This is an insight written by Esther Kaufman on the lecture given by Mrs. May Rihani as part of the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace series on Women and Peace.
The Impact of Examples
Mrs. May Rihani’s lecture, “Sexism, Gender Roles and Their Intersection with Power”, shed light on the broad range of issues surrounding sexism and gender bias around the world. A practitioner in education reform, her use of personal experiences enticed the audience. The audience cringed unanimously as she spoke of a culture that normalized rape, and nodded in profound astonishment at the change she has worked to inspire in promoting equality.
The Power of Patience
The issue of Sexism and Gender Bias are essential in the discussion of world peace. As crucial as spreading knowledge of today’s inequality is, I found myself most moved by the techniques Rihani has used in her work. She emphasized the necessity of immersing oneself in all aspects of a nations culture in order to propel conversation and understand norms. In combination with gaining a breadth of knowledge on the country, her stories also promoted the essentiality of patience. In order to facilitate the fair, two-sided conversations, she had with powerful community leaders, she had to remain patient.
The Need for Understanding
Despite cultural aspects that were shocking, she suppressed a perhaps more natural reaction of anger and appall. Instead, she kept in mind the importance of portraying understanding and sympathy. By portraying a sense of understanding and calm, she allows others to trust her as a reasonable source of information. Most importantly, her composure and empathy allows leaders to listen. This is not to say that she is able to change every mind, as she admits. However, having worked with cultures spanning over forty different countries it is safe to assume it has worked many times.
How can we help?
As Mrs. May Rihani replied to a question on how to overcome and navigate constricting societal norms she noted that “everyone has a role to play”. Perhaps you don’t have to be a large powerful organization to change the world. What if being passionate, patient and empathetic could be enough to impact real change?
About the Author:
Esther Kaufman is an undergraduate student studying Economics at the University of Maryland with a minor in Global Terrorism Studies. She is interested in the effects of economic policy on issues such as equality, welfare and radicalization of individuals in society.