All I could think was ‘Am I safe?’

15/04/2021

 

Temantungwa

Temantungwa Ndlangamandla was born in the Kingdom of Eswatini but lives in Taiwan. She participated in the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP) in 2017, which she describes as a life changing experience. She enjoys discussions on women, culture and language and how they shape societies. This is her story.

I've never felt safe as a woman in my society. There is a tradition in my culture, where a boy follows a girl home while declaring his love for her. It is an ancient custom whereby a man wins the love of a woman by wearing her down. For the woman, it is often exhausting and frightening to live through. I say this because, as a woman, the moment a man follows you home, you are struck by fear of what might happen next.

I remember going through this ordeal. A local boy had taken an interest in me. I communicated to him that I had no interest being with him, but that did not stop him from declaring his love for me. I kept saying no and he persisted. I stopped and looked at him, trying to explain how it would never work out with him as politely as I could.

My culture had trained me that whenever I was speaking to a male, I had to be polite, respectful and humble.

I went home, believing that I had laid his fantasy to rest. However, to my surprise, as I rushed to the grocery store the following morning, he followed me. This went on for three months, and while I felt stalked, it was a culturally appropriate thing to do. I felt cornered and had no other choice but to inform my brothers.They laughed at me to my face.

I get angry because no one listened, no one took me seriously.

Being in my community, I could not tell my brothers the complete story. I could not tell them the hurled insults I had to endure every time I refused his advances. I could not tell them how he looked up my boarding school, and then came and asked to see me. I could not tell them how he got my number and threatened to hurt me. And when I dared to tell anyone my story, they laughed to my face.

They told me they would deal with it like men, but it never happened. I endured the harassment for a year until he moved away. I thought I had gotten over the ordeal until I saw him again in town. I froze and couldn't move. My body was stiff and heavily perspiring. It felt like a lifetime. I stayed like that until he left. I took another bus home as I was staying with my aunt and did not want him to know my new address. I could not sleep that night; all I could think was ‘Am I safe?’.

I still get angry when his name is brought up in conversation. I get angry because no one listened, no one took me seriously. It seemed like no one valued my safety, and I think of all the women who feel the same way.

I wish the world had more safe spaces for women and for men, to work together to build safe communities.

It wasn’t until I went to Caux that I found my voice. I discovered how to speak up against such unjust traditions and actively create safe spaces for women to talk about issues affecting them within their culture. Through reflection and open dialogues, I’ve found there are opportunities for men and women to address cultural stereotypes that affect them.

I wish the world had more safe spaces for women and for men, to work together to build safe communities.

 

You would like to read more on this topic? Discover a conversation between men around gender and safety.

 

____________________________________________________________________

 

The Caux Peace and Leadership Talks (CPLP Talks) are an online space where stories can be shared and connections made. This series is hosted and facilitated by the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme Alumni as a two-way discussion. It offers an opportunity to listen to young voices from around the world, get inspired and engage with one another.

If you wish to be part of the next CPLP Talks on 1 May 2021 at 1:00 pm GMT and share your thoughts and feelings on the topic of gender and safety you can sign up here:

 

REGISTER HERE

 

 

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