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Empowerment of Women

Forum in Toronto on Women's Dignity

Toronto, Canada – Universal Peace Federation and Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) arranged a forum on ‘Awakening the Dignity of Women’ in Toronto, Canada on April 14. Eveline Stewart presided over the joint session organized by UPF and WFWP.

In her welcoming speech, Eveline said that WFWP was initiated in 1992 to create awakening about women’s dignity irrespective of culture, religion, political, and linguistic barriers. Women are the base of the human family but are discriminated against in all societies; this can be countered through education, empowerment, and support by those who enforce the law. She cited the example of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Myanmar opposition political leader who worked for reconciliation against all odds. She encouraged women to remember their worth in building peaceful societies.

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The first speaker of the day, Farheen Khan Umer, author and social activist, challenged the women in the audience to ponder their own worth and contribution to society. “We should feel honored and expect to be honored for it. We must be empowered to choose what benefits humankind. It is the time to generate an awakening among the weaker segments of the human fabric so all can experience the worth they are entitled to.”

She further added that violence in any form and against a woman snatches away woman’s dignity. “Since I am a visible Muslim woman, I deserve respect for what I stand for, and I proclaim the dignity of all women irrespective of their religion, culture, and race.”

Farheen insisted that in Islam, women have never been deprived of their basic rights and that Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) is the pinnacle of example of giving equal love to his wife and stressed upon the companions to be respectful of the mother of their children in love, kindness, provisions, and dignity. Unfortunately, such virtues are not grasped by all and all the times. She referred to the tragic honor killings in Canada of Aqsa Pervez in 2007 and four members the Shafia family in 2009. “If we had known the simmering problem or know of such problems in future well in advance of its tragic end,” she said, “women like me would have helped save their lives and dignity.”

The second speaker of the day, Rita Kohli, talked about her work as director of the Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Center of Peel, near Toronto. She said, ”We as women are not alone to stir an awakening about the dignity among women but men of rightful thinking stand with us for this great cause of giving dignity to women. We should all, as women express our gratitude to such men and encourage others to the cause. We women have a cause to establish peace through efforts because we are the honourable side of it.”

She spoke of the need to develop strategies by listening those who have lived through trauma and survived with regained energy and determination to live with dignity and give honor to others.

Rita added girls are cuddled by the members of their family, but some males take that opportunity to touch them where they should not do so. Indignity against women can start even from the womb in societies where a female fetus is aborted. After birth, harassment by family members can add to the burden of indignity. A married woman may be harassed, raped and subjected to more indignities that make her life so miserable that she thinks of ending the life which was gifted from God. On such journeys, the inner instincts of a woman may spur her stand up against all odds to declare “Whatever may happen I have nothing more to lose, and I will to gain my dignity by any means I am capable of.”

Finally, Lilly Tadin, President of WFWP-Canada, spoke on Awakening the Dignity of Women. Neglecting women in education and job opportunities, and subjecting women to sexual harassment have been thorny issues, but abuse of all kinds against women has been the greatest issue. She said that loss of dignity is the loss of feminine value in society as a whole. With the passage of time, a lot has been done to uplift women from the clutches of indignation, yet much still needs to be done to fully liberate women. She encouraged women to recognize their dignity in the values they offer in raising a family and bringing tranquility in society: “We are a queen in our own making, and men are kings in their own making; combined we can make a prosperous realm. The feminine values, both explored and unexplored, should be awakened so they can be partners with men.”

Lilly concluded by saying, “Let us discover the qualities embedded within us; let us not hesitate to express what is dignified for women and say no to what is not dignity but abuse. Let us discover our own qualities and talents that can shape our outlook and life to earn respect. Let us take the negative mask off our faces, and let us love what we are and improve, in cooperation with men of similar thinking, to contribute for the success of our family and nation.”

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