Waterloo celebrates HeForShe writing contest winners
2020 authors will be honoured at International Women's Day Dinner
2020 authors will be honoured at International Women's Day DinnerBy Robyn Clarke University Relations
Gender equality requires a global effort — one that takes the force of everyone who wants to make a change.
The University of Waterloo is proud to be one of the leading institutions in achieving gender equity. As a partner of the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10, Waterloo closely monitors and improves the framework that encourages gender equality and the empowerment of women across campus and beyond. To honour this commitment, every March, Waterloo runs the HeForShe writing contest ahead of International Women’s Day. Students, staff, faculty and alumni are invited to share stories about their hope for social change.
“These talented writers and poets inside this year’s anthology have already added so much to our community,” says Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor. “Their voices have broadened our perspectives and I congratulate each of the winners and all of our newly published writers on their wonderful pieces.”
This year’s theme was LEGACY. Authors were encouraged to consider how the idea of legacy brings us to the present and how our choices today will impact generations to come.
“The diverse stories and experiences within this year’s Anthology highlight how far we have come, but also remind us of the work required to ensure an equitable future for all,” says Diana Parry, associate vice-president Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion. “This writing contest is a catalyst to begin and continue important conversations and action around gender equity, and I am deeply thankful for all who have contributed to this and past editions. Our campus is indebted to you for sharing your experiences.”
Judges from the University of Waterloo selected four winners, each of whom were awarded with a $500 prize. Winners are recognized at Waterloo’s International Women’s Day Dinner held annually at Federation Hall. This year’s event will take place on Friday, March 6.
“Kiss a bird?
Why, that’s absurd!”
The student exclaimed,
Her face aflame.
“There’s no need to fuss
About a little buss.
Take a chance
On our romance.”
The goose beguiled,
With avian wile.
The student inhaled the icy air
And replied with an answer fair.
“All I want is my property.
There’s no need to behave improperly.”
“What will you lose
If you kiss a goose?”
The goose inquired.
The student perspired.
“My dignity and sanity
And all my other faculties!”
She quickly retorted.
The goose snorted.
“But I am a prince!”
The goose evinced.
“So there’s nothing to fear,”
Dear son, our family has not been very fortunate
Famine, war, pain, we have seen the worst of it
Though we were never rich, we always stay true
To our principles, traditions, faith, and virtues
Dear son, you must carry on our family name
Or your ancestors would have died in vain
You must live to bring honour to your family
So one day your own son can live on happily
Dear son, you will be our only chance
For our quality of life to advance
Raising you will be our life’s purpose
One day, you will make our sacrifices worth it
Dear son, I know this is wrong to say
But when I saw you, my heart broke right away I knew that my legacy would be no longer
Because that was the day I was handed a daughter
I should clarify: the only acceptable doctoring is medically
related doctoring. Doctorate degrees don’t count. My dad’s
brother lives two hours away and has a PhD. in mathematics,
his wife in economics, and their child is a computer engineer –
all acceptable, STEM-related disciplines – and yet we only
see them at community parties. My dad’s cousin, who lives
five hours and two states away, is a dentist. We see her family
every year for Labour Day, Diwali, and Thanksgiving. Also,
psychology doesn’t count as a science. My cousin – okay she’s
like my third cousin because we aren’t first cousins, and our
parents aren’t first cousins, so the closest we can be related is
third cousins, but we’re probably actually fifth but saying fifth
cousins sounds weird, so I just call her my cousin – became a
psychologist and the families never mentioned her since. She
also dyed her hair blond, so that could be the reason for the
moratorium on her name.
But this is a pretty common rant if you’re Indian, heck, if you
have strict parents in general. Your parents want you to follow
a particular path, and few are lucky enough to want that too.
You either suck it up and do what they want (usually after an
argument in which they threaten to disenfranchise, disinherit,
and disown you, with the whole my-money-my-rules-if-youdon’t-
like-it-leave speech), find a way to compromise, or you
call them on their bluff and end up a starving artist. To be
fair, I don’t particularly like or dislike medicine. I just don’t
want to go through eight years of gruelling academics, plus
practical placements and residency, to reach 30 with a quarter
million dollars in student debt, a 60-hour work week, and no
life. At least, that’s how I perceive doctors after seeing what
my brother and sister have gone through. How much of that
bitterness is directed at my parents, I can’t say.
The problem is that it’s my junior year, and all my parents’
hopes rest upon my test scores. The majority of my family,
nuclear and extended, have attended reputable schools with
top medicine programs: Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Oxford,
etc. I’m expected to do the same, but, you know, no pressure;
I’ll just be an eternal source of shame to my family if I don’t
get accepted to an Ivy League school. So, I’ve been dragged to
the Saraswati Pooja to pray to the goddess of knowledge for
the first steps of my charted future to be successfully fulfilled.
The first time I opened the jewellery box myself was when
I was eleven. I don’t remember the circumstances that led me
to ask my mother whether I could or not, but I remember she
had a deep smile on her face, one that touched her eyes and
formed creases on her cheeks. We both washed our hands and
sat on the bed. Once opened, I touched all the old newspaper
wrappings. It smelt of anise and cardamom. I took the
first piece of jewellery out, a pair of pearl earrings. My
grandmother had these made the last day she ever spent in
India, knowing she would never return. She never wore the
earrings in her lifetime. She spent her last bit of wealth on
having them made and then stored them away so that one
day I could wear them.
My grandmother suffered. Both of my grandmothers did.
And they never talked about it. It’s hard for me to face their
suffering. The part of me shaped by the western ideals I live
in finds their suffering shameful because it is rooted in their
oppression, even if in their ignorance they did not consider
themselves oppressed. The part of me that, when thinking
about “meaningful touch,” jumps to the thought of the
jewellery box, is ashamed of myself. Perhaps it is the guilt of
being the first woman in my family to suffer less than those
before me. Perhaps it is the guilt of feeling superior in intellect
and skill. Perhaps it’s the catharsis of understanding that my
grandmothers chose to suffer because if they did not, I would
not have the privilege to look down upon them today.
Additional submissions have been published and can be found in the printed anthology outside the W Store and the Writing and Communication Centre. To read the anthology online, please visit the HeforShe homepage.
HeForShe is a global effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential, and together positively reshaping society. The United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women created the initiative and hosted an official launch in September 2014 with UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson.
As part of this initiative, the framework involves 10 heads of state, 10 CEOs and 10 university presidents to advance gender equity. Waterloo is currently the only Canadian organization involved in the IMPACT 10x10x10 framework.