Sharing her experience in captivity in Somalia and the importance of Women's Week
Amanda Lindhout, a humanitarian, womens rights activist, journalist and former captive of Islamic terrorists, recently left her mark at StFX. She inspired and touched the hearts of many students and members of the Antigonish community on Friday with an impassioned speech that culminated a series of successful International Women’s Week events.
Lindhout was held captive in Somalia in 2008 for 460 days. Her perseverance and determination has led her to become an activist for women’s rights and creator of The Global Enrichment Foundation, an organization that strives to empower women in developing and conflict-ridden countries. Lindhout is also a graduate of the Coady Institute, having completed the Diploma in Development Leadership in 2010.
Lindhout’s speech began by describing her early life as a sheltered young woman living on welfare in an unstable family. Growing up, she and her single mother had no money and lived in an abusive setting.
It was a struggle for her, but she “had an escape.” Lindhout remarked that “it came to me through my National Geographic magazines. I had a dream for myself, to see the world.”
Travelling from one country to the next after graduating high school, her eyes were opened to the oppression experience by women around the world.
Lindhout explained how she felt some sort of responsibility for this new-found information. She described asking herself what she would do with the awareness and knowledge gained and felt as though her travels needed a bigger purpose. This led her to journalism, which she stated “was branched off [her] love of storytelling.”
Having this sense of purpose, she departed from Canada, putting herself in dangerous and war-torn countries. When asked why, she explained that “it was the peoples’ stories that pushed me to keep going.”
Not only was it that she wanted to give others a voice through her stories, but it also gave her something to be as an individual.
“I became the person who had information about the world... I became much more globalized and that became the new identity,” Lindhout remarked in an interview.
Katie Vaughan, a second year Human Kinetics student commented that Lindhout “has inspired me to find myself through the world.”
Vaughan was not the only one who felt that way. In conversation with other students, one explained, “I now want to make a difference with my travels. Instead of just taking in sights I want to learn and engage in other cultures.”
Lindhout described that meeting people around the world “lit a fire inside her” and it brought her to Somalia, where she was taken hostage by insurgents. She explained that her traumatic experiences at the hands of her captors forever changed her and shaped the woman she is today.
Although nothing could distract her from the horrific conditions, Lindhout said that while in captivity she “would find any little thing to feel grateful for.” It helped her find positivity in such darkness. In response to Lindhout’s positive spirit, a second year science student shared that Lindhout “inspired me by taking any little thing to push through the day, and no matter how hard things can be, there’s always something to be grateful for.”
“Hurt people, hurt people” is how Lindhout came to understand and empathize with her abductors and the trauma she experienced in Somalia.
“I was so aware of who my captors were,” she revealed.
Lindhout understood that they had been uneducated, abused, orphaned and poor. They were humans that “had layers of pain and suffering” that clouded “over top of their consciences,” according to Lindhout.
As a result, her ability to recognize their unforgiving situation allowed her to stay strong and persevere even in insufferable moments.
Ultimately, those realizations helped her at a second chance at life. She took what she learnt and put all of her energy into establishing her Global Enrichment Foundation once released from captivity. She had been particularly touched by an experience with one compassionate women while in captivity, and has noted in interviews that “when you educate a women, she educates the entire family.”
Lindhout asserted that most women raise their children, so if women are educated, children can be educated too.
Lindhout also added, “The message I want to spread is as much for men as it is for women,” explaining that society needs to work together and educate everyone in order to achieve success.
“I feel so passionate right now about educating Canadians about our privileges,” Lindhout concluded, explaining how Canadians are fortunate to live in a country where they can enjoy exceptional rights and freedoms.
Overall, Lindhout’s delivery was deeply moving, inspiring, and made a decided impact on all those present.