Happy Birthday, Women Chapter

Shucheesmita Simonti:

What made me join Women Chapter?

From a young age, I felt that as a young girl I was treated differently. And not just me. I felt women in the society grew up in had to fight for every single thing that is considered as a basic human right. I remember the first incident that shook me at a young age. I was blamed for somebody else’s actions. A guy stalked me and I was blamed and shamed by some people. I was only 11 years old at that time.
As a teenager, I experienced sexual abuse that left me with psychological damages for years. As I kept growing up, I experienced other forms of violence that many other women face around the world. And while many times I backed away and did not confront my oppressors, I felt guilty. I felt guilty for not being able to speak up. I felt angry about accepting injustice. And I eventually reached a stage when I just knew I could not keep succumbing under pressures created by patriarchal mindsets of people around me, or the society I grew up in.

I started my feminist journey by remotely volunteering with an NGO based in Zambia and eventually, I started writing. I tried to write about issues that really mattered to me, and some of them got published in Women Chapter. When I joined as editor of the English website, I was really nervous, to be honest. Writing articles occasionally is one thing, but being in charge of a portal is another.  I was also afraid if I could really take it up. I was afraid of the fact the founder of the Women Chapter is my family member(my mother to be precise), and people would raise the topic of nepotism. While I know that she chose me for the position only after she saw my passion for feminism and she knew my work ethics, it was not going to look that simple to the outer world. So from the beginning, I tried not to mix up the cause with my personal life. It is not easy, given that in our culture, a sense of community prevails over the sense of individuality. I learned so much along this journey. I also had to learn to deal with threats and repercussions for speaking up, but I do not regret it. If one thing I learned well is, I am stronger than I thought and freedom is oxygen for my soul. And Women Chapter is an important chapter in this journey. There have been many ups and downs along the journey, but never for a moment, I regret the step I took.

And I am not the only person who feels this way. Many women, since the inception of the portal on 20th May 2013, found a space to express their thoughts. It provided a space for them to write about issues they cared about, it gave them a place to share their experiences. It also became a platform for Bangladeshi women to exchange thoughts and experiences and form bonds with one another. It is not a fairy tale of course. As it always happens in activism, the portal too witnessed many fallouts. We have lost writers, we have lost allies and it has been painful at times. But I think the achievement of the portal lies in the very fact that it was the first of its kind. It has never been a smooth journey. On numerous occasions, our team members and writers faced backlashes from people close to them, and some even had to give up writing altogether. We have faced the wrath of not only religious extremists but also from the Government officials. It is needless to say that Bangladesh is heading towards dictatorship if it did not already. We have had cases filed against our portal under Draconian law which is apparently created for cybersecurity purposes, but in reality, strangles voices of dissent.

But words must keep flowing, be it from near or far, for they have the potential to create changes!

Words have the power to stir a revolution!

Long live Women Chapter, and a very Happy Birthday to you.

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