Sabrina Almeida

Will you be celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on Monday? Given the pandemic situation most events honouring women will be virtual. But there are plenty of more personal and meaningful ways to celebrate “girl power” including watching female-oriented content and reading inspirational stories with the young ones in your family. Don’t forget the special mention for all the ladies at home!!!

Having said that, appreciating and empowering women should not be limited to a passive pat on the back on a given day. After all, any positive change is driven by whole-hearted and sustained action. So why not take up the challenge to lead by example?

This year’s IWD theme #ChooseToChallenge tasks each one of us with the responsibility of driving change. 

Makes sense to walk the talk, doesn’t it? 

It is no secret that most of us South Asians are largely apathetic to Women’s Day, unless forced into these events through work, perhaps. 

Ironically, we should be most invested in gender parity given our dismal record. But in reality, our patriarchal societies have schooled us into accepting discrimination right from birth and in our homes. So, despite the progress South Asian countries like India may have made on the world stage, high rates of female infanticide, dowry deaths, honour killings, rape and domestic abuse continue their strangle hold on women’s health and development. 

We get upset when we see media reports of these horrific crimes in the home country or community here, but soon forget about them as we go about our daily routine.

Discrimination against women and girls is a pervasive and long-running phenomenon that characterises Indian society at every level. The preference for boys who are seen as caregivers of their parents is overwhelming. The dowry problem makes girls a burden and secondary citizens within the family. Sadly, we carry this flawed thinking with us no matter where we go. 

Many Canadian girls and women of Indian origin have experienced this first hand. Whether it is having to give up a post-secondary education and marry, settle down with a person of their parents’ choice or abort a female child.

In fact, rising cases of female feticide prompted some GTA hospitals in areas with a high concentration of South Asians to prevent their staff from revealing the sex of a child.

Social workers also say that the high number of domestic abuse cases in the community goes beyond the support cultural groups can offer. Yet shame and the fear of being ostracized by the family prevents many more victims from asking for help and getting out of abusive relationships.

What then is the solution to this problem that we all know exists? It is simpler than we think. If we are willing to get involved that is. Forging a gender equal world requires us to act in favour of gender parity in our homes,  community and workplace.

I’ll bet we all know at least one victim of gender discrimination and abuse… and it is time we stand up for her.

Can we be inclusive of a new sister-in-law, support a co-worker being subjected to sexual harassment, educate and empower the friend to let go of a toxic relationship? Or simply listen to the neighbour who feels overwhelmed and wants to talk? Can we give daughters equal opportunity to grow and explore their potential? Can we speak positively about other women? 

In short, can we take every opportunity to validate  the women around us? 

Let’s take baby steps towards meaningful and lasting changing by empowering one woman at a time. We’ll all be so much better for it!

 

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