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I am a believer in pursuing one's passion and enabling others to realize their potential. Working with women and girls is my passion.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Revolution, Lets dance !!!

I came across a title of a book, yes a book on activism that was far from the dull topics, I normally come across, , ‘What’s the point of revolution if we can’t dance?’ by Urgent Action Fund Woo!! May be the reason I first picked this book is because I like dancing!! In addition, if I am to connect activism and dancing, why not! This publication brings us the experiences of more than 100 activists from around the world. The book is written in a very easy language and unique style. It describes what women go though in the process of activism in a way only a woman can. It touches on issues that sometimes women find themselves not able to talk about, lest they are seen as not being committed to the course. It touches on their fears, hopes, exhaustion, grief, pleasure, pain, loss, funding issues, burn out…you name it in a very personal way.

I picked the book since it speaks to me. In the process of human rights and any kind of community work, there is rarely cause for joy, in fact what is a cause for joy may not be look so to an outsider. Why would one be happy that an abused woman has accessed medical help? Abuse is sad enough!! But when you are in that field you know there are millions of abused who don’t access treatment, then it is good news, but there is no dance. There is no celebrations coz you are wondering what next.

I finished reading the book put it down, and back to life and being busy is part of life, isn’t it? While working with people, with communities, any kind of social and community work, sometimes we forget ourselves as we delve into work, work and more work. I remember some community based volunteers I used to interact with while working in a project that didn advocacy on violence against women in Makueni District. Every time I went to meet with the volunteers in the field, it was one ugly story after the other and I could not get enough words to console them. The stress levels were always quite high and despite the motivate ion they got in different ways, I always felt their fatigue. It didn’t make matters any better that I carried back with me the stress of more than 100 persons, but it made it easier to understand their experiences, demands etc and hence work at making their work easier in small ways that the organization could manage. At one time during a field session, we decided to have a dancing night for the volunteers. Even after working with them for sometime, I had never seen these side of them!! They danced and made merry and one could feel some days had been added into their lives!! For once, there was no issue of the clients, the police case, and the hospitals….just caring for the carerer. For many of them I did not know they had such beautiful smiles, or such energy….

Self-care is not a new concept but it is new in implementation. In between the every day works schedules are other places within our social and family circles where we need to participate in offering voluntary service, and in African context this is not just expected, it is obvious. In fact many times friends and family will not ask if you are available for an event, but rather inform you of the time and place. You have to be antisocial not to be there. Since it is tit for tat, you don’t want a day when you will need them and they are not there. Unfortunately, our bodies can only take so much and hence the body hangs up and one has to switch off not restart. In 2008, my body sent me this message but I did not get it clear. I remember traveling to Cape Town for the AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development - awid.org) international forum and before that, I was just busy which like someone commented to me the other day ‘as usual’. I actually did not feel tried or fatigue, or rather I did not listen. The AWID forum was not only exciting but long hours. As we traveled back, from Cape Town to Jo’burg I felt somewhat tired but apart form avoiding any of the snacks, all was well, just a little tired. Fate was not on our side as the plane from Cape Town was a bit late so it was helter skelter at the airport to check in to the Nairobi bound flight. About 45 minutes later, I realized I had a problem with breathing. When the flight attendant put oxygen mask, I removed 10 minutes later, telling her I was okay, but 5 minutes later, I had to accept the mask again as I couldn’t breath at all and travel with mask until we arrived in Nairobi. I knew I was sick but after several tests, the doctor confidently told me, that is fatigue. Despite not having studied medicine I confidently told him, that yes, I knew I had some fatigue, but I was also sick, He smiled and explained what prescription he would be giving me ( yes you see I was sick) for the fatigue. I did not know fatigue can get that severe, but I was a major lesson learnt for me (not that I implement this fully…but at least I know).

Incidentally, during the AWID forum I attended several sessions where many women shared on how fatigue had worked on them at one time or the other. Many shared how they got ill and had lifetime complications because of fatigue. I remember waking up one day and thinking, cant I just be selfish today and it be just about me, just for today? Not handle anyone’s problems, not care, just sleep, just for today? Some will tell me that will only happen when you are under the grave, but I want to believe that in this life, there is a time for being carefree and rejuvenating.

I still wonder.

I still wonder why I feel guilty when I want the ‘me’ time. Life will always have ‘urgent’ issues to be handled, but I will not handle them if I collapse. There is no consolation that since I have not collapsed today, then I should just go forward. I like putting across this comment to my network of pals ‘ I know I need to go slow, but until I figure out how I need to do…’ and list out all the ‘urgent’ things I ‘need’ to do. This morning I woke up seriously thinking about this more. I still do not have answers. As a try to prioritize and see what urgent and not important etc is, I end up with ALL IMPORTANT list, so I need to rethink.

But until I figure out how I leave with this comment which is found in the book, ‘What’s the point of revolution if we can’t dance?

Sometimes it just takes that fresh spark of an idea to get you thinking about different ways of being,

To open up possibilities.

To wonder what it would be like to dance naked, without worrying about wobbly bits and anyone watching.

And why not?

Let’s dance and see where it takes us”

Meanwhile, I hope to get less eyebrows raised if I ask, where is the next dance!