Being An Indian Daughter – The Dark Side

Being An Indian Daughter – The Dark Side

In India, when a girl is born, her parents start saving up. Buying gold, opening fixed deposit accounts, you name it. You’ll now be thinking, “That’s wonderful! Such loving parents “. Well, think again.

Here’s a clue – this is NOT her college fund.

They are saving for her (eventual) marriage!

Amusing, right? Why would parents worry about a wedding, when a baby is just born? Shouldn’t they be thinking along the lines of, “Who will wake up for the 3am feed?“, ” What are we going to name her?“, “Look at her tiny nose and fingers and toes!“, “Oh, she is sooo cute!” ????. Sure these thoughts are in their minds. Along with gems like, “OMG! How do we pay for her wedding?” and “I must guard her like a hawk so she doesn’t ‘besmirch’ the family name“. Because, in India, a family’s reputation rests solely on the frail shoulders of the little baby girl!! ????

A vast majority of the Indian subcontinent still prefer a son. I know some folks whose faces fell, right after hearing they had a healthy baby girl. And some others, who preferred not to marry from a family consisting entirely of daughters – because – the women may not be capable of producing a male child! Imagine such thoughts, in this day and age!

A girl is a responsibility to the Indian family. Even if her parents don’t see it that way, the relatives will ensure that her parents eventually fall into this line of thinking. She is on ‘loan’ to them, and her ‘real home’ is supposedly with her husband (and in-laws). Her parents’ duty is simply to ensure she is brought up a well-mannered woman, who doesn’t bring a ‘bad name’ to the family.

From the time she can walk and talk, she hears – “Sit properly!” , “Cross your legs when seated!“, “Stop playing in the sun, no one likes a girl with dark skin“. If she fools around too much, then it is, “You are a girl! Behave like one“. I am curious – is there an instruction manual to explain life rules that apply to females of Indian descent? ????

According to local wisdom, an educated girl may become too ‘difficult to handle‘ after marriage ????. Subscribers to this archaic theory believe that, once educated, a woman may begin to think for herself and not silently accept everything dumped on her. When educated, it is often so she can secure a good match (read ‘husband’), rather than for her benefit or so she can support herself in life.

At home, she is ‘privileged‘ to learn the secrets of cooking and cleaning along with her mother. Her brother is frequently given a free-pass by parents citing, “Oh, he has lots to study“. Obviously a boy’s education is more important than a girl’s, and he doesn’t need to spend time learning life skills! And this ideology imparted to him in childhood towards girls, carries on for the rest of his life.

After working so hard for an education, does she get to pursue a job? Not necessarily. She may have a great job before marrying. After marriage, her holding a ‘job’ may be deemed unsuitable to her husband’s family circumstances. So much so that in India, this is a question of paramount importance to ask the groom’s family when they come to ‘see’ her as part of the bride-seeing ceremony. A strange family decides whether a woman gets to go to work while her own family watches in silence, and tells her “Just adjust my dear. It’s for your good future”.

I know women who were brilliant at their jobs, and then settled down to a life of domestic duties after marriage. Why? Because their husbands didn’t want a wife who went out to work. I know girls who were stopped from learning to dance – all in the name of “What will others’ think?“. Choosing to stop doing something that brings them joy, or to stop working and supporting themselves as they no longer felt fulfilled by it, is something the woman should be able to decide. But having to cave in to pressure from others, and then being made to feel like it was their own choice and for the good of the family – this is how many women are put under invisible shackles by society.

What of women who decide they want to choose their own partner? God forbid! Either cast out, labelled black sheep of the family, or both – she is forever a warning to future generations.

Alright. Now the Indian daughter is (presumably) enjoying wedded bliss. What’s next?

A month into marriage, well-intentioned relatives descend like locusts and ask that dreaded question – “Vishesham vallathum undo?“. Apologies for reverting to my mother-tongue, for there is no other phrase that sounds perfectly innocuous and yet deadly to the new bride! The literal translation is “Is there any news?”. The so-called ‘news’ everyone is awaiting is that of her pregnancy. Regardless of the answer, there is nothing for them to do; but they will persist in asking the question every time they meet the girl or her parents. Strangely enough, they don’t usually ask this to her husband. Hmm….must be because human pregnancies are achieved via parthenogenesis*????

Continuing the family line also seems to be the sole responsibility of a woman. Women are often blamed for failing to give birth to the all-so-desired male ‘heir’. This must be why women are referred to as ‘goddesses’ by the Indian media, since a woman can apparently choose the sex of her unborn child. Many families have persisted in producing progeny till the desired gender (i.e. male) could be achieved, regardless of how many times the woman had to give birth to attain this state.

And thus the vicious cycle begins anew.

Sometimes, the sole purpose of an Indian woman appears to be: be born, stay home, be good and obedient; marry; stay at her ‘real home’ and be good and obedient; and bear sons.

I’ve heard it on a movie once – “Akeli ladki khuli tijori ki tarah hoti hai” – meaning that a girl by herself is like an open safe. She is (supposedly) game for anyone. She must virtually fear for her life if she goes out after dark. In spite of being a country that prides itself on its cultural richness, many men haven’t imbibed that ‘culture’. To them, culture is a woman who stays home after night, has no boyfriends and marries at the right age to someone chosen by their family. If ever found alone or with a member of the opposite sex (maybe she is hurrying home after a day of classes or work, or after buying groceries, or even after a movie with friends) at night, then she is the antithesis of their ‘culture’ who must be punished and ostracised.

What I’ve described here is merely a tip of many icebergs faced by women in India everyday. There are visible and invisible restrictions imposed on them – through family, society, religion, employers, legislation, and even by self.

Is there an escape? Will anything ever change?

Maybe. If parents mold sons into men that respect women, and do not objectify them.

Maybe. If women of the country stop accepting the current state of affairs, and try to change the system by being the change.

Maybe. If men were to challenge the patriarchy that diminishes a woman’s rights, and support them more.

Maybe. If society stops accepting men/boy with the adage “Boys will be boys”, and instead hold them accountable for their actions.

It will take the concerted effort of several generations and education, before women can even hope to be freed from several of these confinements. But most of all, I think, women must begin standing up for themselves and other women to break off the chains. Unless we want something for ourselves, no one else will want it for us.

Be the light for others to follow.

*parthenogenesis: human conception without fertilisation by man
Would you raise your child differently from the culture you grew up in because of his/her gender?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by World Mom Veena Davis of Singapore.

Veena Davis (Singapore)

Veena has experienced living in different climes of Asia - born and brought up in the hot Middle East, and a native of India from the state known as God’s Own Country, she is currently based in the tropical city-state of Singapore. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ Several years ago, she came across World Moms Network (then World Moms Blog) soon after its launch, and was thrilled to become a contributor. She has a 11-year old son and a quadragenarian husband (although their ages might be inversed to see how they are with each other sometimes). ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ On a professional front, she works in the financial sector - just till she earns enough to commit to her dream job of full-time bibliophile. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ You can also find Veena at her personal blog, Merry Musing. ⠀

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America Marches On

America Marches On

We are compelled to action.  One year after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the women who protested his inauguration in the United States still hadn’t forgotten a thing. In January of 2018 we took to the streets for a second time to lift our voices together after living through a year of pretty much what we expected when Trump took office. We accurately predicted that protections for most vulnerable Americans (people in poverty, immigrants, disabled persons, and children to name a few) would be under attack. Some foresaw that we might hear hate-filled vulgarities coming from the president, but I think few expected they would be so frequent. I knew that varieties of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, Islam-phobic, xenophobic hate crimes would rise, but I naively never thought we’d see white nationalists openly chanting Nazi slogans and marching with flaming torches in the U.S.A.

Yet last year saw a positive change as people banded together to support each other. The “Me, Too” movement showed the world through social media how common it is for women to experience sexual harassment and/or abuse. Danica Roem became the first transgender candidate elected to a U.S. state legislature through a smart, local, issue-based campaign in Virginia. We saw judges push back against attempts to ban Muslims from entering our country.

I believe all of these events – the good and the bad – resulted in the energy of the marchers being both undiminished and better organized as we rallied around the theme of “March, Act, Vote!” While the enthusiasm of the women around me in St. Louis was still strong, I sensed a difference in tone this time around. Last year, everywhere I looked (including in the mirror) there were women attending their first major protests ever. Their giddy energy was palpable and contagious. Just about everyone I knew who stayed at home in St. Louis knew at least one person who was flying out to D.C. to protest the inauguration. A feeling of novelty and joy in the event came with the solidarity of so many women expressing their disappointment, anxiety, and downright fear about what the future would hold with a confessed sexual predator like Donald Trump in the White House. It was a transformation of epic proportions.

This year, the marchers around me were just as enthusiastic, but instead of novelty, I sensed an overall air of resolve. Snippets of conversations around me revealed that many marchers had not been idle in the last year. Those involved in Black Lives Matter (a movement to stand against violence and systemic racism towards black people) carried their signs as seasoned veterans after months of tensions with the St. Louis Police Department. Organized advocacy groups like the League of Women Voters and Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America were visibly out to harness this precious protest energy and direct it into registering more voters and taking more actions beyond the event. For me, this was incredibly heartening. My two big fears in 2017 were that all of the energy of mass protests would blow away in the wind without organization OR that the constant shenanigans from the White House would eventually wear down everyone to the point that people were simply accepting a new and horrible normal.

Did 2017 wear us down? Somewhat. Over and over, I hear the word “demoralizing” from my friends, colleagues, and group leaders to describe the past year. But an event highlighting positivity, like the Women’s March in January, goes far to beat back the darkness. An environment like that allows a space for us to draw energy from each other. The night before the march, Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Shaare Emeth Congregation offered these words in her sermon:

“Ever look toward one another. Look for each other and find there – in community – comfort and inspiration in the collective power and strength that we have together to create the world we long to see. The world we know that God is waiting for. The world we owe our children.” The night before the march, she urged us to: “Look, look, look, look…look around. It will be the day we yearn for. Not soon maybe, but it will be.”

I chose to participate in the second Women’s March, but skip the speakers in favor of getting my daughters to their Saturday activities. As I was leaving on the train, I met a woman who was doing exactly the opposite…she skipped the march, but was headed in to hear the speakers. I asked if she wanted to take my sign that said, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” with her. She enthusiastically agreed and as she headed off downtown, I thought about how in that brief interaction with a stranger, two women supported each other to literally carry our message farther. Maybe that’s the way it has to be in real life for moms who are changing the world. We carry the banners for a time and when we need to step back to tend to our kids, we lend our support to those who will carry them for us until we can come back.

On March 24th protesters will once again be out in force in Washington, DC as they participate in the March For Our Lives. Spearheaded by our country’s youth, the march on Washington DC demands that the lives of our children take priority over guns and that legislators ensure that the epidemic of mass shootings in our country be put to an end.

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Cindy Levin

 

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.

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Milofy: Using Technology To Create Real Life Relationships

Milofy: Using Technology To Create Real Life Relationships

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As a mom, and as a person who is not entirely into downloading apps (albeit being technologically savvy), I am quite excited when I find a useful app. I mean, I use Snapchat because I have a teenage daughter and because the filters add a unique element of fun to my day; but besides that, a language app, and a couple of photography apps, my list of applications is pretty low. However, I had to make room for Milofy. Why? Because it’s awesome!

Okay, first of all, Milofy is awesome because it addresses a few of the questions, or concerns, I have when wanting to engage with other adults to go out & have fun. For instance, as a business person, I have to meet people. I have made the better friends in the people with whom I was able to interact on a human level, and not necessarily on a ‘business’ level. So, for instance, the couple you meet at an arts’ gala, with whom you end up talking about the South Carolina low country shrimp and grits hors d’oeuvre, or the wine from New Zealand, and with whom you find a common interest in economics, bar-hopping, and… I don’t know…  cooking, may end up being the couple with whom you conduct business, as well as partake in fun activities. Milofy lets you see all of that in a couple before you even meet them! So, my husband and I create a profile, we answer a few questions cleverly created by the Milofy team, and then the app matches us with couples (so that’s already safer than having 1-on-1 meetings with strangers) who are like-minded (taking out the guesswork and the 21 questions we want to ask when meeting new people), and Milofy also matches my husband and I to acti…. you know what? I think you should just read this interview with Arshya Lakshman, a beautiful soul, brilliant person, and creator & CEO of Milofy. We had an extensive conversation in which she answered my questions in detail, and showed her love for humanity and healthy relationships amongst all sorts of people. Please read on to find out just what is Milofy and why you’d want to Milofy, too.

S: So, what is Milofy?                                   

A: Milofy is an app that answers a very simple social problem – making life more REAL – the way it used to be. Have ‘real’ experiences, by connecting couples/families with each other for memorable social experiences, creating healthy balanced lives.M-Couple-IM-Activity Train-v5.png

Even with partners/families and with technology making it convenient to keep in touch, people are still quite lonely and struggle to meet new like-minded people. Very often they have this facade on social platforms – a performance of what they want others to believe their life to be. They say: “this is my life”, you know, “I have these selfies and these stunning pictures”. Gone are the days of making spontaneous plans with ease and finding like-minded people who are free to hang out when you want to.
With Milofy we’re getting people to meet offline, with the help of online technology. We are using technology to bring people together and do so in a safe environment. We help couples connect with other like-minded couples. We match them with an algorithm by asking some interesting questions – it’s a ton of fun but also truly solves the social problems for couples.

Not only do we match couples with each other, we also match them with fun, interesting local activities happening in their cityOne of the cool things about it is that you can choose the same couples to meet with again, or you can choose new other couples to hang out with. 

S: That’s a beautiful concept! So, I am curious about the name. How did the name come up?

A: Hahaha! Milo in Hindi means ‘to meet’. I felt that it had a nice zing to it. Also, it’s an easy name to say.

S: Has Milofy launched already?

A: Yes, actually. We are so excited!

We did a soft launch four months ago and gathered a ton of feedback from couples in New York. People loved the idea and we were getting users organically every day. However, they wanted the app to be even simpler – so we removed some features, made the interface super easy and simple to use. Research suggested that we also give couples a chance to connect on the app first before they meet offline, to help break ground. So the app now has features to chat, send stickers, and engage before meeting offline. We launched Milofy Version 2.0 on the 4th of January. Please do download it from either the Playstore or the Appstore and send us feedback.

Now that we are live in NYC we plan to launch in San Francisco soon! And though there are apps out there for couples, there isn’t an app like Milofy. It’s exciting that we have no competition, and that we are the first ones doing something like this – while we aim to solve a real life problem. M-Profiling-dashbrd-Fulllv5.png

S: Trailblazers! So, my next question is: do you have education, or experiential background in this, in bringing people together, either couples specifically or otherwise, or is this a new venture for you?

A: Completely new. The only thing I have experience in is business, strategy, marketing, and startups.

I did my undergrad in visual communications and a Master in Business from the UK. I worked for startups and large organizations across Northern Europe and Asia Pacific. I started my first startup in London which was an ROI-based marketing firm and then did a short stint with Kalaari Capital (venture capital firm) before I jumped into being an entrepreneur for the second time.
While, I don’t have any background in couples/people or psychology of people; education and work allowed me to live in various cities – in Europe, in the US and finally back home in India. This made me and my partner feel the need to connect with like-minded people – spontaneously. It was difficult to create a social life in a new place and find new couples. Sometimes, even if we had couple friends, things like traffic, availability of time or a mismatch of interests would be an issue. This is how I came up with Milofy – it answered a personal problem for me and hence I set out to create this app. 

 

S: I think it’s important to talk about age because of young women who may want to take on something new. Has you being young, and a woman affected the creation of your app, particularly in India? 

A: Well, I am 33, which is not young (sigh!) when it comes to start-ups, you now see 21-year olds doing so well with their own firms. My first startup was at the age of 27, again – not so young in this industry. I do believe age is just a number and it’s about the energy, drive, and passion that you bring to an idea.

Now as far as me being a woman I should give a disclaimer that I have been very fortunate. I have a very supportive family – which really makes a huge difference, helping me focus on my work. My husband, parents, parents-in-law, grandparent have always said: “do your thing!” and just want me to be happy in whatever work I do.

There have been some rare moments when my parents asked if I was sure I wanted to be an entrepreneur again (because of the amount of time and energy they saw me pour into my previous startup), or when my grandmother asked why I worked so hard and that maybe it is time for me to have a baby (which I believe is a question men do not get asked), but overall, they always have encouraged me to go do my thing.

I think the question of when to have a baby is probably in the back of most women’s minds. As a founder of a start-up, random people have asked me sensitive questions like – oh does it mean you can’t start a family if you start your company? Can I not do both? I remember having a heart to heart conversation with my mentor about these questions. He simply said, “Why is it anyone’s business”. He also said: “Look, who said you can’t do both. My best entrepreneurs have been women entrepreneurs. They are more hardworking, better with their money, and somehow, do everything that a CEO should be doing”.

This really made me feel okay. I realized there are some glass ceilings to break, there will be some sexist questions that get asked. As long as I work hard and believe in what I am doing from my heart – I will be OK.

In terms of executing this idea in India… well, the thing is this: In India, the moment something does well in the US, like Tinder, they might just take it up. (Laughs heartily) They might say: “hey, that’s cool!” So the moment I said Milofy is doing a bit well in the US, now suddenly I am seeing so many installs in India! In India, people may have this thought: “I don’t know, I don’t want to meet someone strange and new”. But then how did Tinder work out here? It’s a huge case study because in India people are more traditional and guarded! There is a cultural shift that’s happening, and I think that’s really going to help me with the introduction of Milofy in the country. Technically, building the app from India has been just awesome – I am so proud of what the team has created here. They are completely at ease taking instructions from a so-called ‘young woman’ entrepreneur. M-CoupleProfilev6.png

S: Have you always had an entrepreneurial mindset (even as a young girl), or when did it begin?

A: Good question. To be honest, I had a dream when I was young. I remember it being very funny, very childish, that when I grow old I’d have built this business empire. Fairly egoistic dream, when I think about it now. I’ll be Arshya Advertising Agency, Arshya Production House, Arshya this, Arshya that. (Laughs). I didn’t pay attention to that dream and forgot about it. When I started working, my goal was to be a senior-most employee at a Fortune 500. I didn’t even know I had the entrepreneurial bug in me, at all, to be honest. I never thought that one day I’d aspire to start a Fortune 500. Now you know my plans for Milofy (giggles)!

When my husband and I moved to the US, I decided to take some time off. However, within three months of my so-called sabbatical, I knew I couldn’t stay so dependent in an absolutely new country. I was used to being drastically independent and this wasn’t working for me. I was conflicted whether to look for a job or dive into starting something on my own. My husband encouraged I should try the latter. This decision just felt right!

I did have the initial hesitation, but within a few days I knew I would combine online-offline marketing (bring more numbers and ROI to marketing), I knew my company’s name, I started attending webinars, and learning how to start a company – it was just so exciting and felt so right!

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S: My last question for you is this: Do you hire both women and men?

A: Milofy is an inclusive company through and through. However, it just so happens that a lot of my team members are women. My head of operations is a lady in NY who has been with Ernst and Young and other large companies, my CTO is a lady who has been the head architect for Unilever and worked for McAfee, Oracle, and Intuit. My social media is run by another organization, which is run by a lady. My current project manager is a lady and so is my iOS developer. Most of my interns are women. Almost all of them are married and have children too! They’re just awesome. They work super hard.

We have a couple of men working on tech and as interns – they are fantastic too, but honestly it’s women all the way at Milofy!

It’s not that I designed for it to be that way, but I have been lucky that I have the most hardworking ladies, and so balanced with their duties towards family and friends.

It’s girl power all the way. We have to take care of each other. We have to help each other. Some people say that women don’t like working with other women. I really believe that’s one thing we should change because women have to support each other. We have to make it easier for each other. I think we should have a more mature attitude focused on empowering each other. It’s not a competition.

I aspire that Milofy can become an organization that empowers women from all walks of life!

 

S: If you could tell young girls anything, as a woman and as the CEO of your own company, what would you say?

A: I would say that you need to really (really) work hard and dream big. And I wouldn’t say be ambitious, I would say be aspirational. You know?

Don’t power your dreams with ego.

Power your dreams with aspiration.

Anybody who wants to be the best they want to be; the universe just works with them to give them what they want. And this whole idea of positive manifestation, positive attitude, I know it sounds really cliché, but it actually works!

I see a lot of interns and I hire a lot of older teens and young grads in their early 20s, and I feel what they really benefit from is by spending a lot more time on serious research and understanding of concepts instead of just shallow things. The new way of reading stuff is so… bullet points, gifs, quick 5-point blogs, etc… People have lost the ability, perhaps, to read long journals.

I truly believe if young girls believe in something, do their research, work super hard, read, keep their eyes and ears open and see what’s going on around them, they can literally do and become anything. And when it comes from a position of love and aspiration, it’s amazing what miracles can actually happen; how mountains can move. It’s beautiful! The world is their oyster.

Be Courageous, Don’t Be Shy! Get the App and Milofy!

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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MADAGASCAR: 16 days to say NO to gender-based violence

NO to gender-based violence

Did you know that each year, there are 16 days dedicated to the fight against gender-based violence? Starting from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day), millions of activists around the world join this campaign, plan actions and speak up to break the curse of violence in their societies.

First launched in 1991 by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, the “16 Days Campaign”, as it is usually called, is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, in partnership with Rutgers University. The event is supported by UN Women and other international institutions aiming at the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The fact is that there can’t be any form of empowerment if girls and women still face violence. Women must first be freed from the heavy burden of violence, which impedes all attempts of (r)evolution.

What is gender-based violence? According to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Gender-based violence is “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately” (CEDAW GR 19, Article 3 Istanbul Convention). And in its Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (A/RES/48/104, article 2), the UN General Assembly identifies various forms of violence, as per the following:

“(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family; including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.

(b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;

(c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs”

This list has certainly evolved since 1993, especially with the advent of social media and new communications technologies which open the door to new forms of harassment. Strategies developed to tackle this curse must evolve along the same lines.

In Madagascar, domestic violence is one of the most widespread types of gender-based violence and is considered a social taboo. Traditionally, each bride-to-be is advised by her mother or grandmother to remain silent, whatever might happen in her marriage. Women are told that what happens in the bedroom and at home must remain there. My own grandmother, whom I love and cherish, told me that “Marriage means sacrifice. Your husband may do things to you (we never name the evil in Madagascar), but just bite your tongue and everything will be fine.” Thankfully, my husband is not that kind of man, but I still feel it is my duty to stand against this curse and to help the unspeakable to be spoken.

Our first project with the 16 days campaign dates back to 2013. We wrote and produced a short film called “Lettre Femme” (a French pun meaning at the same time letter from/to a woman, the female being, or simply a woman). We shot the film at my mom’s house, featuring my friends, who generously volunteered to participate. Last year, we launched the Malagasy Women’s Manifesto Against all Sorts of Violence through a petition. This year, we plan to organize a variety of trainings about nonviolence.

 

It is a tragic fact that many Malagasy women are convinced that they deserve some kind of violence from their partner. “If he beats me, it’s because I’ve done something wrong. It’s my own fault.” Even worse, women (mothers mainly) are the ones who help perpetuate this violence – by silencing their girls and normalizing the belief that violence is part of marriage. Our whole society needs to be educated in order to eradicate violence, and this struggle must start in every household. Teach your boys to respect women – this is the message we have to spread to all parents.

If you are interested in joining this year’s official 16 Days Campaign, please click here. You’ll find all the information related to the event, a Toolkit for Action as well as the communications templates that you can use. Register your event and share it with the world so that we can show the world that women are united against violence. Remember, Unity matters! We shall overcome!

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ketakandriana Rafitoson, our contributor from Madagascar.

Photo credit to the author. 



				
					
FRANCE: I need “help” and that’s Ok

FRANCE: I need “help” and that’s Ok

mirjam_texgramAs far back as I can remember I always had a clear idea of what a strong woman is and how she should behave. A strong woman would do whatever she could to have all situations under control, would not need help and would not ask for it either, would manage on her own and would succeed alone.

This was before. Before what?

Before I had no other choice than say “I need help”. I need help to go through the day. I need help to wake up, stand up and live. I need help to overcome my fears, doubts. I need help to love my child. I need help to face past memories. I need help to rebuild my life. I need help to forgive. I need help to love myself.

And my idea of what a strong woman is changed.

We often think that asking for help is a proof of our inability to face life and its challenges.

If you ask mums, friends, people around you, I bet that the answer you’ll hear most of the time will be something like this “I don’t want to ask for help. I’m fine. I’ll deal with it like a big girl”.

Why can’t “being a big girl” and “asking for help” go together? Why do we, women, mums, think that if we ask for help, people will consider us failures?

I took the step of asking for help, feeling lost and guilty at first. But what I received out of it was worth the try. People who were there, at any time of the day (and night) reassured me – this was the first step towards a better life for me and my child. There was no judgement on their side, only kindness and the assurance that I had made the right choice by reaching out to them.

As women and mums, we have a lot to deal with. Our kids count on us. People count on us, from our partner to our boss, our parents to our friends. And we do make it an important part of the deal that we are the ones in charge. But when something gets in the way, would we rather keep going until we fall or ask somebody to take our turn for a while?

Nowadays, I believe that a strong woman is a woman who knows her limits, who can acknowledge her weaknesses and still feel proud of who she is and who could ask for help knowing that this is the best for her and her family at any given time. A strong woman knows when she can’t take it anymore and feel like her duty to take care of herself, in order to take good care of the ones she loves afterwards.

Your turn, world moms, how do you feel about asking for help? Are you good at it? Or are you finding it hard to do?

This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Marie in France.

Marie Kléber

Marie is from France and is living near Paris, after spending 6 years in Irlande. She is a single mum of one, sharing her time between work, family life and writing, her passion. She already wrote 6 books in her native langage.
She loves reading, photography, meeting friends and sharing life experiences. She blogs about domestic abuse, parenting and poetry @https://mahshiandmarshmallow.wordpress.com

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