She was boxed in — by weak formations. Those on top telling her what to do with her reproduction. And those at the bottom trying to keep her gender in place. Both contributing in unequal measure to walls of culture, and amalgamations, which didn’t quite meet. Creating angles made of a continual struggle between outer thought and inside thinking.
And her standing spoke of many a time before that she had stumbled but never ever fallen. Even when, with the frequent wind of change, the walls of her world collapsed early. Letting in the rain of circumstance through the cracks. Not eating sometimes. Painful cutting. Not learning. And the family saying while her box was still small “now you go to your husband’s house.” To be inside. To have a place in the community. Always she could rise from her knees to stand — and use her hands for shelter. To support herself and rebuild again when the opportunity appeared. For her mind was always free to explore what she would do while laughingly skipping to the other side of the box for safety. To look out of her isolated window of poverty and gender.
Even when her box became full of a pregnant pause, because of a lack of planning — and a floor maladjusted to the underdevelopment of her social plight stretched under the strain of the new life growing her support. She had stood. In the silence. Savouring her ability to still naturally support — and be a climbing frame that would not bar the progress of her little monkeys.
But the last time I saw her was different. As for three months her life had hung in the balance due to the birth of an unhealthy flaw in the bottom of her box. Arms stretched taut, like an overinflated balloon. Delicately holding on to the frame shaped by her circumstances. Waiting to pop. From her rural companion of scarce resources. Like her sisters who fell unprevented every minute. I know she could not “stand” to see the suffering caused by her family trying to cling on to her for dear life. For she had to let them go — for them to survive. For her to survive. For they were all marred by her chronic infirmity. Of being unable to free her hands to repair the damage to this “flaw” in her most dependable part. No longer a supporting infrastructure to the roof and the walls. No longer a support- for herself. Or those she had mothered, who lay still in tacit compliance with their mounds of silence. Even the catheter acquiesced as it thrust out from deep tears below. The chain of yellow colours constantly trickling past a support now rendered as functionless as her legs, which dropped uselessly in the wind. Lying in a perturbing puddle past her feet. That dignified odour. And stained her into a stigmatising invisibility of expression. No laughter. No joy. Just an abnormal connection — an obstetric fistula. Tears below.
I knew intuitively it mattered. The right side was simply logical. For without her there was a gap in society. She was an essential building block. Within wider boxes of which I was a part. My stepping stone for moving up … when born down below. The simple solution to inform health priority to shape a form. That followed function via individual thought and expression at the floor. Deeper structural elements which injected a consideration for context, shape and programmatic outcomes. To explore ingrained patterns and inner insights. Creating inputs that translate as 12 angles of in-comes. Values plastered on the inside like wallpaper. Inner change forming outputs through a change in behaviours, and ultimately creating outcomes. Continuous cycling of iteration. What was left then would creatively reach her inner values. Atop policies to protect with backward (driving) and forward (facing) thinking. Thinking inside a different space
So I went out looking for foundation with which to support her right to eradicate the flaw of her marginalization. And found that no one really noticed her weeping there. For outside were only thoughts of “What if” to plaster over the cracks of perceived complexity. Proximate determinants of frameworks outside the power and perspective of those on the inside. As a social, cultural and political status set her so low in society that those thinking what to do from the outside dealt only with the visible dimensions of her. And on seeing the box on the floor they stepped around it, at best addressing the sides and the roof. With efforts that didn’t quite see the flaw on the ground so obviously simple from inside. That health underpins — all. There is no substitute. Poor integraton of a top down approach from her inclusive participation from the bottom. Creating a crushing gap. A flawed gap and an empty space. One-dimensional accounts describing the problem as angles of gender inequality. Trying to count the hundreds of women who fell daily, not seeing that she was as good an indicator of all those who were dead. Making her as much an outcast from all talk of maternal mortality statistics as she was from her community. Increasing her vulnerability to the multiplicity of programmes and entities that all had singular vertical attribution that didn’t link up with her horizontalness. Planning families early only to die later. Educating that poverty in gender terms was poorer still in societal terms. And neglecting the disparity in spacing children, when their continued deaths had caused her existence.
For this third time, to bring forth a child that lived more than five years in her box had taken its toll. Unduly prolonged on the floor of her hut. With the hospital she needed as remote as it was from the minds of policy thoughts. And when she finally got there, being improperly left. Because there was no money as the harvest was not ready. The care-givers were not ready in their boxes. So she had pushed and was left with the tears below that had made her mother cry “now you are wetting the bed like a baby again.” Harsh tears that breached her security into a homogenous mass of colour based on societal interest rather than on internal culture and capacity.
I papered over the flaws as best I could.
But one day she just let go and jumped from the tattered remains. Her raw material gone. Her foundational place empty.
So the shape of society’s health flopped just that bit more. Now maybe she would be simply and thoughtfully included.
For when you think inside the box. I know there is no box. Only you. And your integrated shapes.