Indian high commission celebrates International Women's Day with successful essay competition |08 March 2023
The world celebrates International Women's Day on March 8 every year, and to commemorate and mark the importance of the day, the Indian high commission organises women centric events every year. This year, the high commission organised an Essay Writing Competition on the following themes:
‘Importance of educating girls and women’ OR ‘Need for policies that support working mothers and families’ OR ‘Role of media in shaping societal views of women’.
The competition was divided into two categories: Category 1: 10-16 years (700 words) and Category 2: 17 years and above (1000 words).
The high commission received an overwhelming response with more than 80 essays, mostly from students who wrote on the themes with personal significance to them. The essays submitted were erudite and showcased their awareness of women’s rights and issues, the importance of equality for women and ideas that bring that about.
The winners are Melissa Choisy for Category 1 (10-16 years) and Sean Nathaniel for Category 2 (17 years and above).
The other winners in Category 1 are: Nathan Uranie (2nd Prize) and Vanshika Parikh (3rd Prize). In Category 2 the 2nd Prize went to Abiyazhini Ramasamy and the 3rd Prize to Charity Miti.
Special appreciation prizes were also given to participants Narnia Gonthier and Vasilisa Kozhin for their efforts. All participants received certificates.
A prize distribution ceremony was held yesterday at the high commission premises to award and congratulate the winners and the participants.
Speaking on the occasion, High Commissioner Karthik Pande greeted those present and commended the participants on their efforts.
He also highlighted GOI initiatives towards empowerment of women.
Cecile Kalebi, principal secretary for Culture and journalist Vidya Gappy, special guests for the event, shared their perspectives on International Women’s Day.
Seychelles NATION has the pleasure to publish the essays of the winners in the two categories.
Role of media in shaping societal views of women (by Melissa Choisy)
Do you ever ponder over the thought that women are judged solely by what the media portrays them to be? Looking back, women were seen as merely objects, they were not allowed to do anything that could jeopardise a man’s role in society. However, over the years women have managed to branch out from the societal views to and they now have significant roles in society. A common phrase that has been used exhaustedly by the media is to never judge a book by its cover, but to what extent have they applied it to women?
Take a minute and think back at all the newspapers you’ve read over the years; haven’t they given you an everlasting impression on what you’ve read? Newspapers have various articles that are favorable towards women and the work they are doing to help in the betterment of the country. These days, majority of journalists write articles highlighting the positive impact women have on society. The Seychelles NATION always gives weekly updates on how women who occupy high profile jobs are working efficiently, proving to people that women can do anything they set their minds to. For example, a well-articulated piece of writing on the newly appointed CEO of the Seychelles Petroleum Company Limited, Mrs Sarah Romain, was published recently.
To this day every year the Seychelles News Agency publishes a paper in March to celebrate and recognize women’s achievements in Seychelles especially in politics. Women who have managed to break the barriers of sexual segregation are highlighted. Namely Rita Sinon the first woman minister in the Seychelles’ cabinet of ministers and Marie Louise Potter, the first female leader of government business in the National Assembly.
Additionally, the entire world is brainwashed by all they see on television, they are literally mindless with their eyes glued to the screen soaking up every little word they hear or pictures they see. The question is, how does television affect societies’ views on women? Each day when one turns on the television to watch the news on Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation, they are greeted by the face of so many women whose appearances differ; from their race to their skin colour. Workplaces are infested with the diversity of women coming from different backgrounds blending into a community. The indifferences there once was against women is no longer shown on television programs in Seychelles; equality is definitely the new motto!
Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that the youth spend every waking hour on social media so it definitely has impact on their views. One is bound to encounter stereotypes that perpetuate gender discrimination. Women in all forms of media specifically on Instagram, WhatsApp or tiktok tend to be portrayed in a specific manner. For example, they are expected to dress in typically feminine ways, be polite and nurturing. Even models and influencers focus more on finding ways for young girls to look like real life Barbie dolls rather than promote how women are more than just toys but they are strong independent hardworking people. Thus, it encourages society to think that all women should look like them and follow in their footsteps.
Women like Hilda Stevenson Delhomme, the first Seychellois female politician who formed her own party ‘Parti Seselwa’ managed to show society exactly what a woman can do once she puts her eye on a target. Notwithstanding her political career, she was an outstanding medical doctor. She was honoured in the new hall of fame as well as the wall of great Africans. She was one of many who inspired young girls to leap out of their comfort zones and gave society the idea that women were just as skillful as men.
It stills baffles me how social media has managed to almost destroy all of her work. Women were starting to get recognition for their exceptional work however out of the blue social media platforms has given the society the idea that they are simply damsels in distress. In the eyes of some, women are still seen as sexually submissive and men as sexually dominant. Even feminism on social media is seen as women bombarding their views onto society instead of taking it as a cry for help as they try to battle through the constant pressure they are put under by the media.
An American writer named Candace Bushnell once said ‘women with money and women in power are two uncomfortable ideas in our society’, doesn’t the media play a vital role in this surmise? For instance, in Seychelles and all around the world men especially the youth and those 65 years and above still characterize cooking and cleaning as a women’s job. They freely draft up long biased articles about how women should not have their own money, independence or run large businesses.
All things considered, the media plays a significant role in shaping societal views of women. Media is used to indoctrinate different people. The question is, are we all willing to make the drastic change on not allowing the media to input their thoughts into our minds or will it forever be an unchangeable trend?
Media’s Cornucopia (by Sean Nathaniel)
Since its invention in 1997, social media has been the metric many of us use to measure our success or failure. It shapes our beliefs, attitude, behavior and even our future. Although, no one has suffered at the hands of social media more than women. It plays a significant role in shaping societal views of women and truth be told, it’s been savage against them.
The most open form of media prejudice is their representation. The media often portrays women in the vilest stereotypical ways. Sexual objects; that’s what men and society see women with confidence as. Media’s objectification is hidden behind the infamous “No one told her to dress like that”, or your “I couldn’t help myself”, some even can’t be said here. Women are sexualized at every opportunity society has. Movies, ads, music, you name it. The corporate world uses this backward view as a form of marketing. This upholds harmful gender stereotypes that have been around for centuries. They’ll say “you lose some weight” to some, “you should gain weight”, “smile more”, “you should cook, clean and submit” and so much more idealisms that portray women as inferior and weak. Yet we all know through our own mothers there is no ounce of truth in that. Men would shamelessly pervert and abuse women and girls on the internet and then boast how much they love their mother. Ironic right? No. It’s repulsive hypocrisy.
See, the problem with social media or media in general is a problem called Consumer Culture. Where we inhale every bit of information we find and make it our own. For example, if you go on Instagram right now, majority of the posts there are of women who seem to have their life together. They’re fit, earning millions and genuinely seeming happy. Then as a women who isn’t living that life, you wonder. Where did I go wrong? Then there’s the side where women are happy to feed into this toxic portrayal for survival. Basically, in this moment in time, it’s you either fight or conform. Many end up conforming. This leads to an unrealistic, misguided and harmful beauty, success and self-worth standard which forces many women, especially younger ones, to conform in order to survive this war. Body dysmorphia, depression, self-loathing and self-consciousness are at an all-time high in our current society just because of consumer culture. Is it worth it?
Ultimately, it forces us to base women’s role, status and importance on their appearance rather than skills. Ever heard of the saying “whatever a man can do, a woman can do better”? It may not be a scientific fact, but it is visibly plausible. The corporate world are the biggest investors in gender discrimination, with only 47% of all women applications being accepted compared to men. Not necessarily due to skills or experience, but simply gender or worse…looks! This implies women are less capable than men causing issues like gender pay gaps and a shortage of women in leadership positions. Women’s accounts of these issues have often been marginalized or disregarded. Empathy, understanding and equality are even scarcer now than ever before. Even issues regarding their bodies are seen to be a taboo and rarely even mentioned in conversations. If society can’t put a squeeze on women’s voices, they attack elsewhere. High costs of menstrual products, difficult to access healthcare services such as family planning and policies that simply work against them.
Furthermore, the media has an obvious impact on the way women in minorities are perceived. Women of colour, women with disabilities etc. are underrepresented severely and often misconceived. These women can be seen as lesser than the other, making it even more difficult for them. Pushing them into the vicious cycle of fighting or conformity and consumer culture.
On a positive note, the media provides a platform for women to speak out on their issues via the same consumer culture that’s dreaded. Over the recent years, women have made a big push on equality and a better portrayal by society. Openly speaking about the injustice they have experienced allows other women hiding in shame to come out as well. Body positivity, self-acceptance and constant reassurance that you are not alone, helps protect, avert depression and self-harm among women as a whole. The power the media has to destroy and cut down women can also be used to raise them above the bowels of society’s hell. An example of women’s triumph over the media was the #MeToo Movement. The media boom of millions of women coming together to share and speak against sexual harassment and abuse helped bring hope to many women who hid in silence through this traumatic encounter. It even helped bring justice to many powerful people who used their influence to abuse women. The power media has is limited to us as people. We can either fight it or succumb to its brutality. We need to empower women to never succumb, but to stand for their rights. Which we can.
Women are intelligent, strong, kind and media should portray them in that light. We should tell more stories of the women who break barriers, lead and leave a legacy. Not only them, even every woman who will read this. You are all trail blazers. You make the difference, inspire change and your capabilities are limited only by your will. Women of all ages, ethnicity, and nationalities should be treated the same way, not just the ones that fit the media’s tapes. Media should be used to celebrate their uniqueness, diversity and individual beauty. It should portray women as who they are and not what they are. Break down stereotypes that demean and destroy your amazing souls. Media can give them a place to be seen in their full complexity, kill male fantasy and prove to the world and society that nothing defines a woman apart from who she chooses to be. “Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
Compiled by Vidya Gappy
Photos: Joena Meme