This candle is for myself as I stand here and reflect on how far I have triumphed over the forces of violence inflicted upon me by a system that is designed by man to pin me down.
From the forces of external threats to my body, to the internal threats of allowing negative messages to dominate my experience of womanhood. From my attempts at self harm because of the absorbed hatred towards women, to the pain I’ve experienced through suffering repeated violent attacks by a male relative. From the day to day listening to the voices that say a woman can never win, can never be free, to the attacks on the streets because of what I look like or who I choose to love. From the voices of the teachers who said I should set my sights lower, to the media who say I will never measure up. From the adults around me who said my body didn’t look right, to all the opportunities robbed from me because of my gender. From my employers who will never pay me the commensurate wage for my efforts, to the threats of violence I face now for merely speaking out.
I stand as a survivor and will continue to concentrate my efforts on never being defeated.
Aung San Suu Kyi, our sister who is under house arrest for peaceful resistance in Burma, and a woman who I stand in solidarity with at this vigil today, spoke once of living with ‘grace under pressure’. She says: “Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as grace under pressure – grace which is renewed in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.” As women standing together today this courage is something we each possess. Within a system that threatens imprisonment, torture, rape, death, losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, poverty, isolation or failure simply because we are women, it is not easy to free ourselves from the miasma of fear but we must lead the way. Fear is not the natural state of what it is to be a woman and fear will not keep us in our place.
I will live with grace under pressure and not let fear dominate my life nor my experience of being a woman nor my experience of being alive. I will live freely by loving courageously, offer peaceful grace instead of violent rage, never sell out because of the threats I face, stand alone where I must and together where I can.
In her memoir, Heartbreak, Andrea Dworkin lists some of what she feels is the worst immorality of being human. One of them states how the worst immorality is on setting ones goals so low that one must crawl to reach them. Today, in honor of every woman who is experiencing male perpetrated violence in our shared world, I am resetting my goals. I will set a goal so high that I will stand tall, stretched out and develop my heart so wide in order to reach it. I share this goal with Million Women Rise.
Our goal is to see an end to violence against women in my lifetime.
Our goal is to lay the foundation to make this possible within the next 10 years.
Our goal is to enable 10,000 women to take to the streets in the UK on 6 March 2010 to call for an end to male violence against women.
Our goal is that 10,000 of us stand united here in Trafalgar Square next March to celebrate our womanhood, our determination, our love for humanity and our courage.
Our goal is that all young women embark on their adult life with a positive perception of who they are, with recognition of the power they possess and feeling confident of what they can achieve in the future.
These goals I am sure are shared by us all, as Alice Walker states: “We are the ones we have been waiting for”, there is no time for complacency, our gathering tonight is testament to this truth. I will use my privileges as a woman living in the UK and strive to create peace worldwide. I determine to run as fast as I can to the aid of our sisters overseas, to our sisters in the regions, all across London, on the street where I live. Tonight as we gather here let’s determine together in our hearts to do all we can, it begins with us. With our courage we are free.