Prejudice is often portrayed as the baseless and sometimes negative perception or attitude towards a group. It can have a strong influence on how people think, behave and interact with others. There’s a lot of well-known types of prejudice that are experienced in the world. Among the long list lies racism, sexism, ageism, classism, homophobia, nationalism, religious prejudice, and xenophobia. When people hold prejudicial attitudes toward others, they tend to view everyone that fits into a certain group, as being “all the same.” or is not unique at all. They tend to paint every individual who holds particular characteristics or beliefs with a very broad brush and often fail to really look at each person as a unique individual. There are times that these things are not noticeable, yet it is still continuously happening. Despite experiencing this, people still find ways in order to pass through it.
- Elena Gorolová, an illegally sterilized mom in the Czech Republic
Giving birth is one of the most beautiful experiences a mother would want to experience. Despite the pain of childbirth, the sight of a newborn child could easily ease the pain away. Elena Gorolová, along with her husband, dreamt of having a little girl. She was blessed with the birth of two sons and they still looked forward to the next. Until the news of her being sterilized without her knowledge was told by the very doctor who delivered her son.
This horrifying discovery led to finding that she was not alone, and that a lot or Roma women have experienced the same thing. Elena explained that she was at a very confusing moment when a nurse came to her with a paper and was told to sign it. At that time, she had no idea what it’s all about as she was in great pain. It was the next day when she was told by the head physician of the maternity ward that would never be able to have children. This really broke her heart as she was only 21 years old and was still hoping for a girl.
Elena and her husband went to the social services department to demand an explanation and to ask if this incident happened because they were Romani, but the staff were extremely rude and threw them out. Gorolová then discovered that her fallopian tubes had been severed which makes the operation irreversible. She was told that the method done to her had been to tie the tubes, although some women still managed to become pregnant despite this.
Elena shared that she have experienced discrimination as a kid and she thinks that they didn’t want more Roma children to be born. Despite the hard situation she is forced to deal with, recovery still made its way into her life. The process began when a number of organizations, the League of Human Rights, the European Roma Rights Centre, and Life Together, held a meeting for women whose health and lives have been affected by forced sterilization. Speaking openly to these women who fully understand what she had been through gave her the catharsis and enough courage she needed in order to move forward.
The group set out goals to promote the concept of informed consent, promote patients’ rights, raise awareness about forced sterilization, seek compensation and a government apology for failing their duty to protect them. They also seek to improve the way medical staff treat women in maternity wards.
It was not easy for them but the changes they have won have been rewarding. This includes the term “informed consent” to be now a part of hospital vocabularies and that more women are now coming forward to share their experiences. The group has recently launched a project with the title “You Are Not Alone” in order to identify the cases of illegal sterilization, empower victims to seek justice, to reach out to young Roma women and girls, as well as healthcare professionals on the issues.
- Lucy Nduati, a police officer in Kenya
In the place where Lucy Nduati lives, police officers are among the most highly respected people and becoming one really brings pride to a family. However, becoming a female police officer in Kenya can also be a challenge as well. The Kenyan culture is part and was still practicing the African old patriarchal system where women being placed in places of power is considered uncommon. She shared that in most cases, men will often feel degraded when she arrests them. Some also tried to use sexual advances in thinking that maybe it is something they need to get off the hook.
Good thing, this doesn’t bother Lucy that much anymore as she was focused on what she is tasked to do. It is believed that women played an important part in the police force because most people find them to be more understanding. They have a unique way in terms of policing that is generally based on communications.
Lucy has been part of the Administration Police Headquarters for the last six years and in her tenure as the Secretary of the Kenya Association of Women in Policing, she has gained an huge amount of interest in cases relating to sexual or gender-based violence. She currently runs a network of middle and junior management-level police officers and is aiming to push for cases they are handling to reach successful prosecution.
Lucy Nduati is a 34 year old single mother and a police officer from Nairobi. Over the course of her career, she already handled cases of sexual and gender-based violence and has been relentless in helping survivors obtain justice.
- Lost after Layoffs and Age Discrimination
Despite having 23 years of experience in I.T., a man was laid off when the company lost a contract renewal. After four years of trying to pump out customized resumes and individually-written cover letters that followed all the other job search advice, the man only got a handful of interviews and zero offers despite having a Master’s degree, PMP credentials, and years of experience. He had never tried to file a complaint or contracted an attorney due to lack of evidence to prove that age discrimination is present.
Experienced workers are also stereotyped to be overqualified which often leads them to hiding their age on their resume and it is very difficult to do that. There is an Executive Director of a nonprofit who observed that the hiring team most likely picks the younger generation than the older ones. And other companies tend to pick men rather than women. Despite experiencing things like these, the courage to continue looking for opportunities is still seen and it is one of the best things to do when placed in situations similar to what is written above.
- Pelin Aslantaş, only female bus driver in Edirne, Turkey
Among 202 men drivers, Pelin was the only woman bus driver who had the courage to take the job. She said that she learned how to drive at the age of 10 using her father’s four-wheel-drive, with her mother who patiently taught her how to drive. One day, her son noticed the municipality’s call for applications for women bus drivers online. Her interest in this job was so high that she decided to get a special license for public transportation, which is 10 times more difficult than getting a regular driver’s license.
She could not avoid the judgements made by her male colleagues as they were taken aback by Pelin at the beginning. They even started a rumour among themselves that she would have an accident or would quit in no time. But after a while, they saw how competent of a driver she is and was convinced that she has good skills.
It was indeed an incredibly demanding job for Pelin as she works very long hours and has only one day off. For her male colleagues, their work ends here and when they go home, they can finally rest. But in Pelin’s case, when she arrived at home, she still needed to head straight to the kitchen and do her tasks as a mom. She feels like she can rest more in the bus while driving.
There isn’t an easy job where you’ll just lie down and wait for the money to reach your hands. But if you love what you are doing like Pelin, the job can be a lot easier. She set a rule upon herself that she will continue what she started. She believes that she ain’t a quitter and will continue in doing her job for as long as her strength can handle.
The 43 year old Pelin Aslantasis, who was the only female bus driver in the city of Edirne, in north-western Turkey, proved that driving isn’t only for men. She knew that her gender can’t stop her from doing her passion and she plans to continue it for as much as she could.
- Laura Bosnea, one of the first Roma women councillors in Moldova
Women, especially wives, are often stereotyped to be staying at home, doing household chores, and taking care of their own children. They are not much expected to work as it was believed to be the husbands’ job to support his family. But this is not what Laura wanted to be.
Laura was just a 21 year old lady when her husband took her away from her father’s custody. She was just a student at that time. Her father agreed only on one condition, which is that the husband would allow her to finish law school. Unfortunately, they ended up having two kids which made it hard for Laura to complete her studies.
She admitted that she was not the type of person who would just stay at home and be a plain housewife, so she decided to get involved in community affairs. As a Roma woman, her goal was to make the rights of the Roma community respected, so she became a community mediator between the Roma and the local administration. It wasn’t long enough until she got elected to the local council as she became one of the first two Roma women councillors in Moldova in 2015. She still struggled to get recognition with the fact that she was just 28 years old at that time and was still considered as a young Roma woman.
Her husband started accusing her of abandoning their children. But day after day, from the rise of the morning sun until its setting, she still continued to help other children while a nanny took care of her own. Laura struggled to deal with what her husband wants and to persuade him that she has good purpose in helping the disadvantaged people and to fight for justice.
Still, she continued what she thinks is best until her efforts start bearing fruit. Ever since Laura became a councillor, 79 Roma children have been registered in schools. The streets inhabited by Roma have now lighting and garbage bins installed. Some people may think that these are just small and minor accomplishments but she knew to herself how much effort she placed in order to have them fulfilled. Laura still has a plan of graduating from law school and building a community centre made for women and children from vulnerable groups. Laura is a woman who trashed the idea of sexism and felt that she had already found her purpose, as well as her mission in life.
- Khalid Hussain, an Urdu-speaking Bihari in Bangladesh
Khalid Hussain was one of the Biharis that can be found from Bangladesh. He saw how the Urdu speaking Biharis have been the most disadvantaged group in Bangladesh as they were merely recognized as citizens even in the country that they regard as their home.
He once brought the story of the Biharis to the special event, Voices: ‘Everyone affected by racism has a story that should be heard’, at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, where he told his audience that ever since the partition of Pakistan in 1971, a lot of Bihari people with an estimated number of more than three hundred thousand have been living in makeshift camps all over Bangladesh.
Hussain lives in the Geneva camp which was set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1971. It got its name after the organisation’s Swiss headquarters. Being one of the largest in Bangladesh, the Geneva camp is the home to almost twenty five thousand people who live in houses that measure an average of 13 square metres which can accommodate up to 5 to 8 people. For the entire camp, there are two hundred fifty public toilets. Hussain stated that as a Biharis, he felt like they don’t have the access to any means that could help them survive in the society, whether it be socially, culturally and economically.
He told his story like the typical ones that Biharis usually share. As they try to find a school in order to complete primary school, he and the other students tried to enrol at the local high school but were refused, which led them to no choice but to enter a private school that not anybody can afford. During their time at the private school, the Bihari students were treated as race apart. They experienced that stare of the Bengali students who looked at them as if they were strangers and even whispered to each other things in relation to the Bihari camps.
As Khalid grew up, he continued to face these racial discriminations when it comes to access to employment as a way to escape poverty. They were not only denied by all government positions, but also their addresses in camps and their undefined legal status caused wider discrimination in their case. As a result, the vast majority of the Biharis were forced to join into the informal sector and worked as rickshaw-pullers, drivers, butchers, barbers, mechanics and craft workers.
Hussain concluded by mentioning tolerance and an appeal for change of attitude which could reduce the discrimination endured by his community. They deserved something way better than this and he hopes and trusts that one day, they will see a world free of racism, racial discrimination and intolerance. We are all humans living on the same Earth. Being different must not mean you are an outcast and love should top it all.
- Black Lives Matter Movement in US
Black Lives Matter, or what is shortly known as BLM, is a decentralized movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against Black people. It called the attention of almost a lot of countries which joined in this protest that aims to protect the Black people. The campaign aimed to focus on issues like racial injustice, police brutality, criminal justice reform, black immigration, economic injustice, LGBTQIA+ and human rights, environmental conditions, voting rights & suppression, healthcare, government corruption, education, and common sense gun laws.