Although I have not gone through nearly one quarter of what so many women worldwide have had to go through in my life, I have experienced my fair of discrimination.
As a young girl, I was bullied by my neighbor, her cousin and their friends. They told me I was ugly, fat and ‘unlikeable’. They tore my clothes, called my house sometimes to insult me over the phone, and they made me cry. I stayed quiet because I thought I deserved it. I thought they were right; and even till this day I remain a victim to their words. I can’t stand the sight of myself unless I "think" I look beautiful and I can’t look at myself without seeing my many imperfections.
While in secondary school, I had teachers telling me that I was incapable of getting anything higher than a C in their classes. They told me that I would struggle all my educational career because I just couldn’t do it – and because of that in my second year of high school my grades started dropping as I had lost faith in my ability to do well in my classes.
I was blessed to have my dad pay for my tuition for my first two years of University, but after he retired I wanted to take the initiative to take that sacrifice off his hands. So, in order to pay my way through my last few years of University I started working two part time jobs (accounting for a total of 40 hours per week – 20 each) and going to full time school. My schedules were consistently messed up; sometimes I had classes in the mornings and in the nights and I would work during the day, which many at times resulted in me working 7 days a week. I travelled via bus to get to work and school – and I heard a lot of discouragement along the way.
In all of these experiences I learned one important lesson (out of many): how to stay strong, determined and positive. Yes I still suffer from the bullying victimization, but through Saving Angel I want to help other girls and boys just like myself, get through their victimization. While in school I realised that my biggest fight would be the one I make with myself. Yes, I was discouraged by people who were supposed to be encouraging but I learned that the only way I can succeed is if I put my best foot forward and just blank out the rest. I went to summer school to do grade-upgrades, and came out with A’s and I realised that I shouldn’t let the ignorance of others get in my way. In the end I was able to graduate with honors and got Scholarships to go to university. The barriers I faced while in University only helped me become a stronger person and those decisions I made to work 2 jobs and go to school full time, are decisions I will never regret.
I can’t imagine the types of barriers that women in underprivileged situations have to go through – but I can speak for the barriers that prevent girls from succeeding here in North America. We’ve been born into generations where everything is based on physical appearance, popularity and fitting in with the popular culture (whatever that is). Girls are faced with so many barriers starting from lack of respect, lack of confidence, lack of mentorship and support at home – to complete disrespect, cultural inequality, the Hollywood star image etc. at school and at work. No longer are we accepted for who we are; in fact, if we do not conform to the images presented before us (skinny, big boobs, big bum, no body hair (except for on our head), no glasses, straight hair etc.) then we’re considered as outcastes. It’s so unfortunate, that while there are girls in other countries, fighting for the right to attend school and have that privilege as we do here in N.A; the girls here are willing to sacrifice that privilege, their education and self-respect, for the sake of pleasing and conforming to a norm/standard that can destroy them.
My belief is, the only way we can overcome these barriers to put an end to them, is by redefining what the ‘norm/standard’ is; by redefining what it means to be a woman/male (masculinity) in the 21st century. Moreover, by exposing the barriers for what they are (forms of destruction) and enlightening society with the solutions and pathways to success like mentorship, encouragement, group confidence etc we can overcome these barriers that are doing so much harm to the empowerment of women here in N.A. and worldwide.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.