3 decades of activism & GBV is on the rise: Perhaps eradication isn’t the solution?
Currently I’m in South Africa, discussing and exploring solutions to the growing GBV (Gender-Based Violence) problem. On November 27th, 2019, I had the honor to sit on a panel with incredible thought-leaders as a guest of Francesca Fondse of WIIN WOMEN(SABC Livestream).
The theme of this event was to examine the economic impact of GBV. What was revealed was staggering: Using the 2 out of 10 women measurement, the economic impact equals 28 Billion Rand (nearly 2 Billion USD, to give context). Yet what was also shared was that the measurement was very conservative and that the numbers are closer to 8 out of 10 women (just over 7.6 Billion USD). That’s PER YEAR!!
One of the obvious questions was: Imagine what could be done for the people with that money?
Considering that GBV activism was started 1991 and that we are currently facing a pandemic of violence (1 in 3 women will experience it in their lifetime), it’s shocking to recognize that nearly 3 decades of activism has had little impact in eradicating GBV. The bigger question I’ve been asking myself throughout this week is: Why? What are we missing?
To answer this, I want to share a personal story (trigger warning):
Many years ago, I had a spontaneous, vaginal infection that no one could cure. I went to all the natural remedies first, then gave into going to my doctor. But all she could do is tell me that it was nothing she’d ever seen before and give me a prescription that only helped for a week, then the painful symptoms were back.
In fact, it wasn’t until I shifted from my left brain of ‘doing everything I could’ to get rid of this nasty infection to stopping and allowing my right brain of ‘sensing what is true’ that I finally found the answer: radical self-acceptance.
You see, for 18 months I felt less than a woman because my vagina was not available (discovering this identity crisis was amazing in-and-of itself). I was so focused on ‘getting rid of’ the problem that I never once sat down to feel more deeply into my problem. However, once I did, I received a very clear message that the more I tried to get rid of my anger (showing up as inflammation in my body), the more intense my imbalance would get! Why? Because my anger was me!! And my psyche knew that I couldn’t get rid of me!! By finally stopping all the trying and doing, and allowing myself to deeply feel my body and embracing my anger as it was a part of me, I healed. In fact, 24 hours later, the incurable disease was gone and never returned.
Now, how does this apply to eradicating GBV?
Sitting with the immensity of this pandemic situation and the excruciatingly painful realization that it’s only getting worse made me aware that we must be focusing on the wrong outcome!
GBV belongs to every single human being on the planet. It affects us all, whether we are aware of it or not. So how can we, as individuals, possibly affect change on a global scale?
When asked the opening question of what is the most successful strategy that I know of, my answer was simple: We must claim our body as our own. The path to body sovereignty isn’t simple, but it’s crucial as not a single charter of human rights clearly states that we have the right to our own body (sure we have the right to not be enslaved, but that’s different from the right to our own body). Our human collective has not yet accepted that we do indeed have this very obvious right: just look at the existence of over 14 million enslaved people, the trillion dollar business of the sex trade and the prevalence of abuse on all levels of society.
So what can we do? I believe the answers lies not in the eradication of GBV, but in its transformation.
Transforming GBV means moving from violence to respect. And this act first begins right here, with each of us transforming our own tendency to self-violation into self-respect. By owning our own shadow around our body and sexuality, we no longer partake in the denial which is only serving to propagate the violence.
Through claiming our body as our own and initiating radical stewardship of our sovereign space, we enter a more conscious, responsible relationship with ourselves. Which can then can be extended outwardly to others.
When we are embodied, present, and aware, we can sit and have the painful conversations needed to move the needle forward. We have greater capacity for curiosity and compassion, we become the living solution. We will no longer turn a blind eye to the abuse around us, we will interfere and bring to light the violence within our homes and community, and we will be willing to be held accountable for all the ways we personally contribute to the problem.
Now, can we do this? If after 3 decades of trying and things only getting worse, is it worth the effort to heal?
The answer is a whole-body, whole-spirited YES!
But it won’t come through blaming, shaming, and fighting AGAINST GBV, it will come through self-ownership, self-responsibility, and fighting for RESPECT of one another.
That said, I want to claim a radical goal: Transforming GBV by January 1st, 2021. What will it take? What can you do, right now, to make this real?
I intend to share more ideas in the coming months and would love to know your suggestions to transforming GBV by 2021, so leave me a comment below! If you enjoyed this article, please share it as the more of us who engage in this conversation, the more radical and lasting the transformation will be.