This summer, thanks to a suggestion from my brother, I read The Vagina Monologues. I do not often write in books, but I wrote in this book. I scribbled, highlighted, underlined and circled. If the implication is not already clear, I found the book fascinating. I was drawn in more by the mission behind the project that the writing style. The style was catchy, but the project felt revolutionary.
The book came at the perfect time in my life (maybe this is less of a coincidence than I credit it to be). When I read it, I had recently made the decision to take a gap year to execute my work here in Tanzania. I knew my plate would be quite full with my work with Uzima and New Life Foundation, but the Monologues inspired me and felt so relevant to what I would be doing.
There was one segment called Spotlight Monologues that seemed particularly relevant. Here is the introduction to this chapter.
“Each of these monologues was written for a V-Day spotlight or a situation in the world where women were totally at risk, where they had been raped or murdered or dismissed or simply not allowed to be. It is my hope that in the telling of these stories where the women suffered, they will be healed, in seeing what erased them, they will be made forever visible, honored, and protected.”
I knew that with Uzima in particular, many women would enter my life in the over the next year would in desperate need to reveal their stories – to come to terms with some of the horrendous truths that have dominated their lives. As someone who is passionate about writing and graced with the incredible opportunity to help these women find healing, it would be a crime for me to not record the encounters.
I do not plan to stop at my work with Uzima. With project Di*rt, I will proactively seek opportunities to talk to women in the area. I want to welcome them to have their stories heard and recorded so that for once, in the words of Eve Ensler they can be made “forever visible” – forever honored, forever protected, forever proud.
My immediate goals with Di*rt are simple. First, I must become more fluent in Swahili. It is only fair that I show a deep and true interest in the culture when asking these women to share it with me in its most raw form. I have been practicing with Princely every day. He teaches me grammar and sentence structure, and I learn intonation through listening to the people around me.
Next, I must be outgoing. I must embrace the open-armed nature of the Tanzanian culture. When I rode the daladala (public bus) the other day, there was this woman with sad, sad eyes who had her hand protectively upon my knee for the whole ride. The culture (especially woman to woman) wants to hold you. Embracing this will be a key step in my project.
I will continue to post about project Di*rt, but I think it is important to lay a foundation explanation here so that the root of the project is identifiable.