THE CREATOR DOESN’T PLACE BOYS AND GIRLS IN A HIERARCHY . . . THEN WHY DO WE?

Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights”

-United Nations Resolution 66/170

In 2011, as the result of youth advocacy around the world, the United Nations declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. Its mission is, “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”

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When the divine Creator shapes boys and girls, He doesn’t place them in a hierarchy. Then why do we?

Physical and functional differentials are not meant to be indicators of disparity along the social ladder. The stereotypic impressions that tug along with girls (especially in South Asian countries) is that, they are liabilities while boys are regarded as assets. Generations have gone by, education levels have leaped high, girls have proven their mettle in any field you name – still the ill-treatment towards girls lingers on.

True that societal change doesn’t happen overnight, but in the case of attitude towards girls, even decades haven’t been enough! Not many realize that female foeticide is intentional murder of the girl child. The dowry system flaunted by the rich has become a noose for the poor and the middle-class who fail to meet the demands of the sucker grooms and their families. Trafficking of little girls before they attain puberty, underage marriage, forced prostitution, kidnappings, sexual assault (at home/in the workplace/by strangers or trusted people) are the demons each girl child has to live in fear of.

In the context of Indian culture especially, a girl’s birth is said to be for “another’s household”. Case after case has shown that girls take very good care of their parents even after marriage. Still the age-old statement hardly changes! A girl is taught to endure hardships in life, to be adjustive and accommodative, to be less demanding and ‘homely’ because “who knows what type of house she will go to one day”. Aren’t these traits to be equally inculcated in boys as well?

Recently, a friend on the marriage-way shared how her parents don’t bother whether she gets a loving and caring husband or not, as long as the boy has a job in a high position and belongs to the same caste. Her mother’s words being, “a girl has to be under the feet of her husband whether he hits her, kicks her or burns her.” How unfortunate that these lines come from a woman! One feels helpless before people of such mindsets who feel that anyone who raises their voice against such things is without values.

Well for people like these and mindsets like these, observing a day to mark the significance of girls, their rights and their dignity, is so very essential to drive home some vital truths.

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.” Malala Yousafzai (Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2014)

Malala Yousafzai chose to continue going to school even against the threats of the Taliban and as a result took their bullets in her head. After repeated surgeries, today she is up and about, encouraging girls around the world with her story of survival and voicing her protests against the inhuman and unjust treatment meted out to girls.

Let me tell you it’s not easy to live in Malala’s shoes! It’s not easy to live in the shoes of any girl who has been violated, who has been meted out differential treatment, who has been forced to give up on her rights and wishes and desires, who has been sold off for money, who has been made to believe that she is unwanted, who has been reduced to a commodity to be used for pleasure and then discarded.

It’s a tough world for girls. Can you and I resolve to make a difference?

The theme for International Day of the Girl Child 2017 is – “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

Statistics say that there are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential. However they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted. The UN Women believes that investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030.

Let’s resolve to bring these disappearing adolescent girls back to the visibility radar. One small effort in this direction would be, to be effective role models in our attitudes towards girls. Remember the next generation is watching! Let’s teach our boys while they are small to treat girls with the dignity that is due them. Let’s determine not to watch any shows or movies that objectify women just for the sake of entertainment. Let’s resolve not to be a part of any crass humour involving girls/women.

Little by little, step by step, hand in hand, we can be the change we want to see.

 

THE TRANSIENCE OF EPHEMERAL GLORIES

Last week, the wooden doors of the wall-built cupboard in my rented apartment had to be torn apart as they were eaten up from the inside by a host of termites. The idea was to get a termite treatment done. But on examination, the pest control treatment team found out that the wood was badly damaged and should not be let to remain in place. As they were tearing apart the doors (the house being more than 25 years old), I was thinking about the forefathers of fathers of my landlord who would have got the house constructed with lofty dreams before them. What satisfaction would it have given them to see the house in its completed form, the happiness they would have had in proudly showing the house to relatives and friends, and the house-warming celebration they would have had! And yet, now a part of it had to be pulled apart! A thing that seemed to be an accomplishment of sorts a few decades back, was gradually losing the sheen.

This made me think about the various things in life that we consider to be vital, little realising that they are soon to pass away. Not to mean in the least that we need not dwell on the essentials of life – but to make ourselves think deeper rather than reveling in the seeming permanence of life itself.

Life

The fullness of life on earth itself is deceptive. Life on earth is, but, for a few years. Record holders of the present age have set the finishing line to the 100s – 143 years is the maximum that I have heard of. Be it for a century or half a century or even lesser, earthly life sure comes to an end. Yet, how often we dream and plan for our lives as if it is forever on this earth! Wouldn’t it be more purposeful to invest in the lives around us for the little joys of a day that they may experience? “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

The assets, accolades and accomplishments of life don’t make life full. It is wise to accept that we are sojourners and pilgrims on this earth. It is worthwhile to build castles in the hearts of people rather than erect mansions or run the mad race for achievements for  the sake of self-glory. Live each day as if it is your last – goes the wise word. Not in the fear of tomorrow. Not with the mind of a pessimist who doesn’t want to see another day. Live each day to the fullest so that if you close your eyes tomorrow you will have nothing to lose, but much to gain in eternity.

The Bard of Aven with his wisdom writes thus, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances.”

Wealth

In my Career Counselling sessions with adolescents, the one common desire that is expressed by them is, “I want to become rich.” Though I try to explain that amassing wealth is not the only hallmark of success, I believe that experience would help drive home the point better than a Counsellor. But why think of adolescents alone! Don’t adults cringe, crave and aspire for more wealth? How often we see and experience conflicts and killings over worldly assets – be it for property or money! The fight for rights destroys families and relationships and gives rise to endless lawsuits. Knowing the fleeting nature of life itself, wouldn’t it be more worthwhile to sacrifice our assets to maintain the sweetness of relationships, instead? A ravaging flood, the fury of a hurricane, a devastating earthquake, a raging fire – and the lofty mansions of today turn into the ruins of tomorrow!

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Before he died, Alexander the Great instructed his soldiers to make two holes in his coffin on either sides so that his hands would be exposed. In doing so, he wanted to show to the world that even the great conqueror left the world empty-handed.

Life, or rather the seeming permanence of life and wealth are two of the major deceptions that cause us to lose focus. It is not wrong to enjoy life, nor is it a sin to be wealthy. But, to live our lives as if life itself is all and to blindly aspire to be wealthy – are surely deceptions that we can be aware of.