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Choose to challenge the status quo

International Women’s Day just went by and while I am of the opinion that women should be celebrated everyday, I am also open to celebrating them on this particular day and just take the opportunity to uplift, empower and celebrate women.

This year, the theme for the International Women’s Day was “Choose to Challenge” and it got me thinking of the many ways women already are choosing to challenge the status quo and of what more can be done.

The one woman who has been in the news for the past few months is Meghan Markle. The Duchess of Sussex has been mired in controversy ever since her wedding was announced but she has taken on the world and the royal family and has managed to carve her place. What’s more, she has become a voice for girls and women everywhere. In the 2020 Girl Up Leadership summit, Markle remarked that women need to not just frame the debate but also need to be able to be in charge of the debate.

That I feel forms the crux of the women’s rights movement where women need to be part of the debate, shaping it when it comes to topics involving their rights. Abortion laws for example, have been historically made by the men in charge. What happens with a woman’s body, how she is allowed to exercise her rights, has been determined by others in the society.

Recently a higher court in India, asked a rapist if he would be willing to marry the girl he raped. This outraged many, me included. Where a woman’s rights are concerned, even today, decisions are being made by courts, lawyers, men for women and that needs to change. More women need to be put in places where the debates happen, the decision making happens, where the laws are made and where they are changed.

In 2019, a report was released by Plan International Canada on how women in Canada feel about gender equality. In a survey they conducted, they found out while young girls didn’t feel much of a brunt of discrimination, those 25 years or older had experienced gender-based discrimination. So we must be doing something right in treating young girls but we, as a society are definitely going wrong at some point in treating women, in the transition from girls to womanhood.

So what more can we do?

One of the first things we can do, is rid ourselves of assumptions. Assumptions on what women want, what they feel like, what they need. Women have a faculty of their own which they are capable of using. Every woman has a different experience, different want and need and generalizing and forming opinions and then forcing those opinion on women, is absolutely a big no-no.

So if not assume then what to do? Simple, just ask. Ask women what they want. Ask them what they need. Does a woman who has been raped, want to emancipate from her family, start her own life, keep the child, give up the child? Does a woman want to stay single, get married or roam around the world? Does a woman want to work a job that involves heavy lifting? Well, ask her. It is her choice to make.

And yes, sometimes some of the answers to the questions we ask of other women, might make those around them uncomfortable. Instead of making this about “oh she is a woman!” or “oh it must be her time of the month, surely she didn’t mean it!” , take things at face value when they come out of a woman’s mouth instead of dismissing them because “women are just too emotional”.

And finally, constantly choose to challenge that which doesn’t sit right with you. Doesn’t matter if you are a man being called a feminist or a woman being called too demanding. You go ahead and ask for what you feel is right, and you choose to challenge the status quo.

What are some of the ways you or someone you know has been choosing to challenge? Share with us your stories.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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