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I Stand at the Door and Knock

By Tamu Bakery, Jan 22 2016 04:57PM

'When deeds speak, words are nothing' - P. J. Proudhon

I knocked on your door after your receptionist said you were free to meet me. You were reading the newspaper, and ignored me. After I made some polite noises you angrily listened to my pitch. You said you have helped a lot of women and they are all illiterate, and don't know their rights. Unlike you – a former lawyer! Before you started to blame women for all their own problems I made my excuses to leave, at the door came the question 'So, can we order from you cakes then?". A complete waste of time, I thought. A few weeks later I recognized you as one of the panelists at an anti-GBV event. After 10 minutes I had to leave, this time without any polite excuses. Walking back through the plush embassy surroundings I kept asking myself “How can this person represent ‘leading women's charity’ holding the view that when Sri Lankan women leave their homeland for the Middle East in search of work, and their kids become victims of rape or incest, then this is all due to their mum's uncaring attitudes?! Little did I know that this was not a one-off. Unfortunately, the majority of Sri Lankan NGOs fighting GBV behave this way.

When I knocked on your door, painted bright blue, with a shiny sign stating you were ‘part of an international organization’, I naively thought you would be more proactive and forward thinking. My dreams were crushed when your colleague announced you were eating your breakfast. After a month of unsuccessful email exchanges you wrote "please contact our country director in order to arrange your contribution to anti-GBV in Sri Lanka as I am resigning”. I thought your head office in the UK would be most impressed to hear about your efficient work. But instead I left. Efficiently. I don't eat breakfast.

I remember very well your big compound centre's doors. With a few bodyguards around each entrance. You checked my ID and showed me a lot of important strategic documents. The problem is you didn't understand yourself what the millennium goals mean for your fellow countrywomen. You promised a lot of about involvement. And then disappeared, as usual. Only to later pop up in my inbox with an invitation to attend an event to make up the numbers. I suggest you hire professional actors next time. I don’t need your finger buffet.

I knocked on many doors, nobody answered. Media, universities, politicians. All pretended they were deaf. Because it is easier to ignore the problems on your doorstep.

16 days of activism. The world is painted orange to highlight issues of GBV. I wish you all had your doors painted orange as a reminder all 365 days of the year. 16 days even in 16 years is nothing. To remind you that behind closed doors adolescent girls drop out of school due to menstruation (no easy system of hygiene and culture of shame). To remind you that women are sexually harassed on the buses. To remind you of the shockingly high rates of incest, rape and suicides among women. Behind your doors there a murky fog formed from a culture of silence, violence and censorship.

A few days ago Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced he is giving 99% of his fortune to charity, to make this world a better place for his new-born daughter. I only can hope that his money won't go to fund organizations like those behind all three of these doors. And me? For now I am off to build my own bright orange door, as the saying goes "if opportunity doesn't knock, build a door".