POWA Book makes An interesting complement to the 16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women

2010-12-01 00:00

BOOK REVIEW:

Breaking the Silence: Stories from the Other(ed) Woman

POWA Women’s Writing Project 2009

Fanele

THE annual 16 days of activism to stop violence against women runs from November 25 to December 10.

An interesting complement to this campaign is reading Breaking the Silence produced by the POWA Women’s Writing Project.

This collection of poems, stories, personal essays and artwork enables a diversity of women to express themselves in a more intimate way around the theme Untamed, Unruly and Immoral: Stories from the Other(ed) Woman.

One of the writers says: “I have decided to use one label to describe myself: ‘Human being’”.

This collection is for anyone who can relate to resisting being categorised or marginalised by societal norms and being forced to conform to prescribed forms of behaviour.

Most of the writings have a lively immediacy that is most engaging.

In one story, an older woman walks to work enjoying “the sensation of her hair drying out all fluffy and bright, with the morning still new and clean to match”.

She enjoys too the brightness of her clothes in the colours of mulberry, guava and watermelon.

But she should have her head covered and, as it’s less than three years since the death of her abusive husband, she should still be dressed in the black of mourning.

Because of her seemingly small rebellions an elder rebukes her for being “improper” and he goes on to say: “You are an inappropriate woman. These are not our ways.”

This collection gives the reader an opportunity to reflect on what it is to be a woman, inappropriate or otherwise. (Perhaps too, we can reflect on what it is to be a man?)

It may lead us to think about the ways in which we too transgress restrictive norms, and how we might be deemed “inappropriate”.

The writers address many issues related to love and relationships, hopes and dreams, as well as resisting and surviving abuse.

A common strength of these writings is the theme of resistance — sometimes quiet and steadfast and sometimes exuberant.

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