I spent most of the week visiting Women in Need patients with the co-founders of Women in Need, Leah and Usha. We would visit these women’s tiny, hot homes, sit on their floor and listen to their heartbreaking stories.
I didn’t expect to be so affected by these women. I feel like everyday I come home emotionally drained. Maybe I expected I would be able to flip the switch of my feelings on and off, but I can’t. I can’t because the stories I hear everyday are filled with injustice, disease, rape, and this is normal for these women. This is their everyday. For them, there is no going home to a nice apartment; there is no escaping to America to enjoy all of life’s luxuries.
Most stories go like this; a woman has been infected by HIV. She contracted this disease from her husband, probably because he was sleeping around. AIDS killed her husband. Her in-laws have rejected her because of the disease. She can’t go back to her family (this is a cultural thing, but there are a few lucky cases where the woman can go back.) She has to find a way to provide for herself, and deal with shortage of antiretroviral medication for HIV. She must pay for the children’s education, put food on table, and do this all in a society that is often dangerous for her. She is likely suffering from trauma that results in depression and sometimes schizophrenia. She’ll probably end up on the streets where she’ll be raped by rickshaw and truck drivers. This normalcy of this situation is terrifying.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to illustrate the suffering here. My words will never be adequate. This was just one scenario, but there are so many more that are equally as heartbreaking.
Imagine a woman getting beaten just because she gave birth to a baby girl, not a boy.
Imagine a husband justifying sleeping with prostitutes because his wife’s skin is “too dark.”
Imagine families intentionally leaving mentally ill wives and daughters on the street, because they don’t want to deal with the stigma.
I am grateful that organizations like Women in Need exist. I glad that I have the opportunity through Help International to hear these women’s stories. I’m glad both organizations are trying to help women who have no other means of support, but there is so much more that needs to be done. I’m scared nothing will ever change. I scared nothing we can do can make a difference on a grand scale. Women will still be raped, abandoned, rejected, beaten, scarred, but there is a glimmer of hope.
There are some happy endings. There are some women who find stability, confidence, and self-respect.
If we can’t change the world, we can change one life at a time.