When you’re invited to be spend a week with powerful women and men that work tirelessly to improve the lives of women in their communities and end Female Genital Mutilation, you get excited. When you arrive at the beautiful Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi and actually meet, talk, listen and share someideas with them, the word ‘excited’ suddenly becomes one of the greatest understatements of the year as an attempt to describe the feeling of being around these power-houses, game-changers, freedom-fighters, fierce Vagina-Warriors, lights of hope. There were about 50? of us there. We gathered every morning from what was supposed to be 9am-3pm, but usually turned out to be from 9am-5pm(passionate discussions don’t follow time constraints..hehe). All of us, young and old, black and white, men and women, were there for the same purpose: to come together as Africa and be the greatest propellers of social change the world has seen, because we can and we must and it shall be done from the ground up.
One can never go to a summit filled with emotional creatures and not shed tears of both joy and sadness. I cried as I heard women share their stories of rape, FGM and physically abusive relationships. I wept as I listened to Jane from the City of Joy bravely tell us about her painful experiences as a rape survivor and I wept just as intensely as she spoke about how far she has come since then. Talk about ‘the flood!’ I listened simultaneously to her beautiful Swahili and the translators interpretations thereof. I couldn’t understand her, but I could feel her. I sat right next to her and felt her passion, her resilience, her heart.
I saw something on the second day of the summit. Perhaps it had been there all along and I was too obstructed by the cloak of awesomness I had draped over everyone at the summit to see it initially, but it became clear to me suddenly, I think it was when Jane smiled at me. I realized that the people at the summit had sparks in their eyes, kind of like the sparks a mother has when seeing her new born baby for the first time, or the sparks we all stare at in wonder every new years eve. They weren’t defeated, they still had hope and love and passion, and though physically and even mentally tired from years of struggle, their sparks were BRIGHT.
Highlight of the experience, you ask? Well, between watching Eve Ensler perform The Vagina Monologues for the first time in seven years, being fed like a Queen, dancing to ‘Sexual Feeling’ and ‘Man Down’ with a group of women in their 30’s, 40’s 50’s and beyond, it’s really difficult to decide. I was, however, so touched by the visit we made to the V-Day Safe House, Tasaru Ntomonok Rescue Center*. We drove for a long time to get there, but once wefinally arrived, we were greeted by songs and some of the warmest hugs I’d ever received. The V-Girls planned a workshop with the Taseru girls that gave us the opportunity to laugh, dance and talk to one another. The girls told us thatthey travelled many miles to get to the Safe House, running away from the cut and towards a brighter future. It took SO much for me not to burst out crying when they shared their hopes and dreams with us. “I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a teacher, I want to write, I want to save my sisters!” I saw ] that they too had the spark. Each one of them was a City of Joy.
Our mission is to gather up all the people around the world that have sparks in their eyes and RISE with them on the 14th February. Can you imagine what would happen if a billion people did that? It would be the greatest explosion of love. It would be epic! The world would become this enormous source of light and people who feel that they are in the dark could find their way to the billion brothers and sisters of love so easily. I think it’s time wehave that electrifying feeling of dance and activism in our souls. We need it. I learned that week that some might try to break you physically and mentally, they may try to take away your innocence and shatter your dreams but as long as they don’t have your spirit, they haven’t won. That very spirit will propel you to heights greater than you could ever possibly imagine. Guard it. Love it. Vagina!!