AIDOH-girls - The World Social Forum

The first day in Kasarani

When we arrived at the Kasarani sports stadium for the first official day of the Forum, our crucifix was safely guarded by two men we had hired to protect the sculpture from possible thieves and vandals. Kasarani covers a huge area with two big stadiums. All around the main stadium, which has been converted into conference rooms and pressrooms, stands had been put up to house the more than 1.600 organisations participating in the event.

Before the Forum began we met some resistance from the organizers of the event. They were very concerned about how the Catholics would react to the sculpture, and therefore we were not allowed to be placed around the stadium with all the other stands. Instead we were given a spot on a hill, hidden away from the sight of the catholic organisations. When the Forum began we decided to move the sculpture down to the stadium anyway, and we ended up getting one of the most central sites.

There were many reactions to the sculpture of the crucified teenager. Most people were sceptic at first because of the crucifix which is a very powerful symbol for many people. But when they were told the purpose of the sculpture and the message we were trying to express, most people were positive towards it.

Others did not agree in our point of view and thought the sculpture was against biblical teaching. They did not become aggressive, but let us know that the sculpture was offending and wrong. These reactions I had expected. What I did not expect was for the sculpture to move as many people as it did. Whether it was the message we were trying to communicate, or their own interpretation of the sculpture, many people were moved by this visual artwork. .

An unbelievable story from a world far away

A Maasai woman came up to me as I was sitting, writing under a tree, behind the sculpture. She did not know I had anything to do with the sculpture and still she sat down and began to tell me how she identified with the crucified young woman.

Her name was Ester Dapash and was from the village Entontol in Nairobi. She told me how she had been married away to a man her father had chosen for her, at a very early age. How she after marrying is no longer viewed as a woman or even a person, but as property – belonging only to her husband. She told me how it is not for her to decide how many children she wants, she does not use contraception and her husband can claim her body whenever he wants to. The minute you are married your own life ends; you become just another wife with no needs or dreams.

For this woman the sculpture of a crucified teenager was a symbol of her and women like her, who are victims of the traditions of her village. She told me how she had once been in love with a man, but she had to let him go because she was to be married away to another she didn’t love. I asked this woman if there was no way to get out of this marriage, and she told me: “We are allowed to get divorced now, but you will be an outcast in your tribe, and the chance of another man wanting you afterwards is very small. When we have had children it’s even more difficult because we don’t want to abandon them, and your husband will get custody. The only thing we can do is to love our children and wait for God to come”.

I found this story very moving and astonishing. It’s a world so far from mine that I don’t think I could ever fully understand. Even though I have heard stories like this told in sobby romantic films a thousand times before, it’s a completely different experience to listen to a woman who is actually living the story.

This was an educated woman, a social worker. She had a job like many women in Denmark, but her role in society was like the one of women in Denmark several hundreds years ago.

As I sat there feeling bad for this woman, she asked me about how women in Denmark live. I told her how we can choose our own husband. How we can have sex before marriage, and are allowed to use contraception. I told her how we decide ourselves how many children we want and that we can have them before marriage. We are not even required to get married if we don’t wish to.

This is the life I would prefer over hers any day, but she, the woman I pitied did not envy this way of life. She did wish she could choose her own husband, and have a life of her own, but having sex before marriage is a sin. She did think that contraceptive should be allowed, but it was only for others, she would not use it in her marriage that was against biblical teaching. I realized that even though she wanted more liberty, her culture and way of thinking was still very different from mine. The Catholic belief is very founded in people, even those who in many ways still keep their traditions, like the Maasais. There is still a long way to make African women realize that condoms are necessary to protect themselves from STDs’ and unwanted pregnancies. new-struct/Happenings-and-Projects/2007/KE/ukblog4.htm


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Additional Information:
Categories: Daily blogs from AIDOH-girls on big and small events in Nairobi | 2007: World Social Forum, Nairobi, Kenya
Themes: Children´s rights | Criticism of governments | HIV/AIDS | NGO activities | Religion | Sexual education | Women´s rights
Type: Articles
Dates: 22nd January 2007