Power to be an eagle

Human rights lawyer Sabrina Khan, middle back, with other women at an IWD celebration in Lautoka. Picture: SUPPLIED

Human rights lawyer Sabrina Khan, middle back, with other women at an IWD celebration in Lautoka. Picture: SUPPLIED

Women at times believe they are hens when really; they are eagles capable of achieving greatness. That is because there are deep ingrained belief systems in some women, that they are not capable of achieving things.

Human rights lawyer Sabrina Iqbal Khan highlighted this important point at the Fiji Women’s Trade Congress for United Nations International Women’s Day celebration at the Lautoka Central Primary School a month ago.

While acknowledging a special day to honour women worldwide, she also posed an important question on why after so much awareness may have been done on the impact of women’s contribution to the lives of people; they are still being treated secondarily in society.

“Should men be blamed for this? No, not really,” Ms Khan said.

“There are some women who don’t accord the same privileges to their daughters as they do to their sons. They restrict them on what clothes to wear, hairstyles to sport, to be married at a young age, to not further education.

“There are instances where some women colleagues have turned a blind eye to harassment.”

Ms Khan, the daughter of renowned Lautoka-based lawyer Iqbal Khan, shared she was fortunate to grow in a home where her parents both encouraged cultural respect, love of God and a strong fondness of spreading their wings.

“If I wasn’t winning debating competitions in Queensland, I was perfecting French at school, accepting Japanese homestays in our home, learning martial arts, travelling the world and my father’s words were always ‘get your education, travel the world then maybe, just maybe you can settle down’.

“Mind you accepting a lovely male suitor in my life was always hard for him,” Ms Khan said with a chuckle. “I don’t think he liked anyone near me. That’s dad for you, bless his heart”

The human rights lawyer also shared that not every girl, woman was as blessed as she had been.

She was not restricted, always encouraged to speak freely and to live freely within the law and in peace with others. Ms Khan said other girls and women faced judgment, criticism and at times, harsh reprise.

“At the end of the day, if a woman is facing reprise and her wings are being clipped, I say, fight for your own rights.

“We can’t blame our parents for not becoming someone.

“I paved my own way through law school. I washed dishes in restaurants and cleaned city council restrooms to make a living.

“I did not want to be spoon-fed by my father in terms of assistance, although I am grateful for all the love and support he did provide.

“I wanted to value my education and hard work.

“I support Women’s Day celebrations. But more than any kind, what matters most are the small gestures in daily life. A family society can encourage other women, uplift them, increase her self-confidence and ensure there is equal treatment in the home between genders.”

Ms Khan said consistent support had great impacts.

She noted the importance of removing judgments from the comfort of our own homes and being human beings, it was always important to reflect on our actions, evaluate ourselves and grow in positive spirit.

To be a strong, independent woman, Ms Khan said a woman needed to honour herself, have self-respect and set boundaries for herself.

This, she said, would allow a woman to develop self-esteem, self-confidence and “in supporting other women, you will set the beautiful sails towards women’s empowerment”.

The event was organised on behalf of the Fiji Trades Union Congress Women’s committee West-based members.

The theme for IWD this year was “Press for Progress” and a strong call has been made to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and the whole community to think, act and be gender inclusive.

We must work together in pushing global attention towards achieving the ultimate goal of gender equality.

On that day, millions of women around the world marched for labour rights, equal treatment for all, equal pay for work of equal value, and the right to unionise.

Gender-based violence also remains one of the most tolerated violations of workers’ human rights in Fiji and around the world.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) had launched the 23 days activism initiative on February 14 with a focus on campaigning for the formulation of an ILO Convention on gender-based violence at work.