Auckland, October 19, 2019
Mothers who turn a blind eye to the cries of their daughters’ appeal for help, a young woman suffering physical and mental abuse soon after marriage, a parent who refuses to accept her daughter’s same-sex relationship and a girl suffering physical assaults by her partner were among the ‘shocks’ witnessed by delegates attending a Conference in Auckland today.
Performers and Performances
A ‘drama of true events’ was presented by young performers, all of them of Indian origin, to underscore the rising occurrence of family violence in New Zealand, emphasising the vulnerability of victims and the inadequacy of the community in containing the menace.
More than 120 delegates, most of them women, attended the Women’s Forum of the New Zealand Indian Central Association at the newly constructed ‘Diversity Centre’ of the Indian Association Manukau New Zealand in Papatoetoe.
Produced by Sri Rashmi Rachakonda, the performers (not victims but actors portraying true events) were Abhishek Pillai, Ayushi Pillai, Charu Chutani who enacted a ‘Freedom Dance), Keerthana Puppala, Manya Sharma, Neha Bhan, Prakhar Mittal, Rohit Dang, Mehak Sharma and Zetin Malhotra. Sahil Malhotra was the Narrator.
The highlight of this segment of the Forum was the true story of Gautami Motupally, a Cancer Survivor.
Gautami said during her speech later that she was diagnosed with dysgerminoma and ovarian germ cell cancer when she was just 13 years old.
She had a six kilogram cyst and her right ovary removed and following six months of chemotherapy, she started making full recovery.
Now, eight years later, she is a third-year Occupational Therapy student at AUT.
Gautami is now leading a normal life and has been told that she can have children.
“Cancer is a deadly disease and people still do not want to talk about it openly. But I want to tell my story and the excellent role played by my mother in my battle. It was a woman’s problem but I believe that men should also be involved so that they can also understand the suffering,” she said.
The true events also demonstrated parental apathy prevalent in some families. In response to a daughter’s disparate phone call for rescue from her husband and his family, her mother replied,” You are a woman. You should learn to adjust to the wishes of your husband and his family. That is what I did as a newly-married woman.”
Another mother replies to her sobbing daughter, “How can you come back to our house? What will the society say? Nobody will marry your younger sister.”
Earlier, during a Power Point Presentation, Anjana Gaekwad, A Clinical Psychologist said that violence against children is on the rise.
Child Sex Abuse
“Apart from indecent and abusive language, children suffer sexual abuse. An increasing number of young girls are raped and one in seven boys are abused. People who do not say anything or remain neutral, are actually supporting and that is what the abuser wants. We should not tolerate such crime,” she said.
Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa cited Statistics New Zealand to say that family violence is on the rise and that many people live in traumatic conditions.
“Most people experience a cultural shock as they migrate to New Zealand and fight to find a balance between their traditions and the new environment. We have to deal with family violence effectively. The Indian population is the second fastest growing in New Zealand and we must have a good policy in place and we want to make sure that your voices are heard,” she said.
Ms Salesa said that children are among the most vulnerable victims of violence.
“As New Zealanders, we must also address other social evils such as discrimination, racism and bullying in our schools,” she said.
Empowering women to act
Member of Parliament Dr Parmjeet Parmar said that the Forum should provide a platform for exchange of views and information and truly empower women to act.
“All of us (women) have the power and the knowledge to come out of the four walls of our homes and make a difference. Instead, we are ticking boxes,” she said.
Forum Chairperson Dr Primla Khar emphasised the importance of ‘Self Care’ and ‘Facilitating the holistic growth of youth’ in her address.
“When ‘self’ is in harmony with the surrounding and the environment, the next step of fostering the growth of people around occurs. This care can be emotional, financial and health. We can facilitate youth by identifying their passion and problems and solving the latter through constructive demonstration,” she said.
Dr Khar said that it is important to make our young people realise that they are the flagbearers of our heritage, culture and traditions.
Earlier, opening the Conference, Former Forum President Ranjna Patel spoke of the continuing gap between men and women in the corporate world.
“Women account for only 37% on Boards of companies and less 35% in executive positions. But only 18% of top jobs including in governance role is held by Non-European New Zealanders. The next logical step in the move towards equity should involve ethnic women and their increased participation,” she said.
Stating that women should achieve their potential, Ms Patel quoted American Writer and Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Dr Pushpa Wood, Westpac Massey Fin-Ed Centre Director facilitated a Panel Discussion covering topics such as Self-Respect (‘Atma Shakthi’ as she called), Self-Confidence, Mental Illness, Mindset to overcome problems, Freedom of choosing what and how to wear as a Personal Statement and Relationships and Parenthood.
Among the speakers were Minal Rai (Teacher at AUT), Ashima Singh (Partner, Legal Associates Barristers & Solicitors), Harpreet Kaur (University of Auckland Law & Commerce student), Malti Kumar Sharma (Legal Executive at PatelNand Legal) and Danish Lang Siu (Barrister & Solicitor at Counties Manukau District Health Board).
This Reporter wrapped up the discussion.
Among the other speakers were NZICA Vice-President Prakash Biradar and Forum Secretary Champa Patel.
(Pictures by Indian Newslink)