Exchange to Change January 2017 - Page 20


Being a woman : an exercise of resilience

Currently studying for her Master in Governance and Development at IOB , Christine Apio has amassed over 10 years of experience working in the field of Women ’ s Protection and Empowerment . Her commitment to fighting gender-based violence took her to five countries only to show that , despite culture , religion or ethnicity , women around the world face very similar challenges .
As I sit down after class to interview Christine , I cannot begin to imagine the depth of her experience as a humanitarian aid worker for the United Nations Population Fund , the International Rescue Committee and other organisations . All I can hope for is to escape the tired way of portraying the struggles of women as she starts to describe them with impeccable sensitivity .
Christine started her career in her home country , Uganda , which has an extensive history of conflict and violation of human rights . Unsurprisingly , women and girls are the most vulnerable segment of its population . The same was true in the next four countries where she worked : Rwanda , Tanzania , Ethiopia and South Sudan .
Life for women and girls in these countries has been especially tough . When conflict breaks out , they need to leave everything behind and go somewhere safe – that ’ s when they are most exposed to physical and sexual violence . Not only that , forced displacement often leads to women being overloaded with the burden of additional roles , previously entrusted to their male partners and relatives .
For someone who has witnessed first-hand the realities of Burundian and Somali refugee camps , pre and post-crisis South Sudan , the continuous violence and suffering to which women have been subjected to in a daily basis , Christine does not show any signs of disbelief or exhaustion . Being a woman in this field is , above all , an exercise in resilience .
She tells me about a particular case of domestic violence . “ I ’ ve never cried in my entire career , but this one time ”, she confesses ,
Exchange to change January 2017