On the 22nd of February, two Argentinian girls who were backpacking in Ecuador went missing. Marina Menegazzo and Maria Jose Coni's bodies were found six days later, left like rubbish on a beach. The event has brought to light once again the evident women's issues countries like Ecuador have, particularly in terms of violence against women.
In response to the deaths and the horrifying responses of many, Guadalupe Acosta -a communications student from Paraguai- wrote an open letter as though one of the victims were speaking. In it, she expresses the injustice felt by many at the treatment of these girls in a patriarchal society, and calls for action to be taken to end violence against women.
The letter is originally in Spanish and has been translated into Portuguese- predominant languages in South America. Yet it is foolish to think the problem only exists there. Every 6 minutes a woman is raped in Britain. 60,000 girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales. 87% of American women aged 18 to 64 have been harassed by a male stranger. This isn't a problem that you only read about in newspapers. This is a problem that is right outside, on the streets that you walk. This is a problem that hurts the women you know and love every single day.
In an effort to recognise that, I've taken Acosta's letter and translated it into English, so that many more can read and understand its message. Please share it in the hope of raising awareness of the fact that Violence Against Women is a real problem, and we have to change our attitudes towards it now.
"Yesterday they killed me.
I refused to let them touch me and so with a stick they burst my skull. They stabbed me and left me to bleed until I died.
Like rubbish, they put me in a black, plastic bin bag, wrapped with duct tape, and I was dumped on a beach, where hours later they found me.
But, worse than death, was the humiliation that came afterwards.
From the moment that they saw my lifeless body, no one asked where the son of a bitch that ended my dreams, my hopes, my life was.
No, they chose to start asking me useless questions. Asking me, can you imagine? A dead girl, who can't speak, who can't defend herself.
What clothes were you wearing?
Why were you alone?
Why does a woman want to travel on her own?
She went to a dangerous neighbourhood, what was she expecting?
They criticised my parents, for giving me wings, for allowing me to be independent, like any other human being. They told them that there was no doubt we were drugged and went looking, that we must have done something, that they should have kept an eye on us.
And only when dead did I realise that to the world I am not equal to a man. That dying was my fault, and it always will be. Because if the title said "Two travelling young people have been killed" people would be offering their condolences and, with their false and hypocritical speeches, with false morals, would ask for the maximum penalty for the murderers.
But, as it is a woman, it's minimized. It becomes less serious because, of course, I was asking for it. I did what I wanted, I got what I deserved for not being submissive, for not wanting to stay at home, for investing my own money in my dreams. For this and a lot more, they condemned me.
And I suffered, for I am no longer here. But you are, And you are a woman. And you have endure that they continue to rub in your face the same speech about "having self respect", that it's your fault when they shout and want to touch/lick/suck your genitals in the street because your wore shorts in the 40 degree heat, that if you travel alone you are "crazy" and most likely if something happened, if they poached your rights, you put yourself in the way.
I ask you for myself and all the other women who were kept quiet, silenced and who had their lives and their dreams destroyed, speak up. We are going to fight, me at your side, in spirit, and I promise that one day there will be so many of us that there will not be enough plastic bin bags to silence us."
Here at Weaving Pages, we believe more than anything that every single girl in this world deserves a voice. Every girl deserves to be treated as a human being, and she deserves to have every opportunity in the world. Guadalupe's words are symbolic of that, and I don't believe she could have said it better. One day, no one will be able to silence us- I truly believe that.