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It's so Unfortunate: Barriers that prevent Success & Solutions to ending those Barriers

Although I have not gone through nearly one quarter of what so many women worldwide have had to go through in my life, I have experienced my fair of discrimination.

As a young girl, I was bullied by my neighbor, her cousin and their friends. They told me I was ugly, fat and ‘unlikeable’. They tore my clothes, called my house sometimes to insult me over the phone, and they made me cry. I stayed quiet because I thought I deserved it. I thought they were right; and even till this day I remain a victim to their words. I can’t stand the sight of myself unless I "think" I look beautiful and I can’t look at myself without seeing my many imperfections.

While in secondary school, I had teachers telling me that I was incapable of getting anything higher than a C in their classes. They told me that I would struggle all my educational career because I just couldn’t do it – and because of that in my second year of high school my grades started dropping as I had lost faith in my ability to do well in my classes.

I was blessed to have my dad pay for my tuition for my first two years of University, but after he retired I wanted to take the initiative to take that sacrifice off his hands. So, in order to pay my way through my last few years of University I started working two part time jobs (accounting for a total of 40 hours per week – 20 each) and going to full time school. My schedules were consistently messed up; sometimes I had classes in the mornings and in the nights and I would work during the day, which many at times resulted in me working 7 days a week. I travelled via bus to get to work and school – and I heard a lot of discouragement along the way.

In all of these experiences I learned one important lesson (out of many): how to stay strong, determined and positive. Yes I still suffer from the bullying victimization, but through Saving Angel I want to help other girls and boys just like myself, get through their victimization. While in school I realised that my biggest fight would be the one I make with myself. Yes, I was discouraged by people who were supposed to be encouraging but I learned that the only way I can succeed is if I put my best foot forward and just blank out the rest. I went to summer school to do grade-upgrades, and came out with A’s and I realised that I shouldn’t let the ignorance of others get in my way. In the end I was able to graduate with honors and got Scholarships to go to university. The barriers I faced while in University only helped me become a stronger person and those decisions I made to work 2 jobs and go to school full time, are decisions I will never regret.

I can’t imagine the types of barriers that women in underprivileged situations have to go through – but I can speak for the barriers that prevent girls from succeeding here in North America. We’ve been born into generations where everything is based on physical appearance, popularity and fitting in with the popular culture (whatever that is). Girls are faced with so many barriers starting from lack of respect, lack of confidence, lack of mentorship and support at home – to complete disrespect, cultural inequality, the Hollywood star image etc. at school and at work. No longer are we accepted for who we are; in fact, if we do not conform to the images presented before us (skinny, big boobs, big bum, no body hair (except for on our head), no glasses, straight hair etc.) then we’re considered as outcastes. It’s so unfortunate, that while there are girls in other countries, fighting for the right to attend school and have that privilege as we do here in N.A; the girls here are willing to sacrifice that privilege, their education and self-respect, for the sake of pleasing and conforming to a norm/standard that can destroy them.

My belief is, the only way we can overcome these barriers to put an end to them, is by redefining what the ‘norm/standard’ is; by redefining what it means to be a woman/male (masculinity) in the 21st century. Moreover, by exposing the barriers for what they are (forms of destruction) and enlightening society with the solutions and pathways to success like mentorship, encouragement, group confidence etc we can overcome these barriers that are doing so much harm to the empowerment of women here in N.A. and worldwide.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

kirthijay's picture

WHAT A WONDERFULLY MOVING

WHAT A WONDERFULLY MOVING PIECE! <3

I love these lines best: "My belief is, the only way we can overcome these barriers to put an end to them, is by redefining what the ‘norm/standard’ is; by redefining what it means to be a woman/male (masculinity) in the 21st century."

You really are an Angel <3

Saving Angel's picture

Thank you so much!

Thank you so much Kirthi for not only taking the time to read my piece but for enjoying it as much as you did! I hope we can work together in the future!

Much love & respect xoxoxo

kirthijay's picture

<3 <3 I really hope so too,

<3 <3 I really hope so too, Saving Angel!

xoxoxo

Nakinti's picture

I understand you perfectly

I understand you perfectly well dear.
I know what it means to loss self esteem because of what others think about you...honey never u border about what others think about you.
I am glad that you have been able to overcome that nightmare, more power to your elbow.
Love.

Nakinti B. Nofuru
2013 VOF Correspondent
Reporter for Global Press Institute
Bamenda - Cameroon
Email: nakinti@globalpressinstitute.org
nakintin@yahoo.com

Thank you so much Nakinti for your kind words of encouragement! I'm glad I could get past those barriers. I know there will be more in my future to come but I'm more than ready to face them with open arms!

Much love and respect xoxoxo

bhavna's picture

I relate!

"In all of these experiences I learned one important lesson (out of many): how to stay strong, determined and positive." these are the crushing lines of this article, just loved them.
I had always had to fight my way forward and that is how I relate to what you said. The strong determination to overcome all the barriers purposefully laid before me made me do what I would have never done.

Warm regards
bhanva

Saving Angel's picture

Thank you!!

I'm so glad to have met you! And to find someone who can relate to me and so many other women! Its determination that can get us all through the difficult times!

Much love & respect xoxoxo

Deqa's picture

Beautiful Post

You are strong and courageous to overcome these obstacles and you sure are an inspiration to many young ladies including myself. And I applaud you for having the initiative to give back and help other kids get over their barriers.

Love
Deqa

Saving Angel's picture

Thank you so much!

I hope I can continue to be courageous and strong as always & I hope I can continue to be an inspiration for so many children and women! Thank you for sharing such kind and loving words of encouragement!

Much love & respect xoxoxo

pelamutunzi's picture

lets rise above obstacles

thank you for sharing.

your life is a testimony about finding yourself and success. m truly inspired. its not always easy to get past what people say or think about you words hurt and destroy. many girls give up because of such challenges well done for managing in such a hostile environment hope the girls you are working with will also rise above their circumstances.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Saving Angel's picture

Pleasure is all Mines!

You are so right, my life is about finding myself - and I've found myself in doing my work thru Saving Angel. It is very difficult trying to get through the hard times, having to deal with the harsh words and horrible criticisms - but its important that we all stick together help each other through these difficult times.

Much love & respect xoxoxo

Aminah's picture

changing the ‘norm/standard’

You are indeed a saving angel. Keep up the wonderful work.

And yes, we all need to work together to change this social construct of norm and standard.
and you have very rightly said that in some parts of the world women are fighting for their chance for an education,
while in places which are more fortunate, women do not take up tertiary education for so many other reasons.
There is so much work that needs to be done.

Regards
Aminah

Salaam
Aminah

Saving Angel's picture

Thank you so much Aminah!

Thank you so much for your wonderful words of encouragement! It's true I think if we all worked to redefine these social constructs worldwide then it would make a significant difference not only for children in the western hemisphere but also for children in the east as well. There is definitely alot of work that needs to be done! But I'm sure together as a team we can make a difference!

Much love and respect xoxoxo

busayo's picture

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for sharing your story with us, it is so amazing

warmest
Busayo

Busayo Obisakin
Women inspiration Development center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria
busobisaki@yahoo.com
womeninspirationcenter@gmail.com
http://womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng

Saving Angel's picture

My pleasure!

Thank you so much for reading my post! It's so important that we all share each others stories!

Much love & respect xoxoxo

j3ssm3ss's picture

REFRESHING

I really enjoyed reading your article Saving Angel. As I'm from the UK it was a nice contrast to other pieces I read on World Pulse reading about a North American - It's really frustrating to think that, both coming from developed countries with access to education for all (at least on paper) that this opportunity can be squandered by women like us because of social pressures and the lack of self confidence you describe. I'm a teacher now and I still remember so keenly what impact my own teachers' words (good or bad) had on my perspective and self-worth when I was young. Its so important to keep that knowledge when we grow up!!

Your article seemed to fit well with this one I read too... shows how similar in some ways peoples situations are across the world...

http://worldpulse.com/node/69503

I'd love to know more about you role now and what Saving Angel does! Keep writing.

Saving Angel's picture

Thank you so much!!

First of all thank you so much for taking the time to read my post! I totally agree with you - it is definitely frustrating when you have to see the ways in which girls are depriving themselves of taking up this opportunity. At the same time, its hard to not blame ourselves (society in general) for not doing any different because of the standards etc. that permiate throughout the billiards and walls of our cities.
Thankfully there are members like yourself in our communities who are wonderful teachers and who support the equality and empowerment of women - in trying to defeat these harsh and discriminatory standards.
I would love to connect, communicate and collaborate with you! And I would love to tell you more about Saving Angel!

Thank you once again!
Much love & respect xoxoxo

j3ssm3ss's picture

Thank you :)

Your welcome, and thank you - I'm very new to World Pulse and so excited about all that I'm reding on here and learning too. Such a great community. I know exactly what you mean about blame - it's time to tak responsibility and change things. Good luck with everything and I look forward to following in future :)

Take care x

Saving Angel's picture

I agree!

I'm quite new as well so I totally understand the excitment and enjoyment you get after reading and interacting with everyone! And yes, it is time we take the responsibility and try to do something about it. Its never too late!

Much love & respect xoxoxo

I really related to your article. When I was growing up, an Aunt always made negative comments about my weight. My Mom never defended me and I thought it was because what my Aunt said was true. Years later I saw a picture of myself and realized that she had been wrong. I was just ordinary size, but from age 10 forward I have had a negative concept of my body. My Aunt's daughter, my cousin, grew up with an eating disorder. Even though we find out as adults that these things were said because of that person's own insecurities, the damage has been done to our own self esteem. I too wish we could revise our idea of how we are "supposed' to look and be, and change gender roles for men and women as well. I believe the roles damage both men and women. Keep speaking out. You have something relevant to share.

Diane Ezeji

Saving Angel's picture

Thank you so much!!

I totally agree with you! Its so true; even though they speak on behalf of their own insecurities, they always somehow find a way to destroy our self-esteem and belief in ourselves. It's so unfortunate that some of the people in our lives can be so destructive and disruptive to our health (mental, emotional, physical etc.).
You know Diane, yesterday I went to a clothing store to try on some sari's for my sister's wedding, and I couldn't fit into any of the clothing. I felt so disturbed and frustrated with myself because I felt fat and ugly. The girl helping me told me that it's not my fault - "its just that, this is how the bollywood style is now, they don't make clothing for plus size women now". When she said that, her words reminded me of how much I hate shopping for myself, because I'm so insecure and frustrated with myself.
I think its essential that we as the present generation reevaluate the definition of these very important and entrenched concepts within our societies to prevent further pain and anguish towards our children.
Thank you for your wonderful comments! Hopefully we can work together in the future!

Much love & respect xoxoxo

edelgros's picture

Thank-you for sharing this- I

Thank-you for sharing this- I know how hard it can be to talk about one's own issues with self esteem and the pressures put on us by our culture.

I'm so glad you were able to overcome these things by learning that you ARE capable and that you CAN do well, even if your horrid teachers didn't see it. What's ironic is that so many people in our society would never be able to do what you did. I completely relate- I've always had at least two jobs, even as a graduate student, and how I can never feel beautiful enough or smart enough to please anyone. The only critique I have of your essay is when you say that girls here are willing to sacrifice education because of these things. I don't think girls here are any more willing than others to conform to social roles; it's just that sometimes it seems impossible to do anything except conform. The fault is in our culture.

Women are taught from the time we're born that our only purpose is to please others, and it can be so difficult to go through the constant conflict of trying to do what's best for yourself while not taking in what others are saying about you. You are so strong for being able to do this, and remember that it's ok to take care of yourself, too- it's ok to take a day off, it's ok to sleep in now and then, it's ok if one assignment gets turned in late because you needed self-care. It's ok to sometimes be sad, it's ok to feel down or to feel insecure. What's important is that you keep going, and it sounds like you're doing an amazing job at that!

Good luck to you and all that you achieve.

Liz

Saving Angel's picture

Thank you so much Liz!

First of all, thank you so much Liz for taking the time to read my piece and express such kind words of appreciation and encouragement! It's women like yourself that continue to inspire me and so many other women who are touched by your kindess!

Yes you are definitely correct - it is the fault of our own culture that we as women conform to the cultural and social roles placed before us in our society. It's unfortunate that this is the situation, but like you said it is impossible to do anything except conform especially in such a vastly growing community.

I wrote an essay once about the ways in which the health and success of our society is destroyed because of the patriarchal culture which is so heavily entrenched within the cultural practices, and foundational institutions of our community. Every time I think of the ways in which women conform to the "standards/norms" I always return back to thinking about that essay.

Thank you for giving me such important reminders! So often do we all forget to stop and smell the flowers! To stop and enjoy the ocean as it rushes up to touch our feet when we're on the beach! To stop and just hug someone we care about.

Good luck to you as well Liz! I hope we can stay in touch!

Much love & respect xoxoxo

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