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Rio was amazing! The captivating experience of flying over the Atlantic, the breath-taking and incredibly refreshing environment, the lovely food, the warm people, the beautiful sea…. simply amazing! More than anything, the sexual violence research initiative conference! Enlightening, great learning experience and great time to connect with sexual violence researchers, advocates and other changemakers seeking to see a positive difference globally.

I drew a lot from the diversity of people, cultures, countries represented and religions as far as sexual violence research is concerned and the most important thing to note was the mutuality of problems across the globe relating to sexual violence. This made it easy for me to compile learning points and notes on what has worked for different people in different countries and helps me to think about what works in mine to amalgamate global efforts and take great strides in programming that leads to a progressive end in sexual violence.

Before Rio I thought I was a researcher and change agent but the experience I had in Rio stirred a greater passion in me. I find that my eyes are more attentive to the injustices and sexual exploitation that happens around me, my ears are ever so sensitive to the silent screams of the oppressed especially women and children, and my heart carries such a burden to be a part of the cog in the machine that is going to bring a stop to sexual violence in all its forms globally.

As the day goes by, surfing the internet and reading the newspapers seems like a continuous horror, one that leaves my heart bleeding and groaning for change! If it is not the fact that someone has butchered his wife in a classic horror of gender based violence, then it must be how the statistic of rape continues to torment our girls and women. If it isn’t the horrible reality of an average of 20 000 underage girls getting married everyday then it must be news of girls and women being murdered in Uganda to the privacy-invading extent that as part of mitigation measures, girls and women are being asked to register their male partners’ names.

The entire crux of everything is more than about being heard or being given a voice as an individual or as a representative of the youth and the oppressed but it is more now about being instrumental, serving, helping, researching, bringing positive change and unending smiles in the faces of those that I formerly thought myself to represent. It is now more of ‘being change’!

The being heard experience was so much more than an event, so much more than being part of a movement setting out to create minimum standards of youth participation in international conferences, so much more than the learning and the inspiration drawn from older researchers, Being Heard was simply the planting of a mustard seed. Seemingly small and susceptible to be perceived as insignificant (in the sense of the short time spent in Rio) but the ripples of it, an immense tree of passion, vision and dreams that seem to grow exponentially every day.

So, this is to say thank you to the Sexual Violence Research Initiative! Words can never be enough to express my gratitude. Hopefully in the next conference I will come, not as a participant but with a paper, findings and a testimony of the change I would have influenced in my society, city and country!

Written by Lightwell Mpofu, ACDPT

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