Thursday, 9 March 2017

International Women's Day reflection

In a city I used to call home, there’s a street called 8th of March. A Soviet tribute to the pursuit of equality and justice for women. Ironically however, it’s proximity to the city’s train station made it a prime location for those running the sex trade to warehouse their merchandise and operate their businesses. (I suppose it is also possible that freelancers and self-employed sex workers may also have operated from these apartments.)

It was at the train station that we would contrive to bump into Tabby, a quiet, self-contained young woman who used to stand off to the side of the gaggle of kids that would surround our car whenever we showed up at the orphanage. Soon after aging out of state-care at 18, Tabby was apparently sold by her new-found so-called boyfriend to a group operating out of 8th of March street. On the occasions that we successfully bumped into her, two heavyset women with bulldog faces would invariably step up behind her, one on either side of her, making open conversation virtually impossible. Most of what we knew about her, including the significant abuse she was subjected to from clients and managers alike, we heard through the orphan network.

One day, one of that network brought Tabby and a friend to our door, saying the pair wanted to run away. Our efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, not at all helped by the fact that the representative of the anti-trafficking task group (brought in by the local women’s support agency we had turned to) may have had previous interactions with Tabby’s friend. They left our apartment in the evening, ostensibly to have a cigarette, and didn’t return for the rest of the night. When they did return, we gave Tabby the choice to leave her friend and stay with us while we waited to hear back about a shelter spot in another city. She chose to stick with her friend...

Two years later, I read in the newspaper that Tabby had been arrested (and later sentenced) for attempting to sell her baby. The story stated that she said she needed the money to renovate her landlord’s apartment on 8th of March Street. It doesn’t take much to figure out who was actually selling the baby.

And so for me, the 8th of March, International Women’s day, is inextricably linked with Tabby, her ‘orphaned’ daughter, Anna, those bulldog women (who were likely once Tabby’s themselves) and all women and girls on 8th of March streets all over the world; women and girls who are trapped by greed, corruption, and a lust for power; women and girls who are hidden in plain sight and shackled by circumstance, inheritance and at some fundamental level, societal acceptance of the phrase "You make the bed you lie in." As if we all have equal access to the same resources for making that bed!