In every show I do, there is a moment when I make reference to a dreadful true story of rape and murder. The moment doesn’t last long, the show is not ‘about’ violence against women, but in some sense it is the emotional fulcrum of the whole thing. I didn’t know it when I wrote the piece, but there it is every time, the moment when I am halted in my tracks by my own grief and anger. My audiences have shown great heart and trust by going there with me every time. As the piece developed, I found myself worrying about the ethics of this – exploiting someone else’s horrific experience for the sake of my piddling literary ambitions. At the same time I found myself reading about India as it is today, assaulted almost daily by news accounts of gang-rapes, the murder of young girls, and the appalling comments from prominent male politicians acting as complacent, complicit apologists for rape. I decided that I would have to give something back, and I promised each audience that if they bought the pamphlet of poems from the show then I would donate the proceeds to a rape crisis charity in India. The trouble has been, how to find a suitable charity to which I can donate? There are projects working to support the education, health or economic development of women in India. All worthy, but none specifically looking at sexual violence, and none working across the continent. Mostly they have been small regional organisations with no international provenance. So after some thought, I have decided to donate to Wateraid. This may seem like an odd choice, but I was persuaded by this article in The Guardian which highlights the role poor sanitation plays in the vulnerability of women to attack – most rapes occur when women are looking for dark places where they can go to the toilet in private. Indoor plumbing would save lives. I don’t know whether to rage, or cry. I was glad to hear that the new prime minister in India has pledged not only a ‘no tolerance’ policy against those who commit violence against women, but also an indoor toilet for every household. He has a mammoth task ahead of him, and will need the help of non-profits like Wateraid. I am also very glad to say that thanks to the generosity of my audiences, with two shows to go already I have over £150 ready to donate. You don’t need to see the show or buy my poems to help – just click here.
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