On October 1st of 2015, I was given the amazing opportunity to meet Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, a personal hero of mine. Sister Rosemary works tirelessly at the Saint Monica Girls Tailoring School through her organization Sewing Hope which she founded in Gulu, Uganda. Not only is Sister Rosemary profusely funny and energetic, she is also incredibly intelligent and has a deep compassion for all people that is unmatched by most. While at the University of Oklahoma, Sister Rosemary shared many stories of her life – both good and bad – and explained how each and every experience that she has had led her to begin working with victims of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance army in Northern Uganda.
Since founding her outreach almost thirty years ago, Sister Rosemary has reached more than two thousand women who were brutally assaulted, tortured and raped by the Lord’s Resistance. All of these women were left beaten, alone and hopeless – and many of whom were left feeling as though they were absolutely worthless and no longer had anything to live for. It is only through Sister Rosemary’s efforts that they are rehabilitated and taught various skills – sewing, cooking, and jewelry making to name a few – that enable them to rebuild their lives and begin to make new lives for themselves. However, after listening to Sister Rosemary speak, I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing that she gives these women is a sense of self-love that was previously ripped away from them.
I have followed Sister Rosemary and her work in Uganda since my junior year of high school, and I had a pretty good understanding of the Lord’s Resistance Army prior to this event. However, hearing Sister Rosemary recount some of her own stories and those of the women that she is currently helping rehabilitate was like nothing that I had ever heard before. I am extremely passionate about human trafficking prevention and the eradication of modern slavery, and I was outraged to hear the of the child soldiers taken hostage by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Many young children – both girls and boys – were taken from their families as young as five years old and were assaulted both mentally and physically; perhaps, the most prominent form of abuse being sexual. I am absolutely shocked at the fact that this issue goes unnoticed in our modern societies and receives practically no media coverage. I would argue that a large part of the reason that these acts are allowed to exist is because the vast majority of the public is unaware of the issues at hand.
Not only was this event an excellent opportunity to learn more about the work that Sister Rosemary is doing in Gulu, it was also a great chance to learn more about the severe objectification, sexualization and oppression that women face on an international scale – especially in under-developed regions. This objectification is so far reaching that, in some cases, women are even treated as “trophies of war” and are taken against their will and used in any way that their captors desire. We have talked a lot in this class about the oppression that women face within our societies and how they are sexualized and objectified by pop culture and mainstream media, but it was interesting to learn more about the different, and often far more violent, forms of oppression that women in different areas of the world face.