BHAWNA ATMARAM

As we celebrate yet another annual edition of International Women’s Day on March 8, it is the occasion to reflect on how far women have come as well as what else needs to be done to further ensure gender parity in the world. From lack of educational, economic and political opportunities to being more likely to fall prey to domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child marriage, maternal death due to complicated childbirth, lower paid jobs, shouldering accrued domestic mental load among others, it has hardly been a walk in the park for women in the history of humankind. Bridging the gender gap has been the uphill struggle for both men and women who wish to see equality firmly etched in the global foundations for the welfare of our future generations. It is inconceivable that women still need to demand equivalent consideration. Taboos such as period shame or female foeticide are still very much present in multiple parts of the world. Getting equal pay for equal work is still a myth overall while paid maternity leave seems to be a rarity, even in developed countries. Men and women’s voices need to be heard in unison to bring about that much awaited paradigm shift to ensure that oneness and sameness are not vain words.

Resilience is vital

This year’s theme in the context of International Women’s Day is ‘ Choose to Challenge.’ More than ever, due to the trail of destruction left by COVID-19, women have to be resilient. The challenges are numerous. Even more challenging is the ability to challenge oneself. As the backbone of the household, family and society, they have to devise ways and means to keep their families safe and ensure that they have food on the table. Re-inventing oneself is key. In various fields, women are doing their level best to stay afloat, leaving behind comfort zones which are fast becoming obsolete. Everywhere, there are those women who are often working in the shadows and who constitute the invisible driving force. They are not celebrities and do not make the headlines. Still, they help in maintaining stability in their own ways. Subtly but surely, they are the essential links in the smooth running of the family, society and country. Who are these women? What message of hope do they wish to convey? Wherefrom do they derive their strength? They are professionals in their fields, mothers, daughters, wives, aunts, cousins, grandmothers or even great grandmothers. They juggle diverse roles daily while choosing to believe in a better future. Let us listen to their voices.

Roopa Bappoo, Seamstress:

‘Our inner force allows us to overcome’

Roopa is a wife, mother, seamstress and very much involved in a sociocultural association located next to her house. From a very young age, she has been working, managing her family and playing an active role in the management of a temple, which has been constructed on a plot of land donated by her late father-in-law. She is always on the go and hardly finds a second to sit down at times. She grew up during a time where educational prospects for women were quite scarce. Marriage seemed to be the logical step. She has taken everything in her stride though and God inspires her as she insists that women must strive to be independent. There is no menial job. The important thing is that each woman must stand on her own two feet.  Each woman has her own distinctive ability and should not be in competition with each other. Rather, we should extend a word of encouragement to those who need it.

Margaret Parsooramen, Kitchen Aide:

‘Women should encourage each other’

Due to limited financial means, Margaret has not been able to pursue her studies. Like many women previously, there was no choice but to get married. Fortunately, her mother-in-law had her back when she had her baby girl. The former looked after the little girl while Margaret went to work as a kitchen aide. She would take care of the household too, like she still does now. Her virtue of patience has allowed her to overcome all obstacles in life. She finds solace in prayers. Her message to other women is that they should believe in themselves as well as encourage each other to persevere. They should take advantage of education to build a better future for themselves by being self-sufficient.

Kathleen Florent, Office Attendant :

‘Love makes everything possible’

After having officiated as a verger for five years at the behest of late Reverend Pavaday at the St Paul Anglican Church, Kathleen, a mother of one, then shifted to a secondary school institution as office attendant; a job she has been doing with dedication for the past seventeen years. She is still responsible for the 7 am Sunday Mass at the church and gives communion. She fulfils her role as a mother, wife, employee and church volunteer by infusing love, as the essential ingredient. Her unflinching faith has always been her inspiration. She spares a thought for women who go through trying times and believes that we should approach them and actively express solidarity while uplifting them psychologically. There is definitely room for improvement regarding the general situation of women. We should not hesitate to give the moral boost to those less fortunate than us.

Marie Noëlle Auckloo, Educator :

‘Persevere and believe’

An educator in a secondary institution, Marie Noëlle is also a wife, mother of two and a devoted grandmother. She believes in giving her best to everything. Women are the pillars of the family, society and economy, according to her. They must appreciate the quality of being autonomous and persevere. It is crucial to educate both men and women, in the fight against violence against women. Otherwise children are the ones who pay the price by falsely assuming that violence, whether verbal, mental or physical, is the norm. We must listen to the children and comfort them as many of them come with baggage, which adversely impacts on practically all aspects of their lives. Being optimistic, respectful and emphatic can make a much needed difference. Transmitting positive vibes within her workplace and family as well valuing herself as a woman allow her to go the extra mile.

Usha Gokool, Cleaner: ‘Happiness

of my children is my motivation’

Usha works as a cleaner on gruelling shifts. She is a widow and is a mother of three children. One is married, another one is about to while the third one is still studying. Life is not a bed of roses given that it has become expensive to sustain a comfortable lifestyle, especially due to COVID-19 and its implications. Usha believes in giving 100% of herself to whatever she does despite finishing her shift at odd hours, usually up to midnight. Overtime is most welcome in her bid to make both ends meet. She hardly has any support system. The mere thought of the happiness of her children is the catalyst to make her get up and go out there to improve her situation. According to her, a word of encouragement goes a long way in pushing a woman to dare, dream and achieve.

In Memoriam of Woman Police

Constable (WPC) Dimple Raghoo

We all remember WPC Dimple Raghoo who lost her life in November 2020 during a ‘controlled delivery’ operation in the ruthless battle against the proliferation of illicit drugs on the Mauritian territory. She firmly believed in defending the ideals of her police uniform and her commitment to those values knew no bounds. Duty guided her and courage was her motto. She left this physical world as a heroine, embodying fortitude and fearlessness, both for her profession and grieving family. She was the glue holding everybody together and has left a deep void behind. Her last selfless act will never be forgotten. May her sacrifice for her country be the guiding light for many of us.