In 2008, myself and three friends started a local non-profit called Women Of Antigua. There was a high occurrence of rape happening in the country at the time and we wanted to create a space to discuss violence against women (VAW) and gender based violence (GBV). We started by doing a production of The Vagina Monologues as a means of engaging our audience on issues of rape, molestation, emotional abuse, pregnancy, equality and social justice. In 2010 we decided to start telling the home-grown stories on the same subject matter. We assembled a group of talented and mostly local women to write the stories and ended up being blown away at the material that was submitted. We called it When A Woman Moans and used it as our authentic voice to really start advocating for a change in behavior in both men and women. The Antiguan reality is that there are many persons experiencing intimate partner violence, young girls being coerced into having sex and not realising that it is date rape, and a high rate of molestation of young children (both boys and girls) by close family members and friends. What we were doing was revolutionary, but we did not know it at the time. Our biggest concern was just to find a way to change the stories. Young women should feel and know that they are equal to their male counterparts and partners. We wanted to restore children’s trust in the adults around them. We wanted to nurture mutual respect of each other’s bodies and minds. We wanted to harness new and healthy forms of communication among the sexes.
Transformational and sustainable change is long and grueling. It means starting with little to nothing with the hope that on your path you will be able to turn small trickles into big waves. You champion on in the hope that your children will be the benefactors of your tireless work. This year WOA received a big grant to aid our efforts over the next three years. The grant funded by the UN through the Directorate Of Gender Affairs puts money in our hands to ensure the projects we previously tabled, due to the lack of finances, would now be able to see the light. We moaned in both agony and passionate triumph because we believed we could make a difference, while motivating others to do the same. Those that know better should do better. The responsibility lies with some of us to be the leaders that will affect change in all of us. There will always be something or someone that will deter your efforts. However, you must start somewhere.
image used courtesy of Melissa Sebastien