Empowerment: Answering the Call

I woke up to the sound of someone crying and talking loudly over the phone. She sounded heartbroken, shocked and hurt. I looked around and noticed that I was still in bed and it wasn’t just a dream. As I listened, I could tell the sound was coming from the living room. My mom was on her phone. After an hour had passed, she knocked on my door. For as long as I can remember she has been involved in similar scenarios; supporting women in various ways that she could. Over the years, she was never without the tool that allowed her to effortlessly connect with those that needed her most, of course I’m talking about her phone.

Growing up, there were many instances when women came over to speak with my mom and ask for guidance with various issues related to marriage problems, assault, and abuse. Quite a few of them, who were married and living in the same household as their spouse and children, were being treated unfairly and felt like their rights were being taken away. Did you know that 30% of instances that are related to sexual or physical violence against women are caused by their own intimate partners, like their husbands (WHO 2017)? Many of these assaults go unreported as these women have nowhere to go. Did you also know that there are over 650 million women around the world that were married as children (UNICEF 2020)? How do you think that changes the power structure of a household, when an adult man marries a girl under 18 years of age? In these instances, and many more, women have received the shorter end of the stick.

While my mom and I spoke in my room, something struck me as I comforted her from her upsetting call. I thought, when would things change? When would people, especially men, start valuing women and treating them with respect, integrity and equality?

As someone who’s lived in various countries in North America, the Middle East as well as Eastern Asia, I noticed that these struggles are common and although some countries speak about it more than others, not enough attention and action is being taken towards gender inequality. I revisited some of the memories of my mother listening to those who needed her attention and supporting them both emotionally and mentally. It was the work she does that inspired me to ask myself, what more can I do? Late last year while I was taking a hiatus from my career, I started researching about how I could make an impact. I worked in the branding and digital marketing field for years and decided to take a break from it all. I took time off to see more of the world, learn about myself and work towards bringing a few entrepreneurial ideas, which had been kept on hold for years, to life.

Taking all of this into perspective, I wondered if I was alone? Were there no other men who cared about gender equality and women’s empowerment? I read articles, books, blog posts and scrolled through hours of content on social media. Many times I was using the same device that empowered my mother, a phone.

I found that there were other men who not only recognized these issues but were speaking about it openly but also doing something about it. Celebrities like John Legend, Ashton Kutcher and Will Smith use their platforms to highlight the fact that gender inequality is an important issue across the world. Aside from celebrities and people of influence, I also noticed that some of my male friends were speaking about and showing support towards finding new solutions. Things were becoming clearer to me but again I asked myself, what was I doing to bring about change?

One thing that kept showing up on social media was #HeforShe. A solidarity movement started by the United Nations which has received more than “One billion social media conversations” since its launch in September 2019. The movement works towards the advancementment of gender equality, and seeks to involve men and boys in achieving equality by taking action against negative gender stereotypes and behaviors. However, through my research I noticed that a lot of times the hashtag is being used to showcase men carrying out acts of kindness towards women; while at the same time these acts portray the same issues, and biases, which we face as a global society. Many of these showcasings include videos and pictures of men washing dishes, cooking, cleaning around the house and doing other household chores.

Does gender equality mean that men should do more around the house because that’s the way the role of a wife has been wrongfully defined? Is this how men are going to take action while standing up to make things right? I’m not saying that men shouldn’t do more around the house, we should all participate in the responsibilities that come with living in a household. However, men can and should do more to show that we not only care but are willing to work towards improving all things related to gender equality.

We can’t fool ourselves and pretend like society hasn’t tried its best to define the roles of women and men. Instead, we can speak to friends from various backgrounds about this very topic and have meaningful conversations. I’m speaking from experience when I say, not all people you speak with will choose to engage. However, having the courage to start these conversations can lead to growth, and you’ll be surprised at the amount of men who do show interest. They might be happy to speak up, or might be already doing so, and show passion towards recognizing that gender inequality exists.

For instance, one of my close friends, Ali, who I’ve become much closer with due to recent conversations around these very same topics, always praises women especially his mother. I remember one of his posts specifically, “Don’t forget that heaven is beneath your mother’s feet and behind any strong guy is one savage woman!”

Ali, like others out there, is an example of men who not only recognize the issues at hand but are willingly looking to make a difference because chivalry and integrity go hand-in-hand.

After chatting with those passionate about this topic, as well as reading more about it, I had a gut feeling. I knew that it was time for me to act. Even though I had limited entrepreneurial experience, I took on the challenge and knew that, as always, my passion would carry me through. And thus, Dynsty, an urban clothing social enterprise, was born in 2020. A year filled with uncertainty but also filled with people speaking up about social injustice all over the world.

At Dynsty, our apparel is the difference and it’s empowering communities. Each Collection is inspired by a cause. We want people to look amazing and feel proud of what they’re wearing, be it infront of their loved ones, outside the house or even when they’re looking at themselves in the mirror. We’re helping individuals and the communities we work with to become stronger, more confident and to have better control over their lives. For our first Collection, Queen, we’re focusing on sexual assault which is a global epidemic that effects 1.34 billion women worldwide (1 in 3 victims of sexual assault are females according to the WHO). We’ve partnered with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and are working closely with them to help prevent sexual assualt as well as support survivors and their families.

Even though my mom continues to speak to women about the same challenges, I know one thing is for sure, there are men who care. Those who speak up and want to make a difference. I hope that Dynsty, and other platforms, provide these men and women with the opportunity to bring about change. We all want to, and certainly should, help others become stronger and have the opportunity to succeed. I continue to read, research and speak with people while looking for ways to inspire others across the world. Aiming to make it easier for them to discuss this very important topic at home with their loved ones, but also to have the courage to stand up and make a difference in all the causes in which they believe in.

So the next time you hear the phone ringing, whether it’s a call or just another notification, try your best to answer. Because the person on the other end might need you more than you’ll ever know and that very same phone is empowering you to make a difference.

Sources:

  • “Child Marriage Around The World” UNICEF March 2020
  • “Violence Against Women” WHO November 2017
  • “Commit To Gender Equality” HeForShe September 2020

Written by: Samed Yadegari

Samed Yadegari is a problem solver who’s always wearing a smile and enabling people to collaborate and integrate. Growing up, he traveled and lived in various countries which has helped him understand that communication and adapting to new environments is key to growing at a fast pace. The challenges he faced when working with new cultures and learning new languages have shaped him into the person he is today. A hard working individual who strives to constantly improve himself as well as others.

About ila:

As a multi-awarded social enterprise, our aim, at ila, is to champion a purpose-driven and socially aware workforce. Our innovative tailored programs and world-class advisory team have extensive experience working with HR professionals, leadership teams and employees to champion a diverse and gender equal culture in the workplace.

Visit ila at https://www.ilageneration.com/home to find out more about us, the work we do and how we can help you in taking the first step towards a new way of working.

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An award-winning Social Enterprise unleashing the potential of a purpose-driven generation. Visit us at https://www.ilageneration.com/ to learn more.