2016 will always be a memorable year for me. It’s the year when I finally became me. It’s funny because all along I had been complimented for being strong, resilient and witty but looking back, there really wasn’t any compliment about me being my authentic self.
I used to write my thoughts on issues, but my voice was more ventriloquist than truly authentic. I censored myself; if I had views I would only write the ones which I felt fitted more into the society we live in.
A writer whom I adore and respect once said to me ”you have to be prudent in your writing”, and with that, I created an even smaller box for myself. I later learned albeit late, that prudence is a word that is used to ask women to be careful not to bruise men’s egos. What you write or say must be sensitive, so they say. But in 2016 I found myself. I found my authentic voice. I stopped caring about what offends men (which really means the things that they would rather are not said about the transgressions of patriarchy in the current status quo of the world).
I started getting compliments on how I had improved and gotten better with age like wine. But I had not gotten better as assumed, I had just gotten truer and wrote from my heart than from a ventriloquist mind.
In 2017 I want to encourage girls and women who come to me for advice on writing to write more from their heart, because then what you write from your own passion and heart will touch other hearts.
In 2016 I learned that our voices cannot be stronger if we speak from the position of others. I call it a position of others because we are products of the societies that we live in, and in those societies, there are set norms and values that can interfere with our voices. These norms are set by others.
But, my biggest achievement was my coming back to my World Pulse account. I opened my account in 2011 but I never posted much. I used it to read other people’s stories. I wanted to write but I was scared of not being ‘prudent’ on such a global platform. But then one day I was fed up about not saying the things that I feel about my upbringing and my mother’s role in my life such that I said (curse word) I’m writing my story I don’t care if it will offend men or anyone with patriarchal biases about sending girls to school.
As a journalist, it can be difficult to shake off that mindset that everything I write has to be balanced. Feminism and balance do not go along well. To be a feminist and write a balanced article on the patriarchal biases is impossible. In order to confront a system that spans centuries you need not be balanced, you need to be biased towards the causes that you fight for. Balance is a word which does not function well with activism.
As much as 2016 allowed me to grow and become true to myself, it was also a year which I witnessed the world changing before my eyes. The rise of far-right extremism; the election of Donald Trump who has openly boasted about the objectification and sexual harassment of women, used racist rhetoric during his campaign and mockingly mimicked a disabled person on national TV; the nomination of 94 year-old Robert Mugabe to stand for re-election in 2018 in Zimbabwe; and the honor killing of Quandeel Baloch in Pakistani.
The aforementioned were biggesst regrets in addition to the failure by women, represented by Hillary Clinton, to ascend to presidency in the United States. I felt physically sick when Hillary Clinton lost the vote to become President. Not because she is a woman, but because the opponent was someone who had been openly prejudicial to the values that I believe in; liberty and freedom of choice.
The US election kind of reinforced to me that the bad, insensitive things that men say do not matter much. It was also evidence of how, much as work is being done, nothing much has changed with regards to patriarchy and misogynism.
Most of my friends in activism do not like politics. They say politics is not for them, and happily include fancy labels of how they are ‘apolitical’. That is very nice to say and exhibit but we have, in 2017, to start thinking about how politics determines, and simultaneously, changes our lives. Because, much as we may not like it, politics changed the course of the world via America in 2016, and took down with it decades of efforts to uplift women to the highest echelons of power. The Oval office, the most powerful office on earth, is a prize that we women want no matter where we are in the world, and we must continue to fight for it in 2017.