Guest blogger Dalal Al-Waheidi shares the importance of showing our youth, especially girls, they can achieve whatever they set their minds to, no matter their background.
The chaotic frenzy in my house most mornings is familiar to all working parents—or anyone who's tried to get a young child dressed, fed and out the door for daycare. Sometimes, amidst the bedlam, I stumble onto a learning opportunity.
Tuesday in our neighbourhood is garbage day. A few Tuesdays ago, as I was making breakfast for my three-year-old daughter Zeina, she lifted her head from playing with her favourite stuffed animal, pointed and said "the man is taking the garbage away."
So I added: "That's a man, but women can take the garbage away too."
"No," Zeina said. "Only a man!"
I was puzzled.
It may seem trivial that my daughter doesn't see that garbage collection could be a woman's role. But coming just days after Natalie Portman's cutting Golden Globe's jab, "And here are the all-male nominees…", it was just one more reminder about something I've always felt deep in my bones.
Often the limitations of our dreams are defined by what we see. And too often it's impossible to imagine your own success when you haven't seen others pave the way.
That's why we need role models who look like us. It's why we need teachers from all backgrounds, why we need women leading companies and leading governments. So that young girls, no matter where they come from, know they can achieve too.
I want my daughter to know the entire world is hers to discover and explore and that she's not bound by social constructs. I want the same for your daughters and sons, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. In fact, that's why I'm writing now.
I am not a writer, by background. I decided to start this blog to ensure more voices were represented in the media. The pages of magazines, columns of newspapers and segments of political talk shows remain predominately white and male.
Turn on the TV, open your browser, pick up a paper or flip through a magazine and the result is the same. According to Informed Opinions, a non-profit that promotes women in the media, men's voices outnumber women's two-to-one in Canadian news. Their 2016 study found that women made up only one quarter of all sources quoted in major Canadian media.
With all the talk about fake news and the danger it poses to society, there's another, more hidden threat: news that ignores perspectives of over half the country. When the voices of women, diverse ethnic groups and Indigenous people are absent, their realities are ignored and the conversation about what is happening in our country—and, indeed, about what kind of country we want—suffers greatly.
That is why I write this blog—to help tilt the scale. To lend my experiences as a woman, a Muslim, an Arab, refugee, war-affected child and immigrant to Canada to those who are used to seeing their stories told by others. I wanted to bring my own lived experience to bear while sharing the issues that matter to me as a person of colour, as a mother, a leader, a charity worker, and community member.
When Zeina said that collecting waste is a man's job, all of this flashed through my head. Eventually, I regained my ability to speak.
I told my daughter that there are a lot of jobs we've only seen men do, and things we've only seen men accomplish—but that doesn't mean she can't do them too. She can do whatever she wants in this world.