UKTA celebrates International Women’s Day at Nehru Centre
Four inspirational women of Asian origin shared their experiences and views on issues of identity and alienation at the Nehru Centre in London today. They were speaking at an event organised by the UK Telugu Association (UKTA) to mark International Women’s Day.
“International Women’s Day connects women in spirit, no matter what their cultural background,” said Baroness Usha Prashar, CBE. She also urged women to help each other to build their self-respect and identity.
Speaking on the theme for the evening, Asian Woman UK: Identity and Alienation, she highlighted the challenges that women face today.
“Women are intensely aware that they are caught between tradition and modernity. All of us live in changing times where there are challenges of migration in this age of alienation and identity crisis,” she said.
This identity crisis amongst Asian women is often shaped by factors such as place of birth, migration to a Western country and insecurities, according to Lady Shruti Rana, Founder, Shruti Foundation.
“The lives of Asian women coming from different backgrounds are shaped by whether they were born in this country, came here decades ago or have come here recently,” she said, adding, “these are all factors that might result in problems with language, lack of confidence and a whole world of insecurities that blocks our forward movement.”
Quoting Rabindranath Tagore’s famous Bengali song ‘Ekla Chalo Re’, Lady Rana urged women to have the courage to walk alone, if need be and to not be scared to be who they are. Sharing similar sentiments was Labour MP, Rt. Hon. Valerie Vaz, who said that to get to where we needed to be, we should “just do what needs to be done, enjoy what we do and be who we are.”
She also spoke about individuality and said that everyone’s “stories and journeys were different,” depending on opportunities that they had, something that wasn’t easily available to everyone. For example, quoting statistics shared at the International Women’s Day debate in the House of Commons, she said that there were 1.1 million women unemployed in Britain today.
These numbers were staggeringly high, according to School of Oriental and African Studies Professor Nirmala Rao, OBE, especially given the low percentage of women in various industries and at different managerial levels.
“There is an under-representation of women in general and ethnic minorities in specific, amongst top management in companies,” she said, adding, “negative stereotypes about women still exist and we are still considered to be sentimental and submissive.” Even though reality might be different, a lot of women are not willing to embrace the change for fear of over performing, according to UKTA president, Prabhakar Kaza.
“A lot of women feel they shouldn’t do more than their male counterparts as they’ll be brought down or subjugated in some way ,” he said. Events such as these help in breaking away from such notions and as Mr Kaza puts it – “In life, you never know what inspires whom – it could be a simple word, a thought or an entire speech.”