‘THE Story Behind: A Memoir of Struggle and Triumph’ by Jennifer Gatsi is a deeply honest and incredibly brave account of Gatsi’s life, featuring both highs and lows, and touched almost in equal measure by adventure and tragedy.
Covering themes of childhood abuse and instability, Gatsi details how her early years were marked by abuse, extreme poverty and witnessing transactional sex for survival.
Sadly, this is an all-too-common experience among impoverished women, particularly on the African continent. However, with fortitude and a pervasive sense of optimism, Gatsi faced many (mis)adventures and never appeared to lose her enthusiasm for her life and career.
As an emancipation and empowerment activist, Gatsi has a rich 30-year track record of serving the community, particularly women and children, in areas such as sexual and reproductive health, community initiatives aimed at women living with HIV, and women’s economic strengthening activities and skills training, both in her native Zimbabwe and Namibia.
“Telling my story, even though exposing deep personal information, liberated me. I would encourage other women and men, that we should tell our stories as it is our legacy and at the same time it will provide awareness of the ills women face and may influence change,” Gatsi told The Namibian this week.
Certainly, Gatsi’s remarkable frankness about her life’s experiences and certain recollections may have readers laughing out loud at her spunk and audacity, while others invoke a deep sense of sadness.
This is particularly poignant in Gatsi’s telling of her experiences of gender-based violence within an intimate relationship which is at times harrowing, and both physically and emotionally taxing.
However, Gatsi once again demonstrates her incredible courage and strength of character, as she manages to claw her way out of the clutches of a toxic and abusive relationship, only to face more tragedy.
Through the ebb and flow of Gatsi’s life, she slowly begins to gravitate towards her life’s purpose, pouring into women like herself – blessed with natural charm and smarts, but planted amid poverty and dealt hard blows in life.
Her involvement with marginalised women would also see Gatsi delved into controversy and cast in a suspicious light both politically and in the press – a personally taxing experience which she details in the book.
“I have been working and interacting with women from different countries and observing the different cultures and traditions – all being patriarchal societies,” she said.
“I observed the difficulties and challenges of gender-based violence and gender inequalities which rendered women voiceless.”
Having retired in 2020, Gatsi turned her efforts to telling her story, which holds many nuggets of wisdom and lessons learned.
‘The Story Behind’ was published through Africa Blossom Publishers, and ghost written by Samuel Mayinoti.
“Jennifer was brutally honest and candid as she shared her life story during interviews that took a total of 21 hours. She reflected a sharp memory of the experiences, events and places that shaped her life,” said Mayinoti.
“As a writer, I regard honesty and the ability to recount details as ingredients of a great memoir,” he said.
Gatsi’s story provides both hope and insight into the many challenges and experiences of women across the continent, and this was the inspiration behind telling her story, she said.
“Women have been suffering in silence, but at the same time moulded by patriarchal systems not to support other women, and to be the first ones to accuse fellow women. For example, if a young girl falls pregnant out of wedlock, women are the first to accuse her. There are so many examples of ‘pull her down’ instead of ‘pull her up’ from fellow women.
“I felt we as women need to tell our stories showcasing the difficult journeys we go through, but still have the resilience to come out not as survivors but victorious.
“We are heroes, having overcome destructive societal attitudes over women and gaining a strong mindset for greatness.”
‘The Story Behind’ is available for N$245 and will be launched in Windhoek tomorrow, 20 July at 17h30, at the Namibia University of Science and Technology Hotel School.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp 081 391 7062
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