Can Abortion Be Justified?

Last night I dined with a friend. He’s the coordinator of one big international humanitarian NGO. We worked in a very different field, but somehow it is still connected.

Over wine, we got talking about the kinds of things we see in our places of work. On why expatriates like us are discouraged from being in insecure locations such as inside the settlement to spend the night, let alone live every day.

I said I would not do it. I am done with my cowboy days but I am sure young humanitarian actors will push their luck and try the adventure. But is it an adventure to live with the refugees if you represent oppression and reason for them being displaced? Maybe not, but that’s a story for another time.

On a more serious tone, our conversation gravitated on the subject of abortion. Since both of us work in the health sector, these are subjects we know are sensitive, and talked on hushed voices, and never blurted out in daylight, but we know it happens, and justified.

You see, without blaming anyone or any agency, we know that rape happens in the settlement or camps. People are in an insecure location and vulnerable situation, and many are just vultures taking advantage of the case, and the people they think are below them.

Imagine my surprise to hear that not only women are vulnerable in such a situation. In one week, he said they got report of men being raped but women out numbered them. Reports of defilement is available at police stations, but whether or not perpetrators are apprehended is hard to tell.

So, what he told me why they do it – abortion to victims of rape, made me think twice about why I am doing what I am doing here in Uganda. I even have to agree to disagree with him based on my faith.

That’s why abortion is hush-hush is because it’s the last resort. He said the best is still to have more robust policies on the protection of women and men against sexual exploitation and abuse, and stronger enforcement from the authorities. But when that system fails, there should be a support network that will catch these women victimized by their vulnerability, in a place where they thought they are protected but are not.

Being a victim is a hard pill to swallow. The psychological trauma it brings to the victim makes it hard for them to think straight. The fear of being discovered, labeled, and eventually ostracised in a community where you’re supposed to get your strength from to go on each day is tremendous.

What happens when the rape resulted in pregnancy?

That’s when another cycle of psychological trauma happens. Being pregnant from a rape always remind that person of what happened, of how she was not able to avoid it. Blame herself for bringing it to herself. The fight internally gets intense, making it hard for her to fight back, and often, the psychological trauma wins over the rational way of thinking, which can lead to many difficult decisions, including abortion and the worst suicide.

The mental health support system is as complicated as it can get. Not everybody understands what they are talking about, and when in such a complicated situation, often, the victims are left to fend for themselves. Making it hard for women to feel they had someone on their side. My friend told me that even he doesn’t like that program they have on abortion, but after seeing women getting into such a situation, he knew it has to be done. But he also told me that its the last resort when all support fails, and if they don’t do it, women will also find a crude way to get rid of the pregnancy that will also put their life further at risk.

So for us not to get there, as a humanitarian actor, we have a lot of responsibility for the people we serve.

First, when we design policy on protection and prevention of sexual violence and abuse, don’t let it on paper and pretend that action will magically materialize. No, it never does, that is why we should put weight on it and enforce it. We are making sure something or someone answers for the atrocities received in the hands of perpetrators.

Second, empower the support groups. Avoid the victim-blaming that often happens when rape is discovered. Nobody wants to be accosted and violated. Notably, no one should take advantage of a vulnerable situation to exert power over women and men.

Third, regardless of faith practices, we have to find solutions that best serve the many. I am not endorsing abortion. Like my friend, I am against it and will never advise it on anyone, but if all else fails, make sure that the solution identified will serve best the person and allowed to believe that s/he is not a victim but rather a survivor.

Fourth, as a person, we are our brothers and sisters keeper. We look out for each other and support each other by making sure that we all are equitable. God never wants harm to come our way, He wants us to live in harmony, but the world is crazy now. We become selfish and self-centered to the point of destruction.

The life where I live now is never easy. We make do of what we have, take advantage of the simple pleasures where it is merited. My friends here and I take our jobs seriously, that’s why our after-dinner subject was something that resonated in my head long after the wine wears off.

The road we travel to reach our workplace

Adjustments to the realities of war and violence

Note: This blog post has been published in https://mydecadelongtravels.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/adjustments-to-the-altered-realities-of-war-and-violence/

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But what if you didn’t die when exposed to the cruelty of the world?

That person ends up disabled changing the dynamics of his or her life and of the lives of the people around them. Especially those closes to him or her whose coping with the change also affects their being starting from their psyche.

I call it the ripple effect as a consequence of trauma.

The impact of disability, which brings change to the person himself is too much. It is life changing, altering everything he worked all his life for. Everything that they know is normal is altered forever. In their mind, more often than not their lives are over, and with that thought, it is often difficult to convince people of the alternatives. That life continues with some accommodations to start over and build a new reality.

Like in any situation of trauma, people with disabilities undergo the process of grief and acceptance. No one can do it alone, help should be available when traumatic events happen in one’s life.

The assurance that “you are not alone” should be there to see the person through the initial shock of the new reality of being alive and of being different.

The difference should be a part when the person learns to accept that it does not change anything more than the appearance. His or her mental health should be considered immediately to allow reality to set in with less dramatic effect on his understanding of his or her new person. Accepting together with him or her would be the closest people in his life because, like rearing children, acceptance of change is a “village.”

Not knowing what is there for him or her, and for them further traumatizes the person’s mind and body that is why it is important that during emergencies, psychological first aid – counseling is available and accessible to all.

Mental health support is for all the people that surround him or her as it will buoy them over to the new reality of their lives and prepare for their environment. This is accompanying immediate medical and physical support to get the person back on his or her feet and start to follow the process until a new life, an accepted reality is reached empowering the person himself and those around him into continue living because at least that they can do something about it.

No one support is more important – be it physical, medical or mental health support. We have to look at the person and acknowledge that what s/he needs is a holistic approach to allow full and complete recovery.  And continue to be part of the environment with the support of the people around them, equally able to adjust to the new life brought on by senseless war and violence in our world.

#NoMoreWar

Look for the Glitter

Every day, every morning I receive an email from one religious organization – a message designed to be from God and they called it God Whispers. Telling me his thoughts about me and about my life, my dreams, my past and what could be my future.

They are encouraging words at times when I am confused or at a lost for words to describe my day. Or they can be random that I cannot relate to it until after days and there are times I completely forget them.

Yesterday God whispered these words to me

Dear Dhidhak

In a gold mine, you’re surrounded by gold. The problem is that you can’t see the gold because it’s covered by darkness, dirt, and danger.

Look for the glitter,
God

P.S. Dhidhak,  do you have a lot of problems today? The more problems you have, the more gold you have. 

But couldn’t relate it to my life at that moment until after I reviewed how my day was before going to sleep.

Towards the end of the day yesterday I received a letter of rejection from the fellowship I applied last January.  

The application was hanging over my head even before the accident. I didn’t give it much thought because I was busy moving between Turkey and Tunisia and continuing my remote technical support to people in the field until I had the accident.

When it happened, I felt I needed to do something to keep me relevant because I know how long it will take to recover. I decided to finish the application, asking friends and colleagues to give me a reference to help propel it and waited to know if I will have a future with them. My focus changed and applying for the fellowship and hopefully getting it would be a good plan at the time when I was not certain what my future would be.

So yesterday afternoon, for a brief moment I was stunned by the letter.  I will be a hypocrite if I say I didn’t felt bad, and a bit insulted having been told my life’s work is not impressive to a group of people who decides who can join the program and be the best leader after the training. Of course, I did, rejection fuels different emotions – hurt, pain, it lower self-esteem and it is one reason we have a very confused world now. But then the more I think about it, I am more challenged than rejected. Challenged to strive harder.

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Once the initial reaction subsided, which didn’t take long, I sent messages to my friends who sent me the invitation. If not for him, I wouldn’t know about it and to those who gave me professional references. I regret a little bit not getting in the program because it could be a good platform to promote my advocacy and put disability in the forefront rather than an afterthought in so many global discussions that affect our society now.

I also left a message with my sister telling her the news and what I think it means to me. As always she has the right words to say at the right time, putting me in my place, placated my feelings of rejection and any other negative thoughts that formed around it and went to bed at peace.

This morning, reading what had God whispered re-affirmed my reaction to the letter yesterday.

I realized that there is so much gold around us, around me, and in me. But gold doesn’t come from the ground glittering and glowing the moment you see them.  Like any gems and precious metals, you don’t know them unless you know what you are looking for — they come covered in dirt, in between rocks or found in the darkest part of the earth.  It takes time to get to the part where it glitters, and value appreciates.

Maybe that is how I came across to those that reviewed my application among the hundreds of applicants. It didn’t glitter to the luster that attracts attention enough to offer me the opportunity. But its’ okay, I don’t need to be glowing and glittering to serve and to lead. I may not have a fancy title attached to my name, but I know that at the end of the day your title doesn’t earn you the feeling of fulfillment knowing that you found gold in others and that they see the gold in me.

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