Earlier this week, I was privileged to be invited to attend the opening night of The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe, written and directed by Ros Horin in collaboration with Yarrie Bangura, Aminata Conteh-Biger, Yordanos Haile-Michael and Rosemary Kariuki-Fyfe; on whose lives it is based.
“Women have been the spoils of was for centuries. In some societies, rape is so commonplace that no words exist to even discuss it. It’s just how things are. And have always been,” says director Ros Horin.
This year the United Nations has declared that the abuse of women in war is a war crime and will be prosecuted. India has been in uproar over rape. And as Hilary Clinton declared, in her now famous speech, “women’s rights are human rights,” and they must be fully instituted this century. The tipping point is here.
It has taken an almost five year journey to the Opera House for Horin and these four extraordinary women survivors.
Horin says, “I felt strongly from the start, that I wanted to have the four women, whose stories are at the core of this work, to be in the show. It was extremely painful at times, as well as joyous, inspiring.
Many times, Horin asked the women if they wanted if they wanted to go on.
The answer was always the same. “if this work can help even one women’s life, give her the confidence and courage to break free, then it is worth doing.”
I have been fortunate to see rehearsals of the play as well as full performances at the Belvoir Street Theatre and then, this week, at the Opera House. To my mind, it has been worth doing for another reason. The dignity shown by these four women who have suffered crimes that we can barely imagine is truly inspirations but to see how they have grown throughout the evolution that brought us to Wednesday evening and how tall they now stand, is miraculous. A credit to the four women but also to Horin, who has nurtured them on their confronting but cathartic journeys.
I first met Horin through my work for Australia for UNHCR and introduced her to Aminata Conteh, as she was then. A former refugee from Sierra Leone, I have mentored this young woman for seven years. During that time she has married and has two young children. Aminata always tells me, “You have changed my life.” The truth is she has changed mine too.