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Women and Nation Building

Dr. Thamee Shahid for Hyderabad Youth Mirror #

All of us in this world are people who share things, basic needs and wants that define the similarities between us – as humans. We are all expected to perform our duties, deliver and execute, without question. We must ‘blend in’. Work, feed family, pay taxes, etc. And if there is a little more left in you, work for the good of mankind. But this expectation is highly unrealistic in the face of the prejudices that society holds against us.

There is a prejudice that women are the “weaker sex”. Very conveniently the society has defined the role of a woman within the confines of her home, beyond which there is no need of her, and no way in which she can contribute. The crimes against women, especially the way they occur in our country, have served as constant and horrifyingly oft-repeating reminders as to why our roles ought to be limited.

People have now questioned the very reasons why women need to be considered as the equals of men and sought to restrict the freedoms which a girl has the right to enjoy. Her right to education, to earn a respectable livelihood to have her own opinions and views, and to walk in the modern world with her head held high.

As we emerged in this new era of human civilization, we thought that the world would respect women more and give them their rightful place in society but what has happened is that the very existence of women has been threatened. Then again, there are prejudices of all sorts. Almost everyone in this planet is stereotyped against no matter who they are. You don’t really have to be Muslim, or a woman. You could be a Hindu, a Christian, a Sikh, a fair-skinned person, a dark-skinned person, ethnically Asian, European or Latin American, whatever you may be, someone somewhere will have a problem with who you are.

The recent racist attacks on North-eastern students in Delhi are a living proof to this unfair reality. And the problem is that the people in our world are quite comfortable living in these horrors, rather than challenging and destroying these prejudices once and for all.

But the question remains – in the light of these unjust and illogical prejudices that the society holds against us, are we really going to be great contributors to our world? Will our need be recognized as the world we live in grows more and more hungry of aid, help, healthcare, care and concern? How in this present world riddled with Islamophobia and Gender Inequality and Racism, are you and I going to help this planet become a better place to live? Is it even possible? The answer is yes.

The world is quick to criticize, slow to recognize and even slower to appreciate. So if it is the recognition or appreciation we are aiming for then we might as well pack our bags, go home, and never touch this topic again. But if we really wish to contribute then let’s start by being realistic. Problems and pessimism are bound to be hurled our way, constantly.

Let us learn to deal with it. Let us learn to differentiate between criticism and insult, and respond accordingly, debate with critics and ignore those who find the need to insult.

Most importantly never let go of the dream that inspires you to do what you are doing, what you are struggling with to achieve. The dream of a better world.

For instance, Dr Hawa Abdi of Somalia started out with a small clinic in the midst of civil war, and the world stood up and recognized her efforts to contribute to a society plagued by violence and turmoil by providing healthcare.

She was named the Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 2010, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

If we were to wake up in this moment and decide to channel our efforts and our strengths to make a difference, however small it may be, it will go a long way to help people grow as a community and society that takes care of itself. If we were to target areas such as healthcare, illiteracy, gender inequality etc, our minimal efforts would have lasting effects. All it takes is a desire, a moment where our hearts think not for us, but for others. And that is how prejudices and stereotypes are broken. That’s how illusions are shattered and how awakening and realization dawn on a people. That’s how we should respond to those who try to hold us back because of our differences, not by violence, not by hatred, not by “retaliation in kind”, but by displaying care and concern for our world at large, of whose even the people who dislike us are a part of.

We as a nation, win over hearts by befriending them, and by sharing their pain. That’s how we contribute to nation-building.

[The author is a Doctor, practicing in Shadan Medical College, Hyderabad.]

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