12:00 AM, January 17, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:56 AM, January 17, 2018

“Achoo”

A month ago, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi slapped Israeli soldiers who entered her yard. She is now being tried by the Israelis, while at the same time being honourably equated with the American civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Photo: Reuters

I have an advisory council at home, which has unilaterally elected my son as the president, my daughter as the VP, my daughter-in-law as the general secretary, and my eldest daughter who lives abroad as my remote assistant. This council, in the absence of their father, has decided that their mother is their sole responsibility and that she needs to be well looked after. Hence all my activities are subjected to scrutiny and counsel. Being wise, I listen and follow. This morning, when I read the news of a man in Britain being rushed to the emergency for having ruptured the back of his throat while attempting to stifle a sneeze, my daughter decided that I should sneeze in ease and not hold back when I wanted to.

So here goes her loyal mother. Today's column is my “Achoo” moment, which I will celebrate with a few hashtags that I will use to my advantage:

#SheforShe

BGMEA elections are right around the corner and there's hardly any female participation in the industry. Neither are we represented in the board, nor are there adequate female labour leaders. When women are nowhere, and when even the number of female supervisors is inadequate, what else can we say about the garment industry but that it is suffering from gender bias? Therefore, I urge all our daughters, sisters, female friends to come forward and contribute to the sector constructively in any possible way that we can. If you are not in a management position, work towards it; if you are not a leader, aspire to become one. Become visible and let's work together and make our presence constructive and enrich the industry with more empathy and vision.

#MLK

Two days ago, social media had a perfect #MLK gush when the world celebrated the 88th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the American Baptist minister and activist who led a civil rights movement based on Gandhian nonviolence and civil disobedience.

“If the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe you must become its soul.” This quote, however, is not a quote from King, but it's actually by Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s wife who carried her husband's message forward and stood up for women and LGBTI rights while her husband inspired her through the letters he wrote from the Birmingham Jail and later published in his 1964 Memoirs. By then, King was not ready to “wait” for a more “convenient season” and give in to the mythical concept of Time, but was demanding immediacy and was voicing out: “Why We Can't Wait” while he critiqued the white moderates.

Till date, legal gender difference exists all over the world, which affects women's economic prospects, and makes it difficult for women to own property, open bank accounts, start businesses and enter some profession. Each year, 15 million girls around the world are married before they are 18. The proportion of women in national parliament globally: 13.2 percent in 2000 and has risen to only 23.4 percent in 2017. There's only 49.6 percent of women and 76.1 percent of men in the working age population, yet the boost to the global annual GDP by 2025 will actually increase to USD 28 trillion if women played an identical role to men in labour markets.

As for ourselves, as women, if truly we believe that the long arc of our moral universe bends towards justice (paraphrasing King) then we must question the extreme indignities that women suffer around the world.

#HouseofShame

If one were to pick recent events related to atrocity, then two most discussed ones should not skip our attention. A month ago, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, slapped Israeli soldiers who entered her yard. She is now being tried by the Israelis, while at the same time being honourably equated with the American civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who was arrested 60 years ago for refusing to give her seat up on an Alabama bus to a white man.

Also, just a few days ago, in Kasur, Pakistan, a serial killer raped and murdered a seven-year-old Zainab Ansari. This was not his first time. He had similarly attacked eight other girls in the same area. Isn't it just like the little girl in our own backyard who was kidnapped in a filmy manner and raped and left by the ditch just a few days ago?

In the Western world, starting from Harvey Weinstein's decades of sexual assault, down to our favourite House of Cards star Kevin Spacey's predatory behaviour towards young women, 2017 was marked by #MeToo moments. This has also prompted a discourse all over the world stressing on the need to determine the spectrum of abusive behaviour and the understanding of “implied consent” to be studied in detail in order for the processes not to destroy a woman or to impinge on her rights and lives. Toxic masculinity must be shunned, remembering that it is also essential to remind commentators and analysts to take full responsibility for their narratives.

Just recently, I read an encouraging piece of news, which I opt to end with. One of the latest leaders of UKIP, ex-cop Henry Bolton, a 54-year-old former soldier has just given up his relationship with his 25-year-old girlfriend Jo Marney, after a British tabloid published a string of racist text messages penned by her attacking the American actress Meghan Markle, who is engaged to marry Prince Harry in May and for Marney going as far as to say that in Britain they did not want a “black king” down the line.

When I started with my own favourite hashtag #SheforShe, this is what I meant. The ground reality is that we are women, standing too far apart from one another. So, be it through supporting each other, or mentoring our daughters, or extending support to female colleagues all over the country, let's all have our precious “Achoo” moments and vent, whenever and wherever.

Your columnist will be right there by your side as and when you desire.


Rubana Huq is managing director of Mohammadi Group.


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