In Sierra Leone, OUTRAGE FOR HANNAH!

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Hannah was raped. It does not end there. Hannah was disembodied; skull fractured, glue found in her eyes, broken bones in multiple areas of her body, her spinal cord – shattered. When Hannah was found, only a pink brassier covered the top part of her body. Her legs were sprawled apart, the only cover came from the beach’s sand and seaweed. Hanna was raped and her murder, an inhumane act of violence.

Hundreds of women and men took to the streets on Thursday August 20th in a march organized by PowerWomen 232, a network for professional Sierra Leonean women. PowerWomen led the way for solidarity, chanting “Justice for Hannah, Justice for Women”. The outrage sourced from the predisposition that Hannah was raped (before autopsy results were released) and then murdered when images of Hannah’s deceased body were proliferated across local social media platforms. Those images forced us all to stop, question, mourn and be reminded that horrific acts of sexual violence very much thrive in our small nation’s shores.

Sierra Leoneans from all levels, high political personalities, leaders of women’s groups, activists, entrepreneurs, and students; the UN body, expatriates, and men marched wearing black, symbolic of solidarity at a time when being passive is no longer an option. Many who marched that day were not expecting this depth of brutality that Hannah’s young body had endured into her death.

Hannah’s death pierces through a plethora of Sierra Leone’s social and political issues currently circuiting in the country. Her death screams over denial about her violent murder, screams over blame (that it is because she was a sex worker that she got raped), and screams over the thick silence that has clothed action when it comes to enforcing punitive action against perpetuators of sexual violence.

Hannah’s death reminds us all that women’s bodies in Sierra Leone are under heavy siege. That Sierra Leone’s highly patriarchal society still subjugates with structural discrimination in practice, custom, and law, with a plethora of women still facing suppression in education, employment and politics. Sexual violence has always been rampant in Sierra Leone – the rhetoric that Ebola has induced a spike in sexual violence undermines the reality that little has been done to improve social and economic options for women.

Hannah was raped, maimed and murdered. Let that resonate with us all. This is a stark reminder that urgent work must be done to continue to speak up against sexual violence; that laws must no longer lie dormant but must be activated with stringent punitive actions against all perpetrators. More women who have experienced sexual violence must speak up, if enough of us are talking about this, sharing our stories – policy makers, communities, our women and men, the world will LISTEN.

Hannah’s death must not go in vain – we must channel our outrage into positive change. We have been reminded that the bodies, and psyches and spirits of Sierra Leonean women are not safe because Hannah was not only raped, she was brutally murdered and left exposed. We cannot turn away, we must act NOW.

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(Photo Credit: Fatou Wurie)

About Fatou Wurie

Fatou Wurie is the Survivor Dream Project's Concept Innovator who holds a BA in Gender Studies and Political Science from UBC. Fatou is a passion driven communications and advocacy consultant who has owned her own communications and branding firm, acted as External Relations officer for DFID's supported MamaYe Campaign on Maternal and Newborn Health; currently working at UNICEF on an innovative platform for youth engagement. By night, Fatou is a writer and photographer whose work has been featured on Forbes, Huffington Post, and Amnesty International Digital Blog.