Several years ago I set up my own program called Sole Sista Hiking. I would often borrow a car from a friend – as I don’t have one – and would take vulnerable women out on hikes and day trips so they can escape and allow nature to detoxify them from all the psychological abuse and manipulation.
I now have 450 members who volunteer their time to be with these young girls and make them feel connected in a safe place to be themselves rather than what they are told to be, to take them away and feel connected to the peace of nature.
In that space, that quiet, they reflect objectively and feel safe in the intimacy of my presence to talk about what is, what actually has happened rather than deluge their minds with fake problems or activities to pre-occupy their attention from what is actually going on around them.
Almost all of the girls have experienced abuse by men, whether it is their father or brother or boys at school, it has mostly come from verbal and physical abuse by men. Women have also abused them, only differently; they are indirectly told that they are not pretty enough, told to wear make-up and act a certain way that is pleasing. If they don’t, then they are ugly.
I try to set an example that I myself pushed through all of that cruelty to find self-esteem and create my own destiny, despite having no one. I suffered incredible hardships and yet I studied and now have a steady career with the reward of travel to make them motivated to look forward to something.
I do it all for them, because if I can do it, so can they.
It is hard for two reasons. I am alone in this and have no one to support me to support them. The second is trying to push through those mental blockages and barriers they have to get through to them, to source that courage to leave and create a new life for themselves away from it all.
I try to speak their language, try to talk to them through the lens of their worldview, but it is hard especially when I fear their aggression. It is also difficult because of cultural barriers, patriarchal ideas and false concepts that enable violence is very difficult for me to accept, but it is a part of their identity and need to find that balance.
When they realise that I actually care, that I really love, it inspires them to experience a glimmer of self-esteem, because they realise that I see the real them. They start to mirror that – and it is a slow process – because when I see them, they see themselves and start to hope for something better.
Is there anything more that I can do? Maybe I can plant the seed and water the garden with the hope that they may grow, but the real problem is the violence of the weather, that men and women continue to manipulate, lie, and deceive, it is too overwhelming sometimes when culture is embedded with this horrible hierarchical system.
I wish I had the power to change it all, to be a refuge for these young girls so that they can spend more time with me as I slowly help them work through all the psychological abuse both socially and in their personal space that tells them they are only good enough if they obey and do what they are told, and even then…
In Genesis 3 after the serpent tricks Eve:
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
The serpent has no power over me and neither does any man.