Stories of Girls’ Resistance

Structural and Cultural Violence:

Sites and systems of violence in girls' lives

Structural and Cultural Violence:

Sites and systems of violence in girls' lives

Underpinning and reinforcing interpersonal violence are the systems and structures of patriarchy, imperialism and white supremacist violence that shape girls personal experiences, underlying belief systems and the apparatus of their communal lives.

From the crushing every day weight of white supremacy and racism to the colonialism and explicit anti-Blackness activists face in organisations globally – the continuum of racism shows up across her life and her resistance trajectory. Homophobia and transphobia are often defined by early experiences of internalised shame and rejection – where girls are forced to deny or hide their true selves – and the very real risk of physical violence, isolation and rejection when they are discovered or dare to speak out. Layer on sexism, ageism, ableism, adultism, xenophobia, gendered poverty – and the systems and institutions that were birthed by them – immigration systems, prisons, schools, health systems – all of these conspire to weigh on girls in deeply violent ways.

Because trauma is so often left unhealed, trauma is passed down generation to generation, through family members before her or through historical trauma that impacts entire communities. Across all of the systems and institutions girls interact with – as they grow into their adolescence and as they step into their resistance – girls face violence. Indeed perhaps one of the cruelest and most insidious blows to girls lives and freedoms is the further discrimination and rejection they can experience as they enter movement space in search of a political home.

We felt restricted. That’s it, I think that’s the word. Restricted from doing, restricted from saying, restricted from everything. I even remember an aunt who used to reproach us for the way we laughed. Yes, because as a young girl, if you are in the yard and the neighbour hears you, it means that you are laughing openly and loudly. You had to be discreet.

– Fati, Niger

Those of us who have a disability, we know that it is not easy to go out there; even though we accompany each other… unfortunately there are many of us who experience different forms of violence out there

– Elizabeth, Mexico

This is a mask, this is made of leather. A friend of mine who is a shoe maker made it for me. Actually, I asked him to make it for me. Once seeing a footballer wearing a mask because of his injury, so it gave me an idea that I should use a mask too. Several times I attempted to make the same thing with paper and other things but it didn’t work out. So, when I met this friend who is in our team, made me this mask. I told him to make me something as a mask so I can appear in the competition but so no one should recognise me, you see our competition is televised so I didn’t want anyone to see my face and recognise me.

My mother is aware of what I am doing. But my brothers and elders in the family, and other members of my extended family they don’t know that I am participating in sports. In our community, especially in Afghanistan they don’t deem it suitable for a girl to participate openly in sports. In spite of all that I love to participate and I open the way to play for my team, for myself and my family and make them proud.

Anonymous, Afghanistan

As I started to make friends, the girls thought I wasn’t girly enough…Then, when I began befriending the boys, they said I wasn’t a boy either. I had to fit into one category, girls or boys, but none of them wanted me! …I had started doing some research to know if I was the only one in this situation or if it was a disease… Then I was invited to a party and when I arrived, I saw people who were just like me. And I thought OK, I’m not the only one… in my country, in the very town I grew up in, there are people like me.

– Anonymous, West Africa

The big moment, the Intifada. The Second Intifada. We used to spend most of our time in front of the TV screen watching people die, watching people get injured, watching bombing and everything. And yes, it was a really hard time and we couldn’t sleep. We used to watch TV and see children get killed and people get killed and injured a lot in protests and clashes. We couldn’t sleep; we couldn’t literally sleep. We were crying all the time.

Did you know what happened when they simply abducted children, gave them rifles and sent them to the war zone to fight? Those children had no idea how to use the guns. They simply dropped the rifles and stood petrified as the army advanced. Because I had joined voluntarily, I had had the necessary training – and so those of us who trained, were able to use our guns to shoot back as we escaped. I tried to save them too as we retreated but it was impossible. At best, we could save one or two with us. But out of a hundred on that battlefield, fifty were brand new recruited children who had no idea what to do. How many of them could we, the more experienced cadres save as we retreated? I saw those kids trembling with fear on the battlefield – as the army drew near they simply dropped the rifles and stood there. The army flung them over their shoulders or dragged them by their torso, away with them.

That’s what happened. With that, I was shattered. I couldn’t believe we had done that to our own innocent children.

– Ramani, Sri Lanka

One of my earliest memories was one of my uncles was killed by his family members. Soon thereafter my grandma died, 7 months after, so we were just at multiple funerals. Later in life when I was dating this white woman one of her grandmothers died – but they were old–- they were in their 90s or something – and it was the first funeral she had ever been to. And I was like what? How come you didn’t go to funerals?…yeah, I just remember so much grief, so many funerals.

– Denicia, USA

My mum had stayed in Saudi Arabia because she was taking care of everybody in Eritrea, so she had to work so I was on my own in Germany and I really fought back to finish school as a refugee girl without family to really fight against all the odds, being a refugee, not having documents… So it was so difficult, one is the issue with not having documents and not knowing whether you will be able to really stay in the country and as a child there was no space to go through and until I was early 21 I didn’t have proper documents to have a sustained future in Germany.

I remember growing up in Germany, the first few years every 3 months I have to go to the immigration office to stamp my residence permit and maybe like a week before my appointment I didn’t sleep because I didn’t know what was expecting me. So, this kind of bureaucratic biography it really has shaped me a lot. A lot of uncertainties so I can imagine how people, especially being a refugee in Europe is very, very difficult, and then on top of that encountering racism and aggressions towards black girls from your teachers, from other people on the road. This was something that has definitely shaped me in my life.

– Asia, Eritrea

Previous slide
Next slide