Since I wrote a letter to Febbie, my ex- mother in law, a few weeks ago, my inbox has been flooded with messages from women all over the world who grew up in Africa, especially Zimbabwe. They reported to have had a similar certain Febbie in their life who abused them mercilessly and traumatised them.
Some of the messages I received were from women who said, ‘Jean, today for the first time I cried so hard, and let it all out,’
When I wrote the letter to my mummy, some of the messages I received from women were heartbreaking. Women still in chains, traumatised by abuse and are afraid to talk about it because society has created a culture that makes it a taboo to even feel abused. Most of these women are broken and longing for love.
JAW stands for ‘Just A Woman. Our main goal is to break the culture of silencing and threatening the abused African girl child whilst encouraging therapy for her to heal.
JAW visualises a day and age where it will no longer be a taboo for the African woman to say that she felt neglected, abused, mistreated, unwanted or unloved.
A woman or girl will have a right to say how someone’s ill treatment of her made her feel, and no amount of intimidation (from close family, relatives or society) should silence her.
Whether the abuse was emotional, psychological, sexual, financial or physical, no woman should be silenced from telling their experience.
HOW TO BECOME A JAW BONE
THERAPY NUMBER ONE
Allow Your Heart To Tell You How You Feel
JAW ‘s theme colour is PINK. Pink is the colour of girls. It represents freedom and all things pretty and girly. When a girl or woman has been abused and violated, the pink in her is taken away. She is not allowed to express herself as a girl child, or woman.
Emotions are God-given, planted in all of us for a reason. For the girl child, she has been given more emotions than that of a boy child.
Though African society, especially Zimbabwean culture sees a woman’s emotions as her weakness, on contrary, the strength of a woman lies in her emotions. Her emotions are not meant to be suppressed but expressed.
The first therapy towards healing is for a woman to allow her emotions to do their work. It’s okay to feel upset. It’s okay to feel angry and betrayed. It’s okay to cry. She does not need to be made to feel guilty of how she feels.
It’s okay to sit down with a box of tissues and cry your heart out. Afterwards, you will certainly feel better, and no one should deny you of your emotions.
Go back to your own innocence, and let the PINK in you flourish. Be girly. You will need to be very kind to yourself and trust your emotions.
THERAPY NUMBER TWO
Write It All Down, The Letter
One of the most beautiful books in the bible is the book of Psalms. Its a collection of poems written by people when they were facing situations like fear, neglect, betrayal, confusion, abuse, and also happiness. One thing that can’t be argued is that the writers of Psalms found therapy in writing their feelings down. Psalms highlight that the most powerful gift given to mankind by God is the gift and freedom of expression through the power of the pen.
I would have not survived the abuses I suffered in Zimbabwe and here in the UK Zimbabwean community, especially the church community had I not written.
The only weapon you have to fight back oppression is your JAW BONE, your pen. Hold it firmly in your hand no matter what.
Unfortunately, due to lack of education on abuse, a lot of Zimbabweans do not understand that writing is in and of itself therapy. My healing was not through counselling or cognitive therapy or even talking to someone, rather I found deliverance in my own house, on my own, with just a pen and a paper.
The aim of JAW is to support and encourage victims to use this powerful therapeutic tool.
When you write it all down, especially as a letter, you are gaining authority over the person who hurt you. You are able to tell them what they did to you, and how they made you feel, without them silencing, interrupting or intimidating you.
It doesn’t matter if you get a response or not, what is important is that your tormentor has read your letter. You are now the one in control by the power of your voice.
If a letter to your oppressor is a little too much, you do not have to. Take one step at a time. Start by writing to yourself, probably in a journal or diary. Write down how you feel and why you feel the way you do. This alone will help you reflect and will release a lot of pain from your broken heart. This may be enough to take a lot of pain off your heart, and you may never need to write to your abuser.
When I was abused by a church prophet and his church members, I wrote all my experiences down, and this alone was justice to me.
THERAPY NUMBER THREE
Allow Yourself To Be
JAW is about the power of the pen. Sometimes if you go public with your pen, a backlash will always come. You will even be told to go seek help or go for ‘therapy’. There will be the women oppressors who will not be comfortable with your guts and try to stop you. But you are a JAW BONE, simply unstoppable. The cyber bullies of social media will do everything to silence you, but you should always stand firm with your JAW BONE in your hand, your pen. No matter the tide, do not put your pen down.
Writing things down leads to self-discovery. You will learn things about yourself you never knew. You will understand yourself. Know who you really are. You will get to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Maya Angelou, one of the greatest female writers of all times wrote, If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.
THERAPY NUMBER FOUR
Become A JAW Member
A Letter To Jean
Not every woman is able to face their oppressor and write to them. Some women are private in nature, not everyone is like me. This is where Jean comes in. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who understands. Sometimes you just want them to know your pain and just listen and not even talk back. That too is a powerful form of therapy. Knowing that you are not alone in this world, that someone out there has been there and understands.
Write me a letter and tell me all about it. Or just a letter to introduce yourself and say hello if you have ever been encouraged in any way by my writing. Or if you just want to encourage me, that’s also lovely. It’s the lovely people like you who keep me going, I see a lot of you hashtagging #TEAM JEAN in the comments and on social media, my heart always melts at that. All letters will be private and confidential and never released into the public domains unless specifically requested.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNUAL JAW PINK CONFERENCES
JAW will be holding annual PINK conferences, which will be a three-day retreat each year that will be packed with self-empowerment, self-belief tools, motivation and most importantly teaching women to say no to institutional abuse.
They say PINK is not just a colour, its attitude!
Girl, you are not mad, you are JUST A WOMAN. At the end of it all, you will learn that your pain has been turned into laughter.
PS: Though I love technology, I am a very traditional girl at heart. We now live in an age where most of our writing is done on a keyboard, but I still love my pen and paper. I normally write things down first with an actual pen, I like to go to the park alone, sit on a bench, reflect and write. So I believe every JAW member should have a pen and journal.