By Norma Bastidas
This past winter when I was at the 2016 Women's Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, France, I had the honor of being interviewed by Yann Arthus Bertrand for his new documentary, Woman. I know how important it is to share my personal story, but I have to be very careful to avoid being re-victimized. It is a very fine line that many journalists allow themselves to cross, but Yann and his team made sure I could tell my story without any special sacrifice for the purposes of entertainment. A great interviewer makes the subject feel comfortable every step of the way, and this is what Yann did with me. I was able to tell my story with honesty and without any cost to my dignity.
One of the striking differences returning home from the Women’s Forum Global Meeting is that, instead of coming home feeling the rage I have felt on other occasions, I feel both open and at peace. After years of denying my emotions and of trying to put those around me at ease by pretending what happened to me never happened, my self-esteem and sense of self-worth had been severely damaged. What Yann gave me was an incredible gift: the gift of being able to tell my story without feeling shame.
Since the interview, there have been talks of following up with a book or maybe a movie about my life, but any such projects will have to wait. For the moment I am just enjoying the feeling of being able to connect emotionally at a level I wasn’t able to manage in the past. And I cannot wait for the release of Yann Arthus Bertrand's new movie. I believe he has captured the essence of what it is to be a woman: the ability to endure obstacles and injustices with strength and grace, to nurture and create without oppression. For me, loving being a woman did not come easily because it put me at risk so often, but after spending time surrounded by women and listening to their stories, I could not be more proud of my gender. I realize now that the issue has never been about being a woman but about the way society oppresses women all over the world. The best way I can honor this life I was given is to live boldly and authentically and in celebration of my femaleness.
Norma Bastidas, world champion triathlete and survivor of human trafficking, was a featured speaker at the 2016 Women’s Forum Global Meeting organised by the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society.