Break the Silence: India

  Photo taken by Lina Duncan in Mumbai. Painting by Jas Charanjiva  @KultureShop.  Used with permission.

Photo taken by Lina Duncan in Mumbai. Painting by Jas Charanjiva @KultureShop. Used with permission.

Break the Silence

I am strong
I am weak
Will you listen?
Can I speak?
Will you look me in the eye?
Can I trust you?
Will you lie?
Do you have to use machines?
Have you heard about consent?
Is it urgent? Can you wait?

I don’t want to be alone
I’m afraid and want my mother
Now I wish that I’d stayed home
But I am not my brother
I didn’t have a choice
And again, in here I have no voice

My words are lost,
Silent screams
Strangled in my throat
And what’s the cost?
My dignity
I’m longing for my cloak
I have feelings
Please don’t take advantage
You haven’t even asked my name
You angrily announce “no progress”
As if I’m the one to blame

I’m terrified of needles
Do I have to take those pills?
I’m lying here uncovered
Undignified, ashamed
Your hands are rough
Your words are cruel
You say her heart’s no longer beating
And it’s my fault

I feel myself slip slip away
I’m shutting down
To survive this day
Some say that this is karma
But I’m calling it abuse
You labelled me a learning tool
Yet I have a heart and soul
And just because I’m lower caste
This should not be less sacred

I am strong
I am weak
You will listen
I will speak
Now I’ll break the silence
Now I’ll trample all the rules
Of culture, caste and times gone by
It’s time to make a stand and cry

Women rise
We have a voice
Respect and freedom
Rights and choice
Women rise
We must unite
And together
Win our fight

Author: Lina Duncan. Lina Duncan is a global midwife based in Asia since 1998. This poem is a response to the institutional births she has borne witness to in the Philippines and India. The women she advocated/s for in Government hospitals are mostly illiterate and predominantly victims of domestic violence. Their daily lives for survival are challenge enough and they deserve better care during pregnancy and childbirth. They often don’t have a voice.