Breaking Sterotypes - The Fight for Gender Equality

by
Dhara Shah

Growing up in India, I have always had to fight gender inequality. Although gender
inequalities are not just specific to the Indian culture, it is truly deep rooted in the
communities and cultures across India. Whether you are a ‘stay at home mother’ or a
‘working woman’, you constantly have to fight the gender inequalities.
When I was a child, my parents always encouraged me to raise my voice for right causes.
Therefore, when I would see my mother having to be mindful in how she dresses at certain
occasions to look ‘feminine’ or when she was held responsible to feed every family
member in the household, I would not shy away from rebelling. It turns out that today as
a young woman, I constantly strive to break the stereotypes associated with being a
South-Asian woman. There are hundreds like me out there who are ‘done’ with having to
fit in the box or even try and break the glass ceilings. Why is there even an expectation
for women to have to break a glass ceiling?
A South- Asian woman has to deal with gender inequalities even before the time that she
(they) is brought into this world. It is not hidden from the world that in India there are
political campaigns called ‘Save Girl Child’ because families still prefer having a ‘boy’ over
a ‘girl’. Even in 2019, there are families that consider a ‘girl’ as being a burden. When it
comes to education or choosing a career, a South- Asian woman has to make choices
keeping in mind the prospects of getting married. It all boils down to being able to find an
appropriate match and settling in with your husband’s family. The burden here too is on
the woman where if she doesn’t mingle with the husband’s family, apparently she hasn’t
been trained or raised appropriately.
As a South-Asian woman who has had the privilege of being raised by parents who
themselves challenged the gender stereotypes in their own ways, I think it’s high time that
we change the culture around gender inequalities and other kinds of discrimination or
oppression against woman. I believe that the first step to this is starting conversations
around this topic. The power of storytelling is truly incredible. When you start talking about
your story, it can inspire, unleash, teach, and clarify for many others out there.
In such an effort, I write here today to have more voices like myself join together and
make a platform where woman of any ethnicity feel safe to discuss not only gender
inequalities but any other oppressions they face. As I write here today, I also want to
acknowledge that even though there are issues around gender equalities, discrimination
based on age, marital status etc. around South-Asian cultures, there are countless things
that I value about the diverse Indian cultures and communities. As someone who has
been born and lived majority of her life in India, I am extremely proud of my life
experiences and choices that define who I am today.

In an attempt to raise awareness and raise conversations around various challenges
faced especially by South-Asian woman, I recently launched a website
www.breakingstereotypes.ca wherein I utilize the platform to tell stories using my art. I
use my photography to capture stories and write around issues that I firmly believe in.
If you are someone who shares a similar journey as me and wants to make some
contribution in bringing around positive change in your community, let’s get together.
Follow me on Instagram to help me build a small community that is inclusive, diverse,
committed to bring social justice, talk around various inequalities around us etc.

About the Author

Andrea is a Mohawk Alumna, Theatre-lover, and Hamilton Cheerleader. She's the Director of Operations at Hello Cannabis. She’s passionate about supporting small business and entrepreneurs, and sits on the HIVE 2018 Executive as Vice Chair.