Today is International Women’s Day. I am currently on route to New York to attend the Women in the World Summit where I am sure to hear many inspirational words from many inspiration women. I am a lover of words; they are the threads we weave our stories from. Is it any wonder we call a good tale a yarn? We each have a story that we live day by day, thread by thread. Yesterday, the internet was blanketed with a cyber tapestry depicting the atrocities that Joseph Kony has inflicted on Uganda, a country I hold near and dear to my heart. As I witnessed the world opening its sleepy eyes to take in this glaring truth, I was reminded of the many women I have met while working in Uganda and the stories they have shared with me.
I spent my first morning ever in Uganda listening to the stories of two Ugandan women from the Northern Acholi tribe. They spoke of the horrors of Joseph Kony’s long-running war and how they fled their villages to seek safety in the slums outside of Kampala, the capital city. They spoke of things lost—neighbors, children, homes, hope. I sat in silence absorbing all the horror and heartbreak that these two women poured out drop by drop, word by word. It was painful to listen to their stories, but I cannot know how painful it has been to live them and bear them inside.
Afterwards, I visited the Acholi slums. I met more women, I held their children, I visited their homes, I witnessed their world. There were women who wanted to share their stories with me but could not speak English. I tried to let my heart translate what my head could not. I sat on the dirt floor of a 2 room shack where up to 9 people sleep, eat, and live out their stories day by day, frayed thread by frayed thread. I brought food, clothes, toys and medical supplies. It would never be enough. The tapestry of their lives is so torn and tattered, and all I could offer was a small safety pin.
That experience has led me to my life’s work. I now run a non-profit that serves women in the USA and Uganda. I seek each and every day to connect, inspire, and empower women. We need to share each other’s stories, give voice to our traumas and our triumphs.
I can still feel the threads that were woven into my heart that first day in Uganda. They are a part of my tapestry now too, part of my story. I am relieved to see that the world is starting to listen. The story of Kony should be heard, but so should the stories of the countless women who have suffered because of his atrocities ~ the mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives who are carrying unspeakable grief inside.
On this International Women’s Day, I encourage all women to speak up, to share their truth What unbearable weight are you carrying inside, what untold story? This is the time to release it. We need to find our voice and let our stories be heard. Our tapestries will be stronger when they are woven together. This our day, women. Claim it.
Read Gotham Chopra’s response to KONY 2012 here.
Read Lex Stepplings response to KONY 2012 here.