Gillian Mellor stays in Moffat, SW Scotland, where she has written mainly poetry for about four years. She co-runs The Moffat Bookshop. She won a place on the Wigtown Book Festival mentoring scheme and was encouraged to submit to the Dangerous Women Project by her mentor Claire Askew.
Lots of people know Neema Namadamu is a dangerous woman. Until August this year when she wrote an article which appeared on the World Pulse site (content warning: graphic violence including image of shocking wounds), I had never heard of this lady. I had never taken note of Congo, the country in central Africa she was from, the plight of the women in her country, the civil wars and the unspeakable brutality of men towards women. Yet here I was one morning reading her piece, shocked into it by a friend’s share on facebook which included the grim picture at its head. My friend, Jane, said it was a difficult share, not knowing what else to do to highlight the problem. The poems included here are in response to Neema’s article and photograph. I didn’t know how else to respond at the time.
Neema is not only dangerous because she raises awareness by her writing and posting to the international community. She remedies the wrongs by working with women to improve their lives with small changes that make huge differences. She tells girls they are equal, that they need to be in school. She provides sanitary kits so girls can attend school every day and brings taboos out into the open. There are also schemes in place to address climate change, clean water and the improvement of farming. Much of this information can be found on her website. There is positivity, love, pride and determination to change things from the grassroots up. She is a women to be admired.
From a photo taken August 18th 2016
Beni, North Kivu, Congo
After I averted my eyes
I Googled machete, found it
was essentially a tool for survival.
I tried to equate this with the image
I’d just seen. Female shoulders
sliced open to reveal the meat
beneath, a survivor from the 100
or so killed just this week.
The women stay to protect
the children. The ones that aren’t
butchered are raped. I’m sorry
we’ve all been silenced.
Was she standing when he cut her, were her
arms around her head? Was she bound, had
he raped her, were the children still around?
Was she on her knees before him, did she
ask death to finally come, did her sisters
watch her suffer, were they lying still
before her, was she the last one in the line?
Did she scream out loud to stop him,
did she silently bear pain? How long
before they found her? Who is she?
What’s her name?