Veils, Halos & Shackles – A Voice for Change

Picture a defenceless child being dragged from their home by members of their community – people they trust and love. They scream as they are held down, and again as a cruel blade pierces their skin. They beg for help as their beloved mother looks on in tears, immobile. Everyone gathered hears their pain, witnesses their shame.

And no one

did anything

to stop it.

These are some of the concluding lines of my poem Severed from the Veils, Halos and Shackles (VH&S) anthology. This statement translates the wave of helplessness I experienced upon reading an article on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), written by an aid worker in Africa. I knew about FGM, was aware it happened, but reading that article as a young mother made the practice horrifyingly personal.

My heart broke for the child who had been assaulted. Worse, there was nothing I could do to change it for them. Images plagued my mind, playing out the attack, watching the little one’s terror, hearing their cries. It challenged my comfortable existence, safe from such atrocities. Out of these roiling emotions I wrote Severed.

That was many years ago, well before the remarkable VH&S project had been birthed. What difference could one poem make? Yet, I felt I must pen those words.

vhs_coverfbThen, thanks to visionaries Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay, poets worldwide were invited to contribute to a unique work focussed on the empowerment of women by sharing stories of the oppression against them. Through Charles’ and Smita’s persistence and dedication, VH&S came to have form and eventually found a home at Kasva Press, Israel.

One could say each poem is just one of hundreds in a single work. One could say this poetry anthology is one of countless others. But in May 2015, while VH&S was still going through the publication process, Nigeria banned FGM. What a timely reminder of the need for this publication and the power of using one’s voice to instigate change. Other countries are gradually following suit in banning the practice of FGM.

To quote from the VH&S site:

Veils, Halos & Shackles aims not only to make a statement, but to make a difference—to shock, to startle, and above all, to inspire.

On her recent blog post, editor, former psychology academic and writer, Nola Passmore, reflected on her VH&S poem Petals, a reminder of hope in the midst of destructive abuse and pain. Our fellow South East Queensland contributor, gifted poet and author, Catherine Sercombe (also writing as Mazzy Adams), will follow this post on her blog on October 5, in anticipation of our online launch on October 8. Like the dozens of poets who have contributed over 240 poems to VH&S, each of us have a voice. Yes, we alone are only one, but one voice can apply a balm of healing words. One voice can inspire others to speak up. Over time, one voice can change the world.

8 thoughts on “Veils, Halos & Shackles – A Voice for Change

    • Thanks, Elaine. VH&S is a powerful and beautifully presented publication. When I consider the many contributors from all other the world, I begin to appreciate what a remarkable project this is, and how grateful I am to be a small of it.

  1. “To make a difference …” This is never accomplished by our silence, or by looking the other way when something is so horrific it wounds our complacency. It is empowering to recognise that every voice raised in song, protest, or poetry truly does make a difference. Adele, your courage to write and submit your poignant, poetic response to FGM inspired me to put my own poetic protest out there on behalf of women, joining with you, Nola Passmore and the other 180 myriad voices arrayed in Veils, Halos and Shackles. Thanks for your commitment. Cathie Sercombe/Mazzy Adams

    • You have such a wonderful way with words, Cathie. I am so pleased you added your voice to VH&S, and humbled that my words would prove the catalyst to submitting your poem to this work. Thank you for sharing the journey (VH&S and the greater writing adventure) and inspiring/urging/prodding (kindly 🙂 ) me along the way.

  2. Good to hear the story behind your poem, Adele. And fantastic to hear that Nigeria has banned FGM. I’m looking forward to dipping into Veils, Halos and Shackles to be challenged and inspired.

    • We look forward to sharing the launch with you, Jeanette. 🙂 V,H&S really is a remarkable work. Such a privilege to contribute in a small way to seeing the word spread and awareness of women specific injustices gained through this beautifully presented publication.

  3. Thanks for sharing the story behind your poem, Adele. It’s powerful. So good to hear that some countries are starting to ban FGM. It’s amazing what can happen when people give a voice to these types of issues and start to stand up for social justice. Looking forward to listening to your podcast at the launch on Saturday. Thanks for sharing.

    • Agreed, Nola. It’s good to see change happening on this issue. I’m also looking forward to Saturday’s launch – and hearing yours and Cathie’s poems too. It promises to be a great event. Thanks for commenting.

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