Time to celebrate women’s achievements

 BY SUKHDEV GREWAL

 

THE role of a woman has evolved over the last six decades. Gone are the days when women stayed at home and were mainly responsible for the well-being of their families and running of the household. Nowadays women are in powerful positions and working side by side with men. Women are now engineers, scientists, doctors, professors, lawyers, CEOs and politicians. Although women have achieved so much, there is still some room for improvement. Some cultures still have gender inequality which may influence the well-being of women within that particular culture.  As a result, a conflict arises which may well result in disrespect towards women or violence against women.

Although violence against women happens across diverse cultures, the local media reports have highlighted the issue within the local South Asian diaspora over the past decade. Despite this problematic but increased attention, additional resources to support South Asian women living with violence have not been allocated. Often community gatherings, or what is now becoming popularly known as “community cafés,” are hosted to start the dialogues. Giving voice to various forms of violence is important not only for the individual woman, but also for the collective community. Therefore, these discussions are very meaningful and generate tremendous insights and action plans.

Our community is very knowledgeable, committed and hardworking. However, what we lack is the support from our governing bodies. Without the financial means, we cannot achieve what is desperately needed in our community, namely programs that are culturally appropriate and offer a safe environment to address many of the issues that crop up in new immigrant populations such as South Asians. These programs are needed on an ongoing basis and not just as pilot projects. In addition, there is not too much scientific evidence related to the impact of immigration on women’s physical and emotional well-being. Needs assessments and research are needed for planning programs that are geared towards this vulnerable population.

Once the new immigrant South Asian woman is exposed to the western world, where they see women being treated equal to their male counterparts and respected for who they are, they may experience personal turmoil. They may start to ask for their rights to equality which ends up creating issues within the family. In order to support their family financially, these new immigrant South Asian women are having to work outside the home.  This may result in women becoming empowered, independent and knowledgeable. Needless to say, this causes many of the issues where the woman’s partner may feel threatened or intimidated by this new woman.

 

RECOGNIZING that domestic violence or violence against women is higher in the South Asian community, the South Asian Family Association (SAFA) felt the need to take action. These actions include having a conference about violence against women that involved having a number of community leaders from various cultures come together to discuss some of the known factors influencing this issue and possible solutions, while at the same time highlighting and celebrating women’s achievements.

This event takes place annually on International Women’s Day.  On March 8, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activities connects women from all around the world, ranging from political rallies, business conferences, and government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatrical performances, fashion parades and more.  It is a celebration endorsed by the United Nations and was first celebrated in 1911.

SAFA is presenting International Women’s Day (IWD) with a South Asian focus in partnership with the Langara School of Nursing.  This event will take place on March 8. This year’s theme is “Make It Happen” through education, empowerment and awareness. The objective of the conference is to provide the opportunity to explore ways in which we can all share knowledge of these goals and highlight our achievements. This event will empower South Asian immigrant women from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who may also have lower literacy levels, to seek support. It is anticipated that social gatherings such as this will serve to empower women to utilize their innate strengths to challenge violence against women.

The day promises to be one of education and fun. The event will begin at 9 a.m. in the Langara College’s front foyer and proceed to the auditorium. Throughout the day there will be many presentations on various topics, as well as panel presentations and workshops. There will also be live performances throughout the day. Service providers such as PICS, Mosaic, Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Support Society, Battered Women’s Support Services, and many more have been invited to participate.

On behalf of SAFA, we would like to invite you to participate in this conference via poster or oral presentations. Providers have the opportunity to come and share their resources and information via information booths.  The registration fee for service providers is $50 to cover the cost of food. Although this event is free to public, pre-registration is required. For more information, contact SAFA at info@safa.ca or visit www.safa.ca