Surviving collective violence as a girl
Surviving collective violence as a girl
Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap…
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
– Warsan Shire
From Syria to Sudan, Afghanistan to Armenia, Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone, from the occupied territories of the United States to Palestine, girls are living through civil war and armed conflict, dictatorship, displacement, occupation, restrictive environments and repressive regimes.
While collective violence affects all those who live through it, there are clear examples present in all of the stories of the very distinct impacts on girls. Indeed in many of these contexts, just to be a girl is deemed as a threat. Right from their first interaction with public space – from whether they can attend school to how they are recognised and seen in public life – girls’ experiences are shaped by restrictions and controls on self expression, on movement, and on their abilities to contribute to social life outside of the home.
Girls’ stories during war and conflict are tragic and harrowing, highlighting the constant fear and threat to their lives and their bodies, death of loved ones, trauma and the loss of safety and childhood. Everywhere we hear stories of war, we hear of the way that rape – as well as guns – is used as a weapon to silence and terrorise and destroy and maim. Girls are displaced from their home – driven by conflict, repressive regimes, climate crisis, economic injustice, and structural and interpersonal violence. Some are born in a displaced setting and for some a constant state of movement is a part of the fabric of their life, with a palpable sense of rootlessness and a complex relationship with “home”. Despite all that they face, girls are so often at the forefront of caring for family and community through times of collective violence. For these girls, resistance is both deeply human – tightly linked to their survival – and explicitly political.
But we’re hoping for the next generations to not live the childhood that we’re living right now in which we’re basically getting arrested when we’re 11 years old, getting killed. Children are getting killed in front of us, children are getting traumatised, we’re not living like any other child around the world is supposed to live and that’s what we’re fighting for.
– Jana, Occupied Palestine
Earlier, the adults would let us walk home from school. It was great for me as I liked walking and wandering. I felt free. But with the growing insecurity and the kidnappings of children whose organs were sold, all of that stopped.
– Rachel-Diane, Cameroon
And I think it kind of is connected to black folks’ ever-present struggle around where we belong. As a result of the transatlantic slave trade we ended up here, some of us have built feelings of home here and put down roots in this land and I think for some of us, particularly those of immigrant experience, it’s a tricky thing. Because my people were not enslaved on this land, and what we call the United States. So actually, this place is not, you know my place, our people were really more so connected to the island of Jamaica. For those of us who are immigrants or children of immigrants it’s even more complicated, this question of home.
– Wakumi, USA
They’re coming up the road. Coming towards us now. People are running. And my sister turned around and she wanted to run and I told her, I grabbed her and I said, “You don’t run.” And I decided to stand still. And this thing is coming past me and this man, this policeman in his camouflage uniform, he’s pointing his rifle towards me. And I’m standing there. My sister hides behind my back and I thought, “Today I’m going to die. But if I’m going to die today, you are going to look right into my face and you’re going to shoot me. You’re not going to shoot me in the back.
– Revenia, South Africa
I saw how journalists were attacked, forced to leave the country, imprisoned, and this was a decisive moment for me. I thought I did not want that in my life and wanted to stop it. Therefore, I refused writing. I thought it would end up bad for me. This kind of hopelessness prevailed.
– Sea, Uzbekistan
In Libya, you’d hit the wall of reality that society would force you to only see things one way. Libyan society is a closed society, there is no room for personal freedom, not even personal philosophy or personal thoughts. You had to be part of the flock in Libya.
– Abeir, Libya
Getting to know that actually this resistance movement has been there for years in Sudan.… I was really inspired, getting to know about this political movement and civic movement and women’s movement and all that. The more I know, the more … I mean, we have all this legacy and continue its work. No matter how difficult this is and challenging but the fact that many, many people have been doing this even beyond the Bashir regime, that’s … Why would I stop now?
– Anonymous, Sudan