This post is written by Ylva Maria Pavval, one of our new license scholarhip holders, who runs Niejda – Chicks in Sápmi; a organisation for Sami girls and women.
It’s an essay about the importance of talking openly about difficult issues in our lives and our communities, such as violence and abuse in this case, and the necessity of questioning our loyalties, if those loyalties keep us from protecting and speaking up on behalf of those who need it the most.
Ylva is addressing her Sapmi community in this essay, but her writing is just as relevant applied to other ”enclosed spaces”, such as families, small communities, organisations, and schools.
During the last year, several instances of sexual abuse and domestic violence within the Sami community was reported, particularly in Norwegian media. Brave people have stepped forward to talk about their experience of abuse. This is not a new phenomenon in Sápmi – violence and sexual abuse happens here, as it does everywhere in the world.
I am one of the founders of Niejda, a new feminist organisation for Sami women and non-men in Sápmi. We are working to establish a value system for the organisation that reflects and represent all of our members, who are located in four different countries. But right from the start we knew our position on this one important issue – that every person needs to stand up against sexual abuse and domestic violence, as must we as an organisation.
The Sami people is a minority in the greater communities of our nations, and it’s natural and understandable that we’d want to protect our people, our local community and our families. This, however, makes it more difficult to report a crime committed by one of our own. As it is, it takes great courage and requires sacrifices to do so.
When these stories make their way into daylight, we must dare listen to them. Sexual abuse often leaves the victim full of shame, and if spoken about, the victim runs the risk of being ostracised. This is when it’s important for us to place the shame where it belongs, with the perpetrator.
As a community, we need to equip ourselves to better receive these stories of abuse. We need it in order to safeguard our future. And we must start talking. We must have these conversations around our kitchen tables, today.
Research shows that it’s particularly difficult to speak up about abuse that happens in one’s own home, in closed environments of any kind, or environments where “everyone knows everyone”. We need to figure out how we, as a community, can deal with these issues so that the victims receive the support they need. What happens when the victim is someone close to us? How do we deal with the situation when we know the perpetrator?
Every single person must take a stand against sexual abuse and domestic violence, including us who run the organisations that operate in Sápmi.
This essay is based on an open letter that Niejda wrote in 2016, that was sent to a large number of organisations, institutions, schools and businesses operating in Sápmi, as well as to members of the Sami Parliament in Norway, Sweden and Finland. It was recently published in the Swedish edition of “Women’s International Leaguge for Peace & Freedom”. The letter can be read in Swedish in its entirety on Niejdas website.
Ylva Maria Pavval is an executive board member of Niejda. She belongs to Tuorpon Sami village, and is a resident of Jokkmokk municipality. Niejda is a feminist organisation for Sami women and non-men in Sápmi. The word niejda means girls. Photo: Jonatan Edlund.
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