France-based Rwandan artiste, Miss Shanel, real name Ruth Shanel Nirere, released her new track ‘Atura’ in March, a song that encourages women facing domestic violence to speak out, about the injustices.
Speaking to The New Times, Shanel shared that the song was inspired by her background that was dominated by patriarchy and followed her through her marriage.
“I was born and raised in a community where you had to remain silent about domestic violence, especially when it was done by Umutware w’urugo, (head of the household).
I felt the weight of the words that my society uses to designate a man when I got married, some friends and family would ask me how Umutware was doing and it would irritate and sadden me so much because I know so many women who are suffering from this patriarchal system. Many mothers, wives and daughters are suffering under the punches of fathers and husbands who make and band rules when it fits them,” she said.
Last month, she released the video of the song directed by Rwandan filmmaker, scriptwriter Kivu Ruhorahoza, and feature famous Rwandan actors like Daniel Gaga, Béatha Mukakamanzi, Eugène Nkota and the singer herself.
“I heard many times that no woman or a girl is allowed to contradict her husband or father in public but do they really have a space to speak their heart and mind out in their homes?
They don’t in most cases and I cannot keep up with the culture of covering up the domestic violence based on sayings like, amafuti y’umugabo ni bwo buryo bwe”, (loosely translated to ‘a man never errs’). With all this in mind, I composed, Atura to start the conversation,” she added.
Atura, which means ‘break the silence’, is an honest and direct conversation from a true friend to a battered woman reminding her that it is not okay to accept, to bear the punches and all other physical and mental abuse of her husband while friends and family stand aside and look.
The true friend asks the battered woman to step up and break the silence before her heart explodes. The song is also a gentle call and invitation to everyone in society to break the silence about domestic violence.
Soon enough, a number of her fans were inspired by the message in the song and reached out to her to share their testimonies on domestic violence. The singer-cum actress has taken on the campaign and is now sharing the messages on her social media platforms to encourage more people to speak out.
“Atura is a loud voice,” Shanel says, “which I hoped would resonate with women, who are still suffering from domestic violence anywhere. It is overwhelming how people are responding and opening up about their stories. I thought of Atura campaign as a platform to continue the conversation and to invite people to verbalise domestic violence with their words and with their consent I share the testimonies on my social media platforms and hope it helps someone else to speak out or look for help and justice.”
She shares the testimonies on social media twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday.