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Let’s talk about women’s empowerment in Rotaract 

8 months ago

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By Shakira Shareef    A junior from Badi Ud Din Mahmud Girls' College in Kandy, Jameema Rafaideen, is the club editor of Rotaract. We caught up with her to discuss women’s empowerment in Rotaract.    Q: You’re the club editor of Rotaract Kandy, but what other things do you do?  A: I am Jameema Rafaideen. I’m 22 years old and I’m currently studying and working. Rotaract plays a big part in my schedule because I joined the Rotract movement with so much passion and love. I joined the Rotaract Club of Kandy in December 2020. I already had some experience being an Interactor at school. For the Rotary International Year 2021-22, I am serving as an Editor and as the Director of International Service at the Club. I have been part of some projects and chaired some as well.    Q: We all know about Rotaract, but what is Rotaract for women?  A: Rotaract has always been about unity, equality, and co-existence. Similarly, women’s empowerment and gender equality have continuously been a part of Rotaract. Here in Rotaract, we are treated equally, given responsibilities equally, and not looked down upon or underestimated. Most importantly, in the club, we, as women, feel much more secure because none of us is made to feel uncomfortable.    Q: Please tell our readers about your team and the members’ roles. A: We all play equal parts in projects and avenue directors and projects are categorised accordingly. Community service, professional development, international service, and club service are the four main avenues in Rotaract. Each of these avenues plays a vital part in grooming the youth and serving the community in different ways. All the projects add unique value.   Q: I’ve heard that the Rotaract Club of Kandy is the oldest. Is this true?  A: Not really. The Kandy Club is the fourth oldest club in Rotary International District 3220, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Chartered in the year 1986, we have a proud history of 36 years.    Q: Ideas, professional skills, and leadership are essential in one’s life. As a club, you are trying to pave the path for this. If you looked at Kandy specifically, do you find enough individuals who show interest?  A: Yes, of course. As I mentioned earlier, professional development is the main avenue in Rotaract, where we help individuals build their professional skills, creativity, and ideas. That is why there is always outstanding participation, especially for the professional development webinars we conduct as a club. I want to thank the club personally for helping me slowly come out of my introverted self.   Q: Care to comment on women’s participation in your programmes?  A: We always see a higher number of women’s participation, primarily since we conduct women-oriented sessions and projects. It is not just about participation from the audience; our resource panel for projects also consists of mostly women.    Q: You’ve taken the lead and created changes with the support of your Rotaract team in Kandy when it comes to women’s empowerment. Can you tell our readers about it?  A: The Rotaract Club of Kandy is always about team spirit and solidarity that helps us execute amazing projects. In the same way, we have done many women-oriented and women’s empowerment projects throughout.  I have been a part of and even co-chaired an important women’s empowerment project this year. We must do awareness projects and help women apply their skills practically in life.  I will mainly mention two projects here. One is the project ‘As We Unite For Her’ that we did in August 2021. The project was executed in line with Women’s Week. It was a successful project that covered important topics that needed to be discussed; the project spanned a full week.  We kick-started the project with a very insightful panel discussion with the participation of prominent women in Sri Lanka like Stephanie Siriwardhana, Kishani Alanki, and Bernadine Jayasinghe, moderated by Ahinsanie Weerasinghe. Lots of people appreciated this particular session.  We also had two other sessions. One was about social taboos and virginity, consequences of teenage pregnancy, and sexual freedom for women, which was another critical topic. The other session was focused on make-up and beauty tips, which we all know is something that most women are interested in. We had a ‘No-Cook Today’ programme as a PR campaign, where we took the initiative in breaking the stereotypical idea of ‘women belong in the kitchen’.  We also launched an e-booklet addressing the issues of period poverty, raising awareness on what we can do to minimise its prevalence in Sri Lanka.  Throughout the week, we also had women express their ideas, thoughts, and opinions through poems, essays, and other means, which were published across our social media pages.  The other important project was ‘Stand For Her’, which addressed menstrual taboos and myths, educated women about the proper use of sanitary napkins, and donated Rs. 100,000 worth of reusable sanitary napkins to a school in Heenuggala. It took place on Saturday, 28 May.  We visited the school, distributed the guide we had compiled about menstrual hygiene, and taught them, through one-on-one sessions, about using sanitary napkins correctly.  This is an important and far-reaching project, considering the lack of knowledge among Sri Lankan women about menstruation, especially in rural areas.    Q: I have come across many webinars and interactive sessions conducted by the Rotaract Club of Kandy to break the stigma around sex education. This is specially catered to women because we are often worried about opening up. Can you talk about this?  A: Yes. As mentioned earlier, we had a session regarding the sexual freedom of women discussing taboos about virginity and teenage pregnancy and consequences.  This was a very timely project because even though the world is moving forward, discarding age-old myths and ideas, Sri Lanka is still backward as a society when it comes to these topics.  Moreover, women are not comfortable talking about their issues due to the stigma attached to them. That is why we, as a club, take the lead in initiating projects to break the bias and put an end to stereotypical beliefs in our society.    Q: Lastly, why should one join the Rotaract club?  A: I joined Rotaract because of my passion for it. Some joined to make new friends and develop their network, while others joined to improve themselves. But whatever the reason is, I can say to you, at the end of the day, it is all about the satisfaction it gives you.  The contentment, happiness, and satisfaction you feel after completing a project are unmatched. As a Rotaractor, you go to bed knowing that you managed to bring a smile to a face that had long forgotten how to smile, helped society somehow, and did your part, even in the tiniest way, to make a change in the world. That is why you should join Rotaract.    PHOTOS © JAMEEMA RAFAIDEEN

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