By Fatou Wurie
“We will break cycles of violence, violation and mis-education for knowledge and forgiveness know a different kind of love”.
This is a line from a poem I wrote about eight years ago in the attempt to grasp the responsibility that comes with privilege. This inward-looking approach, through prose and poetry, is a tool I employ to explore my own responsibility in keeping the ‘door open’ so that other girls, very much like myself – black, African, colored – can walk through and thrive. It is through the arts that I process the continuous, unrelenting work needed to break intergenerational poverty that so many women in my family and community experience. Poverty, in how it operates to limit social, economic and political access, is a reality I bear witness to; it is at arm’s reach. Being the first girl in my family, on my maternal side, not to undergo Female Genital Mutilation/Circumcision (FGM/C), to access a good education and to have the means to travel the world speaks to what differentiates and keeps the divide – opportunity. Opportunity is the where privilege lies; it is also what beckons responsibility.
I come from one of the poorest countries in the world Sierra Leone, where 1 in 21 women during their lifetime are at risk of not surviving childbirth, where 64% of young girls are illiterate and where teenage pregnancy is high, contraceptive use is low and where cultural and social caps are still heavily placed on what a girl can achieve. This grim picture I share is not unique to poor countries, it also happens in wealthier nations that keep poor communities on the periphery. I refuse however to only see the girls in my family, in my country, on the African continent, in the global south or in improvised communities in wealthy nations as problems. They aren’t just problems to be solved, their humanity demands that we see and reflect their potential to them, to highlight their agency.
In this salon discussion, my intention is to share stories about growing up as a girl from Sierra Leone. Also, what I’ve come to learn about and from other girls living and growing up in my country and continent. How these stories call for indigenously supported social innovation that creates girl-centred opportunities through policy and through cultural shifts. The type of opportunities that will bridge the gap; break the cycles of violence, violation and mis-education.
You can listen to this poem entitled BEAUTIFUL, which hopes to speak to the themes described above.