‘Women should respect themselves’

The women raised their right hand as a mirror and repeated the words I am as the speaker asked questions about a womans worth.

Women can be an “unstoppable force” for change, Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan said in Athlone, last week.

Ms Chohan said there was a growing lack of respect between men and women in relationships, and women often tolerated abuse out of fear of being alone.

She was speaking at a Women’s Day event held by the Muslim Judicial Council’s (MJC) Women’s Forum, at the Darul Islam boys campus on Women’s Day, Thursday August 9.

Women also stayed in abusive relationships, said Ms Chohan, because they didn’t have the means to support themselves; they assumed guilt; or they wanted to shield their husbands’ standing in the community.

“I wonder what is ingrained in the minds of children where a mother stays in an abusive relationship for years,” said Ms Chohan.

“Studies show that the sons in families where there is continuous abuse go on to abuse their wives in adulthood. Mothers are role models for their daughters, and if they see that their mothers tolerate abuse – emotional or physical – they will perpetuate the same behaviour in their own marriages.”

She said the cycle of abuse could start with a row over a small yet unresolved issue and build towards emotional and physical outbursts.

Apologies, “guilt-tripping” and comments like “please don’t make me angry again” were often followed by romantic gestures and the sense that all was well with the relationship until the abuse started again and the cycle continued and, all too often, only stopped with the death of the woman.

Ms Chohan urged women to break the cycle by respecting
themselves and their own sexual identity.

“Let us teach our sons and daughters to respect the feminine force as much as we teach them to respect the masculine force,” she said.

Mualima Khadija Patel Allie, head of department for the MJC Women’s Forum, said women should pull together and support one another.

“Each one of us has that responsibility. It is time to relook at our strengths so that we can overcome our challenges that we face.

“Start with yourself and say that you want to be one of those who is called a strong woman,” she said.

One of the speakers, Mualimah Abeedah Peer, said: “When we raise our sons, we are raising somebody’s husband, and when we raise our daughters, we are raising somebody’s wife, and so we need to understand what we are putting into our children and what and how we are making them feel and what they will do when they go out into this world.”

She said women had great strength to overcome whatever life threw at them.

“Nothing that happens in our lives is there to weaken us; it is there to strengthen us. A man has physical strength, but a woman has inner strength to the point where she can give birth to a baby.

“The only limitation we have is that which we place upon ourselves, and when we stand together we are a mighty force.”