March is National Women's History Month, and March 8 is International Women's Day, a day to honor the achievements of women globally. I thought it would be a fitting time to feature No Ocean Here by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, published in 2013, part of the World Voices series. These powerful poems are stories in verse, heartbreaking, haunting, and often horrific accounts of women and girls in various parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Like a gypsy with no shoes,
I walk humbly through cultures,
for women without a voice.
~Sweta Srivastava Vikram, No Ocean Here
Most of the poems have a short preface, which sets up the particular situation featured in the poem. I've listed a couple of examples below.
It's been estimated that over 20,000 women in the Middle East and Asia, where Islam is practiced, are killed by their family members if the latter thinks the victim has brought disgrace to the family or community. ~Honor Killing
In some parts of Gaza, mayit nar (acid) is thrown on women who don't cover their faces. ~Mayit Nar
Every year, thousands of girls are trafficked from Nepal into India for commercial sex work. Most of these girls come from poor families, so they are lured by the promise of employment or marriage. ~Brothel
There are numerous references to the ocean in this book, starting with the first poem, which has the same title as the book, and is an introductory poem about the general plight of women in these countries.
I awaken in a cruel world--
no ocean here
Inspired by true stories and interviews, Sweta Srivastava Vikram's new work is a courageous, compelling, and compassionate collection, which gives these women a much needed voice against violence and oppression. Over 40 poems depict the plights of women and girls in these developing countries, who've suffered too long in silence--and who desperately deserve to be heard.