We all know the power of the voice. It holds the key to stories unknown, experiences lived and injustices called out. For black women, speaking out has become a birthright, but not because it forms a pretty package of the inalienable rights of all human beings, but because it is absolutely essential to our spirit thriving and surviving in the white male patriarchy we live in.
To demand silence is an act of violence that serves to take away the power and agency of the individual, forcing them to ‘put up and shut up’ in the face of oppression and double standards. Silence is never advocated for when it comes to the beautiful and enriching aspects of cultural traditions and practices. But the more insidious issues that plague the Somali community and disproportionately affect women are suppressed under one domineering concept: ‘ceeb’, shame.
The emphasis on marriage in Islam is not lost on the Somali girl. The conditioning from an early age aims to encourage young girls to aspire to get married and rear children. Romanticised ideas of marriage born from the oft-quoted hadith of it being “half our deen” can lead to a sense of unfulfilled purpose until the marriage contract is signed and our firstborn is in our arms. Add to that the fact that challenging aspects like the ‘getting to know you’ stage, marriage, and the reality of divorce are spoken without full transparency, and you’ve got a very two-dimensional take on a complex stage of life. Being fully transparent requires the voices and experiences of Somali women to be amplified, shared and, crucially, free from shame.