I am a GIRL, and I have RIGHTS, just like everyone else
Dated: 09 December 2016
Everyone has a story. Why they are the person they are and how they got there. Today, who I am, my characters, my skills and personality I owe to my mother and the Maldives Girl Guides Association. I grew up having an independent and working mother, so when I became part of the Guiding world at the age of 7 years, I already knew being a girl didn’t limit me from chasing my dreams and doing “boyish things”. I was fortunate to learn and practice equity, to say ‘No’ and be independent. The belief that I too can do everything like my male counter parts, and that I too have equal rights, were embedded into my head. Some people may question this: doesn’t coming from a 100 per cent Muslim country like Maldives prevent you from spreading your wings and flying out? No, it does not. I am 1 among the thousands of women and girls in the largest women’s organisation in Maldives. We work to promote and empower women and girls within Maldives and portray the Maldivian voice.
The 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence and International Day of the Girl are two main events we work on: to mark the days throughout the nation, led by or collaborated through the Maldives Girl Guides Association. This is done to promote public awareness, equip communities to break the silence and stigma around, and combat violence against women and girls. In 2016, it was a privilege to join forces with Bangkok Rising here in Thailand, as a facilitator in the workshop on Rights Awareness and Gender-based Violence (GBV). Bangkok Rising is a group who utilise events and projects to eliminate all forms of GBV and promote awareness on equality for men and women in Thailand. The workshop, was guided by “The Power of Gender” from the “A young activist’s toolkit for ending violence against women and girls” developed by the Asia-Pacific members of the UNiTE Youth Network for the UNiTE campaign.
The workshop was conducted for girls aged 13 - 18 years, of Traill International School. The majority of students taking part were Thai, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. The aim of the workshop was for students to understand their rights as individuals, how vital rights are, how one feels when their rights are violated, vulnerable populations, and the power, use and abuse of rights. The workshop included two hours of interactive and thought provoking sessions, and when we wrapped up, I as a facilitator felt like I had been part of the ripple effect of change.
The ripple effect is highlighted by some of the students, “This has opened my eyes not just to myself, but what is happening in my environment,” “If I see someone’s right being violated, I will step up for them or seek help for them, even if they are not my friends because we all are equal.” If this was the visible change in thinking from a two-hour workshop, we can imagine what can happen if discussions around these topics start taking place.
Violence against women and girls, leave them either physically or mentally scarred, potentially for a life time. The impact of violence, never leaves them. The 1-in-3 of the global female population that suffers this don’t even consider it a problem. Why? They accept it as a card handed down to them because they are born female. We need to change this, we need to address this issue, which is a global phenomenon, cutting across countries, societies, cultures, and beliefs. The way to a better world; the way to eradicate this issue, is communities working together, governments, non-governmental organisations collaborating, men and women tackling the problem as if it is their own.
As Pakistan’s Human Rights Activist; Seemal Saeed said, “Together we can help both men and women stand up for their rights and support them to become the best version of themselves tomorrow.” That needs to start today. With you and me. For tomorrow the damage might be too vast to tackle. Every individual is precious. Their rights matter. No one deserves any form of violence. I refuse to sit back. Therefore, today I pledge to raise my voice where ever I might be, to tackle this problem, for those with or without a voice, men or women! The end begins today.
Aminath Izdhiha Rushdyis a Maldivian by nationality, a young woman of the world by nature, a photographer and a writer by passion. She is also a humanitarian worker at heart, a Disaster Management student by major with International Relations by minor. She lives with a life vision to “Changing lives – One at a time”.