Just imagine that you had walked into an ATM to draw some cash or, say, you were on your way to a wedding dressed in a reasonable amount of gold jewellery. As you were approaching your car what if someone slit your throat and stole your cash or jewellery? Whose fault do you think it is? The person who slit your throat or your own fault? Would you accept that it is your fault to have done something that is totally legitimate for people to do? Of course, you can always choose to never draw cash from an ATM or to never get out of your car or maybe not to go out alone to draw cash from an ATM. Those are possibly fear measures or safety measures you would take to protect yourself.
It infuriates me to think that every time a rape or murder of a young girl is reported, people say: “she must have done something to deserve it”, “wonder what she was wearing?’, or “why did she go there?” or ” She asked for it because she was hanging out with her friends” and so on…
Have you ever considered everything that a girl has to think of before she steps out of her house for her own safety? Well, here are a few thoughts that possibly run through her mind:
“What should I wear to not attract rape?”
“What time is it? Is it safe to go out now?”
“Wait! Is this a safe place to go to?”
Why should we always live in fear of being violated? What about girls who are very young and probably are not even aware that there are sexual predators around? I remember reading a comment once on social media: “this is why girls should be kept in the house locked up!”. Is this how we stay safe? Well, what about abuse that happens at home?
I am not saying here that we shouldn’t stay safe. But why do we stray from recognizing who the real offender is? Why are we not able to rally enough support to raise the bar on women’s safety at the workplace, in public spaces, in schools and at home?
Let’s remember that what we really need to battle is society’s mindset towards women. And yes, we surely need to work on measures that ensure a woman’s safety in all spheres by taking all practical steps necessary – be it through fixing CCTV cameras in public spaces and campuses or lighting up dark alleys or by reporting stalkers and eve-teasers. We do need to increase safety awareness among people. We need to educate children, both girls and boys on safety. But more importantly, let’s teach them to respect the other. Teaching young boys to respect girls at home and at school will go a long way in ensuring a safe world. Teach them to challenge injustice towards women. Teach them to challenge age-old mindsets that dictate that a woman stays safe when she is locked up somewhere!
Founder & Director
Women of Worth
Do you wonder, what’s gone missing in the world when you hear of brutal incidents of rape, murder, domestic violence and other forms of physical abuse? What makes people resort to such inhuman behaviour? Yes, there lies the clue. It is inhuman. When someone loses their soul within which is the seat of love, honour and respect they do become inhuman. In a culture that very often does not associate respect with women or for women, we have this important task to do. We need to tell the world that what women need the most is not diamonds, flowers and chocolates but respect.
Respect is that sublime choice we make to value another person irrespective of their status, creed, gender or colour. Respect is not what we usually associate it with. It is more than a ritualistic practice. It is an attitude. It is a way of life. I choose to respect another person simply because they are human.
Respect is a principle by which you operate. It defines the way you treat people and let others treat you. To cultivate respect, I need to start with respecting myself first. I have met women who feel they deserve the abuse they are facing. When you respect yourself you will not tolerate anyone treating you without respect. Abuse is not to be tolerated at any cost. So, let’s start with knowing and believing that our value and worth are innate and therefore no matter who we are, we deserve to be treated with respect. When we value and respect ourselves we find it easy to extend it to others. People who resort to violent behaviour often suffer issues of low self-worth and self-acceptance. This is often released without as violence or manipulative and abusive control.
Respect does not force opinions on you. Respect respects your choice. Respect is an attitude. Respect does not pass lewd comments. Respect does not backbite or character assassinate. Respect is not dependent on how you feel at a particular moment. When you make it your priority it is reflected in your behaviour at all times.
Women and men deserve respect. Children and the elderly need respect. Poor and rich need respect. Respect is the next best thing to love. Respect is what will make the world a better place!
From the Directors Desk,
By Kavitha Emmanuel
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Touch the ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Polish the shoes.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Off to school.
Here’s a cute rhyme we teach kids to motivate them to go to school. But our children aren’t teddy bears in the first place and they need more than just ‘shoes’ to go to school.
As parents, let’s make sure that our kids are well-prepared to face the next year in school.
I want to urge parents everywhere to not just look out for your child’s academic performance but also for their physical safety and emotional well-being as well. This will go a long way in grooming your child to be the best that they can be.
Parents have talked to me about their child being bullied in school for their skin colour. Children hurt within when they see their ‘fairer’ siblings or friends get more attention and are chosen for school performances. One parent recalled how no one wanted to sit next to her child in school because she was dark. I have spoken to grown-ups who have shared how this bias forced them to retreat into a shell or has affected their sense of self-esteem.
Our child needs our attention towards their emotional needs. Let’s not ignore them. Let’s not forget to speak words of affirmation and love every day! If there is any clear instance of skin colour bias in the child’s school please do address it with their teacher and school authorities.
Another area we need to watch out for is the child’s physical safety at school. Talk to your child about safety. Don’t simply give out instructions like: ‘don’t go there!’ or ‘don’t talk to strangers.’ Spend time talking with them about why those instructions are important. This can be done without instilling fear into the child but for the purpose of inculcating good sense and understanding. There are numerous resources and counseling material available to aid parents with these tough conversations.
Please remember that most often physical abuse happens in known surroundings with known people. The abuser often wins the trust of the child and the family. Don’t ignore a child’s comments like: ’the driver gave me a chocolate and only me’ or ‘I don’t like the way my teacher hugs me’ or even ‘don’t ask uncle to pick me up. I don’t like waiting at their place till you come home’. Let us listen, observe, and see if the child is trying to communicate something beyond those words. Watch out for changes in behavior and emotional outbursts!
Learning to listen to our children’s emotional needs is as important as meeting their physical needs. We live in a more complicated world than we were used to as children. Children have increased access to media with a growing need to discern these media messages every day. We live busier lives today which may lead to missing our children’s warning signals. Let’s cultivate the habit of spending quality time with our children. Set aside a few minutes every day where each child gets undivided attention and support to say what they want without fear of rejection. Let them feel listened to. Let them know that they can come to us when they are in trouble or when they are feeling blue. Our children need to learn to handle LIFE and not just focus on grades.
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About The Author
Kavitha Emmanuel is the Founder and Director of Women of Worth. Since 2009 she has been changing mindsets nationally and globally to end skin colour bias with the Dark is Beautiful campaign. In 2013 she began advocating safety for women and children through the Girl Arise campaign. Ms. Emmanuel has also initiated the Safe Schools Project that equips schools to proactively engage in creating safe campuses for their students.
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