“Girl children must be seen and not heard…”
For as long as I can remember, the saying “girl children must be seen and not heard” has been a part of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that it was done to purposely be malicious towards us; I think it was more along the lines of saying that we should not be loud and boisterous and overly exuberant. It was something that came about to help reinforce the gender stereotypes that exist - we should stick to our docile, quiet roles in society, you know, LADYLIKE behaviour.
As a child growing up, I was often told this as I had a natural ability to be everything that ladylike was not: when placed in a girly gown I would itch and twitch; when given bows and ribbons and cute girly hairstyles I would somehow turn them into a crazy mess – you get the picture. Looking back, I feel sorry for my mother because she had a tomboy not a perfect little angel. From an early age, I was a rebel with a cause that I could not articulate; now I can - I hated subscribing to gender stereotypes.
As I grew, I realised that I was different – I liked dolls and tea-cup sets but I also enjoyed remote controlled cars and books; when other girls wanted dresses and cute shoes for parties, I wanted those also but I would be just as comfortable in booths and pants. I liked being feminine but this did not mean I did not like boyish activities.
I was different, like so many other children I grew up with. We knew who we were but we did not want to be forced into these labels that society has created for males and females. This very subtle message that was taught to me (to us) at a young age helped to shape my view on gender stereotypes which have a very high possibility of leading to the disempowerment of women. I might not have been a very vocal advocate for the empowerment of women in the past but, in my own way, I rebelled.
As I entered university I became more enthralled with the idea of rebelling and met many women who inspired me. Finally, while I was studying in India I met my sister Stella Bella (some of you might know her as Stella Paul – a former voices of our future winner) while interning at an NGO that supported the empowerment of people, especially women at the grassroots. Seeing the possibilities and the many avenues I begun to think of the role I can play. My avenue came late last year, Stella introduced me to World Pulse…
I experienced, subtly, what disempowerment can do and have resolved to, in my own way, rebel against this. I think joining a network like World Pulse can help me to gain knowledge (PERSONAL knowledge) from my sisters around the world that I can share with those I am in contact with…networking, sharing, caring – progressing!