As a South Asian woman, I feel disempowered when I continue to see how my community treats women who have opinions that don’t fit the patriarchal standards. This past year we have heard countless, heartbreaking stories of murdered South Asian women such as Sania Khan and Mandeep Kaur.
Both of these women took a stand against misogyny and paid the ultimate price.
I’m also a mother. I have a 4-year-old daughter. Everyday I worry about the messaging she is receiving about who she should be and what her place is in the world.
I want my daughter to be fearless, loud, and unapologetic but we live in a society where women who step into their power are seen as nothing but an inconvenience. We are told to be smaller, quieter and less imposing.
I recently saw an article discussing how school girls as young as 16-years-old in Iran are standing up to the government. There is a powerful image showing four schoolgirls with their hijabs off, giving the middle figure to a picture of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran.
I can’t help but think if the protests in Iran and these pictures are just that much more hard hitting because it’s women and girls who are rising up and being everything but quiet and obedient like they’re expected.
As a woman of childbearing age I also worry about the future. This year we witnessed a historical blow to women’s rights in the United States as our sisters lost autonomy over their reproductive health. It makes me furious to think that my daughter is growing up in a world where someone else might have control over her uterus.
We are also watching as Iranian women fight to the death for autonomy over their bodies. I struggle to process the brutal pain and screams of the Iranian women as they fight to have control over their futures.
It doesn’t matter how far away their war feels, they are us and we are them.
How can we celebrate International Day of the Girl Child when there are women and girls in this world being shot down for saying “no, you cannot tell me how I should look, act or behave?”
So, no, I will not be celebrating International Day of the Girl Child. Instead, I will be thinking about what the next generation of girls in my life—my daughter, my niece— need to see in their patch of this world.
If you would like to take action this October 11th to continue the fight for human rights for all girls and women here are some things to consider doing:
- Talk about women in power and show your girls what women in power look like. Do you know any women in politics? Women CEO’s?Find some, normalise their faces in positions of power and talk about the good they are doing.
- There are so many great resources for kids that discuss female heroes. One of my favourite books is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls which tells the stories of extraordinary women.
- Support a cause that directly impacts women in your area. Community resources such as The Elizabeth Fry Society, Atira Women’s Resource Centre and the Surrey Women’s Centre are always looking for volunteers and/or donations. How we give back to our community, to those who are struggling, directly impacts the lives of women, their families and especially young girls.
- Do you speak another language? A lot of the resources I just listed above could use volunteers who speak another language and are able to assist women in need. Again, how we help impacts not just the families in need but the community at large. Asking for help is deeply stigmatized in many communities, your language skills could help break barriers in meaningful ways and help a young girl whose family is struggling.
Finally, this is a special request for all the women out there—be the woman you want your girls to be.
Show your daughters what it looks like to be living your best, fullest life. The best way to celebrate the girls in our life is to show them the endless possibilities but to also live those possibilities.
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