Equality: What do I expect?
Piece written by Marsha Glenn | Illustration by Sham Kyriakakis
I remember that my mother used to collect a handful of rice from our every family meal. She had a separate tinned jar hiding at the dark corner of the kitchen shelf to save that little amount of rice every day. She just wanted to keep it safe in case my father got curious about it. Eventually, she managed to sell a standard amount of rice to the local grocery store for an acceptable amount of cash. Next, she used to hold on to the cash month after month until she was able to invest in property for herself and for us. My mother was the first person who taught me the value of saving up, of being prepared for the unseen future. Without having a proper understanding of entrepreneurship, limited access to resources she had managed to find a way to achieve her goals in life.
I grew up having my mother all the time around me. It was the other way around for my father. My mother had a very limited privilege of education. Like a lot of other women in my country, she was a fulltime housewife. Now I realise my mother wanted to have financial freedom and security. Most importantly when my father wasn’t around to make sure she could support her two daughters independently. What were her options though? Not much.
The Hindu goddess Durga with ten hands attached to her body is an image I can recall from my childhood. Although she is a mythical idol, metaphors in literature and the expectations of society suggest that women have to be like Durga, queen of multi-tasking. A woman who has access to proper education is lucky in so many ways but still has pressure to be perfect. It is anticipated that she should be top of everything such as family affairs, an excellent upbringing for kids, earning money and the end of the day having a big smile on her face.
My life in the UK has given me opportunities she never had and a sense of safety as a woman. I can travel at any time of the day and night. I can make my own decisions and choices. I don’t have to be accompanied by a man all the time. I don’t have to live with a man if I don’t want to. Thanks to Breaking Barriers, I have a job I enjoy.
As an immigrant woman in this daily life battleground, it is easy to find myself in a vulnerable position. In this complex situation, I would like to mention the seamless efforts of Breaking Barriers to help women. I found sessions like women focus group, coffee and conversation etc in Breaking Barriers have been very encouraging to speak up about feelings, limitations, desires, dreams in a relaxed environment. Exchange of experiences can possibly increase the chances to become more knowledgeable and skilled. I wouldn’t say women are threatened by anyone. Even so considering the new environment, changed circumstances they could do a lot more progress with the right guidance.
There are many ways you can support Breaking Barriers, including by donating money to help us open a Delivery Centre in North London, to enable more refugees to access our employment advice and guidance. Click here to find out more ways to support the work we do.