The month of March has been a very special time of the year for me since many years. Apart from my late father’s birthday, this month also marks the arrival of International women’s day & Mother’s Day. For me it’s a very exciting time, almost as celebratory & festive as Christmas, Eid, New Year or any other festival for that matter. Almost a decade ago, I started marking this occasion by celebrating special events for women at the company I worked for. I organized these events as I felt the need to do something exclusively for women as- at that point in time, most of our company initiatives; sports tournaments or concerts were more male dominated or let’s just say less inclusive for women. The first year’s theme was Stress Management and I called the program De-Stress & Revitalize. It became a popular annual program for working women at our company and we continued to run it year after year. When I moved to Dubai and started my own training & consultancy practice, I carried forward the tradition of women’s day celebrations and held annual events at many companies, sometimes even at beaches and parks. Each year we followed different theme and taglines. Apart from stress Management, we covered topics like Emotional Intelligence, Women in Leadership & Women Empowerment. As a trainer and coach, I loved providing value by facilitating the growth of the participants and helping these women overcome personal & professional challenges.
When I moved to London, I was aware that apart from setting up my business from scratch, another challenge that I may have to face will be regarding my religion and background. Being an Asian Muslim woman, working as an immigrant on a foreign land would not be easy and expose me to many limitations and prejudices. To my surprise I found out, that it’s not just me or in London alone. Women worldwide are facing a plethora of prejudices, limitations, and stereotypes. In my Interview for Women Killing It I discuss this in more detail. Yes, being an Asian Muslim woman, I have to face more stereotypes and biases as compared to women belonging to other ethnicities; biases that are attached to women from my faith and background alone; wherein many people unknowingly hold the common misconception that we are are backward, degraded and suppressed. (When in reality, innumerable examples can be quoted of women from my faith and background doing brilliantly both as entrepreneurs and as working professionals.) However, on the whole, the rest of the challenges for all of us across the globe remain universal. Having trained and coached women from three different countries, I realized that no matter who we are and from where we belong, women inclusiveness is a goal even the most progressive countries are still struggling with. And that’s when I pledged to play my part. I along with a group of coaches from Dubai, Pakistan, and London launched a global training & mentoring network called Revitalize and Rise which aims to provide voluntary help and support to women that seek help in advancing their careers, resuming work or starting their own businesses.
According to a report published by Ernst & Young, gender parity (meaning an equal number of men and women) at work will take another 170 years, 5 months and 2 weeks. Whether that goal is even realistic is another question. Though I am a feminist who strongly advocates the idea of women inclusiveness and equality, I feel the latter goal also needs to take into account that no matter what, many women will always put family ahead of career and choose to opt out of the stressful life that usually comes with being on the top. And these preferences might make achieving the gender parity goal more tricky than it seems. On the other hand, the 21st century has witnessed an explosive growth in women owned businesses and research has evidenced staggering results of how these businesses have contributed to the economy in many countries. So perhaps, instead of achieving gender parity in top positions, the goal should then be to achieve parity in number of men and women contributing in a given economy be it via working for self or working for others? Having said that, whether women pursue top positions or opt to run their own show they must be supported in all ways and that means not only providing women equal opportunities in terms of advancement and remuneration but also providing a conducive and flexible environment especially to those that that are juggling home and work life simultaneously. And I did that by supporting this year’s theme for International Women’s Day which was #Beboldforchange. The website encourages men, women and non-binary people to take bold and pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. To support the above themes and play my part in Taking Back Feminism I supported many initiatives which included the following
- Offered complimentary coaching & mentoring sessions to women desirous of professional guidance in their lives.
- Supported a Teens Girl Empowerment Conference in London
- This month, I also released my Stress Management Video filmed by Enterprise Tap and based on my article published earlier in the Huffington Post and Ellevate Network called 11 Revitalizing Stress-Busters for Working Women
- Attended the Women of the World Conference where I volunteered to support several non profit organizations that are working towards the betterment and advancement of less privileged women out there especially the refugees.
- Wrote several blogs to support and empower women better
- Plan to organize an event in April for over 100 women called Revitalize and Rise IWD’s Special with the objective of helping women make positive and bold changes in their lives through de-stressing, revitalizing and reenergizing.
I urge all those who are genuinely interested in being bold for change and in taking back feminism to pledge to support and inspire women world over just the way they are; Feminism is not only about equality between men and women but also equality amongst women themselves. It’s about looking at ALL women in the same way and not treating some more specially and favorably or otherwise on the basis of what they look or believe in. Whether they cover their head or not, whether they belong to this side of the wall or the other, whether they are born in your country or have immigrated, whether their skin color is different from yours or not, it shouldn’t matter. Believe and champion the rights of every girl irrespective of where she is from, what she wears and what she looks like. After all, we are in this together!
My own #boldforchange actions entail ensuring equal opportunity of advancement for all women, irrespective of who they are, where they come from, what they look like, what they wear or what they believe in. I am a Muslim. I am an Asian with brown skin. I am an immigrant working in a foreign land. I am a woman. I am a mom. And, I am proud to be all of these. I wouldn’t let any of these be a cause of prejudice or racism. Being these will not stop me from realizing my dreams. I believe we must rise above ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs and promote advancement for all women. Read How (you can overcome feelings of self-doubt or lack of confidence in this regard) I will not allow myself to be labelled or treated differently. March is long gone but let’s continue being bold for change for ourselves and for others, shall we?