What a hectic couple of weeks. The last two weeks in South African news have felt a year. Even though I wasn’t physically in the country last week, I absolutely felt the anger, the sadness, the hopelessness that my country was experiencing. I was watching the protests in Cape Town online, rage and pride making my heart beat faster and my chest feel tight. I was crying as I read thread after thread on Twitter, of brave women exposing their abusers and sharing their pain so that they don’t have to carry it alone anymore. I was sitting on the beach, crying for myself and for South Africa.
If you’re not up to date; The rape and murder of 19 year old student Uyinene Mrwetyana at a South African post office by a post office worker sparked a national uprising against the ongoing battle every woman in South Africa is forced to fight against gender based violence. It was the heartbreaking catalyst we wish we never needed, that set off a cry from women around the country; “we are afraid, we are hurt and we can’t live like this anymore”. Help us.
Some statistics say that South African women have a 50% chance of being raped in their lifetime. That is a very very heavy burden to carry. That knowledge lives in our hearts and minds and in our bodies every single day and it impacts every aspect of our lives. We hear “don’t walk alone at night”, “don’t get too drunk at parties”, “don’t wear that”. The fact is that we can hide our bodies and lock ourselves inside at night, but not even the post office is safe. The responsibility to avoid being assaulted by men should not be ours. It was time for South Africa to accept that the men in this country have a problem.
The conversations started by the protests both online and offline have been truly illuminating. Men who have spent their lives sharing “innocent” memes and jokes at the expense of women seemed to finally understand how this is the foundation phase of what becomes rape culture. Women who have been carrying a shame that was never theirs to bear have been unloading some of that weight and in turn, helping others to do the same. It’s been a very difficult and very sad time, and the battle is far from over, but at least we have started something.
It feels weird, but let’s move on, to lighter matters. While all this was happening, I was in Mauritius, doing my PADI Open Water Diver course. It came at the perfect time, as I have already shared that I was experiencing a difficult time personally, and then South Africa felt like it was on fire. So having the opportunity to spend hours underwater was such a welcome break from the noise coming from everywhere including my own mind.
The feeling of being 18m underwater, at once totally weightless and totally engulfed is indescribable. The coral reefs and the tropical fish are incredible, of course, but I also loved the feeling of being completely calm and in control of my body, breathing deeply, completely focused. I find diving to be very meditative and it was very helpful to have that time to clear my mind and be in the quiet.
Life comes at you fast and what I was experiencing 4 weeks ago now seems like a different person’s life. During that period I spent time sitting in my discomfort, I tried my best to feel it and accept it and to be patient while I waited for it to pass. I cried, I didn’t leave the house, I didn’t wash my hair. I spent a day literally not doing anything – not even watching tv. And then eventually, that period was over. My mom has always said “nothing is ever forever” and I have never been more grateful for her to be right.