Barbara, Aurora, Maria, Concetta, Vera, Alessandra. These are just names on paper. I found 60 more on the internet two days ago while trying to get more information on the femicide in Italy, my home country.
Italy, a Member State of the European Union, is often defined as the beacon of human rights and the rule of law. We could say a developed country, part of the shiny, prosperous, and progressive Global North.
I read these names again and again, and I try to imagine all of these women. They were born and/or living in a highly patriarchal society, struggling with the challenges of a life deeply marked by abuses and constrictions. Women denied their fundamental, basic rights to live and to live with dignity.
‘We cannot bring Barbara, Aurora, Maria, Concetta, Vera, and Alessandra back.’
I cannot hide the rage I feel when I think that in 2020 I am in front of a computer reading articles about a tragic amount of human lives being lost because they are considered inferior, weak, and not worth living in this world. I feel angry and helpless. I imagine these women walking down the streets in constant fear of being abused and hurt. I imagine them feeling judged, verbally attacked, worn-out, and mentally and physically destroyed. I can almost see the fear in the eyes of the women I meet; I can almost hear it in their voices.
They might have thought: ‘He’s following me. He’s stalking me on the streets and on social media. He’ll hit me again. He is going to shout abuse at me.’
What increases my helplessness and frustration is the thought that nobody could help these victims. The fact that their lives have been taken, destroyed by the violence a male-dominated society. A society where men are believed to possess the maximum power over anything and anyone.
My stream of consciousness begins. We cannot bring Barbara, Aurora, Maria, Concetta, Vera, and Alessandra back. We can’t tell them we’re sorry they had to experience such an unbearable life in a country that defines itself as civilised and progressive. We can’t protect them to avoid them being at risk of being killed by a patriarchal society. They are gone. They will never come back. They will never have the chance to tell their story. They will never have the opportunity to recover and live a life free of fear and abuse. Society did not give them this possibility.
All this anger I felt actually reminded me of a quote by one of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change’ and that ‘ in addition to being angry, I am also hopeful. Because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better’. At this point, I wonder, can this anger be practical and helpful in some way? But how?
The fact that I’m here today thinking I’m hopeless but still trying to spread awareness on this tragic phenomenon makes me helpful. I want to be the one who remembers these victims, the one that tells their stories. I want to be part of a younger generation that isn’t afraid of speaking up and fighting for our fundamental rights.
‘I am evidence that proves change is possible.’
I grew up in a society where women had to silence themselves, please men, cook, and become good wives. My grandmother came from a place where violence against women was the norm. She couldn’t study, married young and had to work twice as hard as my grandfather as an immigrant in Switzerland while taking care of the family. Here I am now: educated and empowered, investigating past national and personal tragedies and trying to make a difference to our future. I am evidence that proves change is possible.
The values of a patriarchal society were created by men with power in a society where they gave themselves the maximum power over anything and anyone. However, times are changing. We are witnessing several cracks in the glass castle that is patriarchy. We are stronger than ever. These women's voices will not be silenced, but amplified through us, the women of a brighter tomorrow.
To donate or support organisations fighting against femicide and gender based violence. Here are some of my favourite ones to support:
Ti Amo da Morire ONLUS (Italian)
Amnesty International (Stop Violence Against Women campaign)
UN Women (UN Trust Fund to end violence against women)
By Anna Marino, 1 December 2020