Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: I Dare to Say edited by Hilda Twongyeirwe

A young woman at last finds love, only to discover, after the death of her baby and her man, that he was married, had eight children, and died of "slim," or AIDS.

A girl hides under a blanket in her dormitory while the Lord's Resistance Army, in search of child brides, pushes an armed child soldier through the window so they can take their pick of the terrified girls.

Not long after her ritual genital mutilation, a girl on her way home from school is beaten by four men, then delivered to an old man who will be her husband, a standard marriage practice.

In I Dare to Say, African women speak out in their own words, sharing poignant tales of womanhood, revealing how they cope and survive, and confiding their dreams and hopes for themselves and their children. They tell not only of atrocities and pain but also of motherhood, marriage, love, and courage, a testament to the bond among women from all cultures.

Dramatic, sometimes heartbreaking, often inspiring, I Dare to Say vividly brings to life how political instability, ethnic rivalries, and traditional religion shape the daily life-as well as the future-of rural African girls and women.

Where do I even begin? It took longer than I expected to finish reading this book, because I felt so angry while reading. My anger wasn't because the writing was terrible. I was angry at the experiences that the women in this book went through.

I Dare to Say is a project of FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writer's Association, and their partner organizations Austrian Development Corporation, African Women Development Fund, Africalia, German Embassy in Uganda, and IRIN. The book is divided into four parts. The first part is about surviving abuse and the second part is about facing AIDS, while the third part is about resilience and surviving war and the fourth part is about female genital mutilation.

Through this book, we are able to get a peek into the lives of African women. Prior to reading this book, I was already aware of the poverty, civil wars and other issues that are plaguing Africa right now, but to actually read stories of real women and not just news articles, it made more of an impact emotionally.

Some of the stories got my blood boiling. Let's just say that I'm not a fan of women being treated like second-class citizens. And what's worse, it's not just the men who are treating women poorly. Women, whether it's relatives or co-wives, treat their fellow women badly sometimes too. The appalling health conditions really bothered me as well. In college, we saw, sometimes firsthand, the struggle that the poor and those living in far-flung areas have to go through to get access to healthcare. The women in these book had to go through the same things and it just makes me sick.

Growing up in a country which, according to Newsweek, is the 17th best country in the world (out of 165 countries) and the best country in Asia to be a woman (based on: "justice and treatment of women under the law; access to health; access to education; economics and workforce participation; and political power"), I have been blessed with plenty of opportunities that I may not have gotten had I been born elsewhere. The women in I Dare to Say were not afforded the same opportunity and for some of the women in this book, they felt resigned to their fate and felt a fierce loyalty to their culture. However, it's easy to see the strength that majority, if not all, of the women featured have to get through their ordeal.

What's great about this book is that it's not a one-sided book, showing only the negative things. For example, we see good husbands and bad husbands, and get to hear the story of female circumcisers and the women who underwent female genital mutilation.

All in all, this is a very good book that people should read, even if they're not a fan of heavy reads and memoirs.

Thanks to NetGalley and Lawrence Hill Books for providing me with an e-copy. Publication date of I Dare to Say will be on February 1, 2012.

  1. The stories are powerful and moving.
  2. Different issues are covered and from different angles instead of just one.
  3. You get a real feel for the culture of the women.
  1. It's a pretty heavy read at times.
I wondered why culture and customs are always invoked and become sacred and unchangeable only when women try to fight for their rights.
  1. You would like to read stories about the ordeals and triumphs of African women.
  2. You are curious about African culture.
  3. You want to read an interesting biography.



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