker, also a student at Bole secondary school, who had been making un-reciprocated claims of love, ended up stabbing her to death in broad daylight around Mexico square, one of the busiest squares in the country. The only thing that comes to mind is, how?
Walking from my office to my car with this story on my mind, a young boy no more than 15 years of age, walked straight towards me and waved his hand towards my face as if to slap me, and simply walks by. Having seen the horror on my face and my unsuccessful attempt to catch the little kid who literally tried to slap me in the middle of the street for no reason, an older male passerby said “You won’t catch him” and started laughing hard. What can I say? It’s just another day in Addis.
As what seems like the entire world celebrated the International Women’s Day this week, radio, television, social media and everything in between were filled with quotes praising women pushing a narrative about how we should all be feminist. Wonderful quotes from amazing women about how phenomenal we all are were read, re-read and posted all over. Indeed, women are phenomenal but I cannot say the same about feminism.
After years of pondering and trying to understand what exactly this movement stands for, I can now honestly say it has failed all of us. At least those that do not have certain privileges, such as money, education, skin color, age and the list goes on. The feminism the world is preaching is one that appeases the existing status quo and not one that challenges it. It is not that women are not phenomenal or great human beings; that has never been the problem, it is that society does not believe they are.
We have somehow been duped to believing that maybe, just maybe, if we convince men that we are good human beings and are capable of positively contributing to the society then society will look at us differently. Our worth and value is not something that is up for negotiation, and it is certainly not something that we have to “prove”. So a polite movement that mainly consists of organizing a women only run, march, talk or lecture explaining our worth is not the solution. What we need is a revolutionary approach, one that does not ask for permission or validation from anyone.
If a 17-year-old girl getting killed in broad daylight by a perfectly sane young man who feels entitled to do so because he is “in love” with her and she isn’t is not a clear indication of the state of affairs, then I do not know what is. My basic survival instinct tells me to be vigilant, take self-defense classes and even consider carrying and learning how to use some sort of weapon. What the beautifully packaged feminism narrative fails to understand is that it is not just our worth that is at stake, for many of us, it is our very existence.
You may disagree with what I am saying, but let us all take a minute to remember that Naomie is one of us and she is one of many to have perished for simply being herself. She is me, my sister, my cousin, my friend. There isn’t a woman in Addis who does not identify to this story because she has either been or is currently stalked by some man. Polite movements are not the appropriate response to violence.
Take a minute today to call all the women in your life, sisters, daughters, cousins and friends to ask if they are currently or have ever been victims to stalking and be surprised by the amount of “yes’” you will get. And then tell me how feminism solves this problem.