I Wear What I Want protesters speak out
As a young high school girl growing up in Gaborone, Amantle Mapoka
has lived with the humiliation projected onto her by an array of men who regarded her dress style untoward.
Men would make sneer remarks, grope her and call her names.
Now a 21-year-old student at the University of Botswana, Mapoka recently took part in what seems to be the most talked about Human Rights March this year.
On June 3rd, 2017, young men and women united for the ‘#IWearWhatIWant’ Campaign March, at Gaborone bus rank.
The march was triggered by a widely circulated video recording of a young woman who was stripped naked and hurled insults at by a mob of men and women.
Widely characterized as behavior that fuels rape culture by men and women who defend their behavior, a video of the woman on social media stirred commotion in the city prompting an activist outrage against abuse, especially on women and girl child.
As a former victim of chauvinistic behavior, Mapoka says she felt compelled to attend the March.
“It is important for people to know that this is a right. It is a right for me to choose my own clothing. I shouldn’t be made to feel unsafe based on what I wear,” she says adding that women are labeled with derogative names because of the clothes they choose to wear. That’s unfair,” she notes.
The March has gotten more tongues wagging with photos of protesters circulating on social media. One is of Mapoka wearing a t-shirt printed, ‘ YES I’M A BITCH, UNFORTUNATELY NOT YOURS ‘.
Speaking to The Voice, another protester Boago Monotsi explains that when being rejected, men call women condescending words to break their spirit.
“They will call you a bitch and a whore. If turning down a man’s advances makes me a bitch, then yes, I am a bitch, but I’m still not yours to objectify and sexualize,” she says.
Monotsi worries that the meaning behind the march might get overshadowed by what people wore as that is what everyone is talking about.
“Just as a rapist would not get the message to stop raping,” she agonizes.
“There needs to be a paradigm shift where young men and boys are taught to protect and respect women instead of telling women not to get raped,” she observes, adding that she hopes that in light of the theatrics observed during the protest, the nation heeds to the cries of women who live in constant fear of the men who should be protecting them.
March Facilitator Obakeng Matlou says the case has since been reported to the police and that the video is being reviewed to see who could be held responsible for the incident.
“I cannot comprehend the kind of savagery that evoked this incident apart from the delusion that someone’s opinion is more important than the other person’s freedom of expression,” he says.
Matlou adds that the respect accorded to one’s mother should be extended to every other woman.
“You come to the bus rank strip a woman naked then go back home, what happens when you get home and face your mother, sister, wife or girlfriend?” he taunts.