In 2016, Sister Anjana Parmar, OP attended the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, which discussed sustainable development goals globally. Today, she reflects on how these goals enlighten, and challenge, her home community in India.

Sustainable development goals talk of various sustainable issues, one being gender equality. This goal cannot be a stand alone goal unless women are integrated into all other goals.

But, let’s take a step back. I would like to give brief intro about myself. I am a Dominican Sister in India. In the past, I’ve worked with people living with HIV. My ministry was a community care and support program where I dealt directly with the infected and affected people. Then I went for my theology studies and received final vows after which I  worked for six months in the Centre for Social Action (project of Archdiocese of Mumbai).

Sister Anjana Parmar, OP

Now I come to my reflection. Yes, it’s true that, in spite of many women empowerment programmes, women are still denied their basic rights. In urban areas, gender discrimination is subtle, but women still struggle daily to assert their rights. Some women in rural areas who belong to lower socio-economic backgrounds suffer even more.

I feel that there has to be an attitudinal change among the people in society. I do not say that there is nothing being done. But, still more work needs to be done to sensitise our society. Maybe we need short presentations about the status of women in India, the role of civil society, NGOs, and the challenges faced. Gender discrimination is rampant, and millions of girls are denied their basic rights in spite of many women’s empowerment programs. What is needed is to give the girls a place to assert themselves, their identity. More concrete actions are needed from our end, from all who are involved in promotion and protection of human rights.

Is there a possibility to organise conference/workshop/meeting /symposium wherein the Dominican  sisters from various countries working or with experience could gather and share their experiences and challenges? After the deliberations, we could come up with some international project which could focus specifically on gender equality across the countries. How can we network, and collaborate with the UN initiatives?

It’s one suggestion, anyway. Surely, there are sheroes among us. Perhaps we are the ones we have been waiting for.

I have written the poem below, born out of my meeting a girl during my field work days. As I heard the girl’s story of  undying spirit to defy all odds and assert her self, I was inspired. I hope you will be, too.

Let us try to realize the SDGs in our own little ways.

AND SHE ROSE

The more they said she couldn’t, the more she tried.

She held on to her ambitions, aspirations, desires, and hopes amidst despair, taunts, and criticisms.

She hoped against hopelessness.

And she rose from the ashes like a phoenix.

She rose again with dignity and respect and reclaimed her identity.

And this act of rising gave her the ultimate power in a male dominated society.

She continues inspiring millions of girls who are told daily that “they can’t.”

Dear girls, Believe in your inner power.

Unleash your potential and you are unstoppable.

This article is the first in our World Population Day series.

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Then, I started working as an assistant professor in the College of Social Work, Mumbai (as to date). I teach human rights and work with students who are earning their bachelor’s degree in social work. While teaching human rights, I got interested in reading more about various UN initiatives. My visit to UN last year helped me build my perspective.