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"Take action and be a woman of substance!"
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"Take action and be a woman of substance!"

Summaya AfaqOn International Women’s Day, Summaya Afaq, 23, a Correspondent from Karachi, Pakistan, urges women to take responsibility for empowerment through grassroots changes in parenting and society.

As 8th March approaches every year, we witness women’s day celebrations across the world.

But I find it a dilemma not to have found any considerable change in women’s lives as a result of festivities that take place on a mass scale on this very day. Truth to tell, I hold women responsible for this.

Aren’t women the real culprits, not to have reminded themselves on this day that they ought to change their lives for good by being fearless, independent and most importantly, resolute to snatch their rights from those who dare deny them? This women’s day, I wish this article of mine could remind women of their untapped potential and need to take matters in their hands!

Women have long been the victims of abuse. We have long been hearing ruthless stories of exploitation of women, and every time men are held responsible for it. I dare not deny this very fact that men have mistreated women in a number of ways. But this time let us alter our course of thought and action. Why is a woman brought up in a way that teaches her to be submissive and weak? Isn’t she taught that she can’t live on her own by another woman, who is more often than not her mother? We ought to alter the course of thought that nurtures fearful women by empowering today’s mothers for the next, more powerful generation of girls.

This means that women’s empowerment has to start at the grassroots level. I believe motherhood is a real challenge in the 21st century, where daughters are far more aware of their rights than before. However, many of them lack the power and support to challenge atrocities that plague their lives. It is a matter of grave importance that girls are brought up in a healthy environment that guarantees them equal rights in education and health. An environment that encourages a woman to think, judge and express her thoughts freely is crucial, as it allows a woman to feel confident and fearless. For this purpose, we need to enlighten mothers about the need to nurture each daughter under an umbrella of love and support, where she is able to live in harmony with her brothers, but not in any way less than them in terms of rights to education, health and recreation.

What we need is a paradigm shift that allows today’s mother to recognize her value in society. Mothers have to be an inspiration for their daughters, rightly. As for practical solutions for changing the paradigm and giving more power to girls, arts can play a great role in changing the mindsets. We, the powerful girls and women, ought to shun any form of literature, movies or songs that depicts women as needing mercy. For instance, I hate the lyrics of a song that depicts an utterly helpless and a shattered woman who is praying to God this way:

“What you did this time, oh God, don’t do it again…Don’t let me come as a daughter in my next birth”

Phew! This raises some serious concerns about the sanity of the singer and composer, who thinks women are so helpless that they don’t even wish to survive. Do you agree? I am sure not. Be it theatre, song or drama, art is believed to inspire mankind and heal souls. Inculcating a sense of confidence and belief in order to empower women can be easily done through depicting real life stories of powerful women who refuse to bow down to oppressive social norms. Thus, arts and artists can go can a long way in imparting sense to women about the way they can respond to undesired events in their lives by challenging the norms of society that binds them to unjust traditions.

Not only arts, but women entrepreneurs can make use of their resources to empower the less privileged and downtrodden women in society. Fiza Farhan, a social entrepreneur from Pakistan, has empowered 135 women in the country’s rural areas by training them to become energy entrepreneurs. Now, these trained women will make sure their daughters follow dreams! Similarly, Malala Yousufzai is a symbol of resistance for those who deny girls’ right to education.

Mothers! Help your daughters unleash their potential. Stand by their side and against the unfair norms of society which haunt them. Feminism is not about giving women power. Rather, it is about changing the way women’s strength and power is perceived. Remember girls; never give up on yourself as each one of you is born with the power to change someone’s life. All you need to do is to be yourself! Stay strong! Let not fear and despair take control of your life. Recognize your strengths, enlighten yourself with knowledge and move on with perseverance. Make sure you make your mark as the next most inspirational woman of substance!

photo credit: What does feminism mean to you? via photopin (license)

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About me:

I hail from Pakistan, Karachi, and am studying at Karachi University Business School. I have also worked as a free-lance writer for a local company, Brainees.

The global challenges related to quality education, poverty, illiteracy, extremism and exploitation of resources is a concern for me.  I want to mobilize mentors to enlighten the youth of Pakistan about the value of critical thinking. The future of Pakistani children can be changed through empathy and volunteerism in underprivileged areas.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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