The recent Gabby Petito murder has shaken the public in the U.S. and worldwide. In another well-publicized instance of violence against women, Sarah Everard was killed by a police officer in the U.K. in March 2021.
I have watched news of these events with growing anxiety and discontent over the state of women’s safety and equality in the modern world. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women reminds us of the urgency of the situation and how much more work is left to be done.
Wholistic Wellbeing implies the wholeness of our experiences. If women have to continuously forgo experiences, whether it be something as simple as meeting friends in the evening, due to fear of being harmed, or not striving for a promotion at work for fear of being discriminated against, their wellbeing suffers.
Before we can achieve professional empowerment for women, we must cover the basics. According to the reports of the case I read, Sarah Everard did everything women are taught to do to keep themselves safe. She “set off from a friend’s house while it was still light; dressed in practical clothing — a jacket, hat, loose sweater, comfortable pants and sneakers; she took a popular, well-lit path during her walk.” This is a sad conclusion, indeed. Let’s not tell women to alter their lives simply not to be killed; the emphasis must be on men, too. It’s our responsibility to protect our mothers, sisters, daughters, and female friends and colleagues. Less victim blaming, more concrete action taking!
In the developing world, in addition to worrying about their physical and emotional safety, women and girls worry about accessing education. In some cultures, due to limited family resources, parents may choose to educate only their boys. Sadly, this is true in 30% of countries still fighting for gender parity in primary school. In another astounding statistic, there are at least 496 million illiterate women around the world.
As I was growing up, my mother was my rock. This was during a time when my father, a hockey coach, worked away from home. I want to empower women like my mother to be able to live full lives and embrace joy, unleash their inner strength, and rise above adversity and violence. At RoundGlass Foundation, our Self-Help Group Initiative encourages rural women — the most vulnerable to violence — to work together to elevate themselves and find well-deserved happiness and success.
Inspired by our work, the women of Aloona Tola, a village in Punjab, India, came together to form one of these groups, taking ownership of their own livelihoods and reclaiming agency over their Wholistic Wellbeing through financial independence, self-sustainability, and community engagement.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let’s reflect on what we can do as citizens of the world. Let’s empower women to feel safe when they walk the streets of our villages and cities. Let’s allow girls and women to embrace their interests and passions without having to worry about safety. Let women reclaim responsibility for their Wholistic Wellbeing and alleviate the roadblocks that make their journeys more difficult.