TEDxGeorgiaTech recently hosted the first Student Speaker Series, featuring nine speakers over three days. Included was Scheller undergraduate student Aiman Shahab whose talk “On Her Honor: Combating Gender Inequality in South Asian Culture” focused on women inequality and gender bias in South Asian Culture.
Shahab began her presentation by detailing the experiences both she and other women have had in a male-dominated society in which women are often attacked, both verbally and physically, because of their gender. She recounted her own experience growing up in such a culture where women’s education was available but not taken seriously enough to develop a career. She spoke about taking more leadership roles in high school but being told to stop participating in the activities because it wasn’t a “good look” for women. “Stay quiet, be more reserved, keep your head down and don’t talk so much,” she heard.
As an adult, she became involved in women’s rights by volunteering at women’s shelters to help those who suffer abuse and relayed that more women are coming forward to seek protection but at risk of being tortured or killed for their actions. “When we get used to extremities such as acid attacks as a benchmark, our tolerance widens and widens. Over time, abuse becomes the norm and leads to more women in shelters,” she said
The cultivation of silence and shame in women is expected and taught to both genders at an early age by family and culture. “One of the reasons women continue to be treated this way is how they’re depicted in popular culture, movies, and media,” she said. She provided an example of misogyny depicted in a Bollywood film that grossed over $2B at the box office and received thousands of positive reviews. She also presented several case studies of women who had died at the hands of men and mobs and challenged the audience to remember them all. “How many women can continue to suffer this way before a truly deep-rooted and cultural change can occur?” she asked.
Shahab ended her talk with a call to action, to stand up to inequality and bias, boycotting films that depict this violence, and encouraging mothers to find jobs so that they are able to leave households.
Shahab is a fourth-year student studying Finance and Spanish and plans on continuing her call for women’s rights reform by speaking at engagements beyond TEDxGeorgiaTech. The Scheller undergrad seeks to continue the conversation of diversity, equality and human rights with the hope that “if we fight, we will create a change in which our future daughters can live fearlessly.”
Watch Shahab's TEDxGeorgiaTech presentation.