Sakinah Caunhye – Mauritius

Sakinah Caunhye – Mauritius

Date: August 21, 2015
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Transitioning from student to young adult… GL has given me a lot of my ‘first times’

Well, Gender Links (GL) has caused me to travel a lot. Since the first workshop, that day for the first time in my life, I travelled by bus to Quatre Bornes. The year following that meeting, I would travel alone for the first time by plane to Johannesburg! Today when I sit and think back, I feel amazed at how, being merely active with an organisation can cause such significant change in attitude and behaviour. GL has helped me grow into the person I am today.

I am a student and for most of my 23 years of existence I have done nothing but study. I enjoy studies and homework and deadlines. I have a passion for writing, which I recently discovered has been passed on from my late grandfather who wrote letters for the people of the village. I especially like writing with discipline and purpose. That being said, I have just completed a degree in Journalism, specialising in digital media. The 90s baby that I am, it was next to impossible not to be affected and curious about the upheaval caused by the Internet and social applications. At the moment, I am loving doing gastronomic and data journalism.

The first time I heard of Gender Links was when I was in first year at the university. They held a workshop at Gold Crest Hotel and for the first time ever in my life I travelled by bus to Quatre Bornes. The workshop was about gender and gender based violence. That began a series of encounters, because the “teachings” of GL resonated a lot with my beliefs. The second time I met GL, was when Mme Loga and the crew came to the university to make a presentation about a book or launch something. During that time, Mme Loga asked me if I would be interested in writing for them. I was thrilled. That was the first time that I did something in collaboration with an NGO. I went to the GL office for the first time and I was given press cuttings for the first time. (Please be prepared, GL has given me a lot of my “first times”). I looked at “I stories” and “changing lives” and started reading a lot about gender equality. In 2012 I volunteered to cover the SADC Gender Protocol national summit. I went together with a friend and I wrote an article and it was published! Another first!

A week before the regional summit in Johannesburg, Mme Loga called me and asked if I would be interested in joining the delegation to South Africa. I was thrilled to the core. I followed GL to Johannesburg where my life would change forever. I wrote for the newsletter and assumed the role of journalist for the first time in my life. It was also the first time that I flew alone. The latest encounter with GL was the national SADC Gender Protocol Summit 2014 where I contributed to the online newsletter.

When I got back from Johannesburg from the regional SADC Gender Protocol Summit, I started loving my chosen path as a journalist and my newly created network. I started gaining recognition for the work I did and for what I was able to do. It was mind blowing. Right then I knew that I was going to stay true and loyal to GL all through my life. Not because they flew me to Joburg, but because I was provided with the confidence and courage to emerge as the young woman I am today: bold, outspoken and fearless.

To be honest, I don’t know or can’t explain what has changed in my life. I come from a fairly conventional Muslim background. I was born into an extended family where education came first. The elders of the family, with the exception of my parents, did not attend school beyond “CPE”. I was taught from a very young age that my siblings and I are equal and always will be. Since childhood, my parents have treated us equally. None of us was privileged over another. We were rewarded according to our deeds and punished accordingly. Also, I grew up knowing and learning about my rights, responsibilities and duties as a Muslim girl. Right from the beginning I was taught that education was my birth right and I had the right to make every decision in my life. One piece of information that my father imparted to my sister and I while we were growing up was that when we start working and earning a living, no one but ourselves should have any rights over our earnings. It seemed normal and petty to me until now when I realise that it is not the case for everyone. Growing up, I always thought that all the people in the world, especially women, enjoyed the same rights as I do. I was gobsmacked when the harsh reality of life dawned upon me.

In my eyes, I would say that I grew up in a garden of roses. I was provided with everything and I did not need for anything. In a way, I was blinded to the actual world. When I joined university and started living on my own; meeting with people from the outside world and discovering things as a young adult, I realised that everything is not as simple as I used to think. Things that I would consider birth rights were privileges and luxuries to some people. I was appalled to know that people are battling to access the rights that I had enjoyed since birth and which I thought was completely normal. My siblings and I had similar duties and responsibilities and I thought it was the same in every household, but that is not the case. We are in the 21st century and boys are still considered superior to girls. Women are still being undermined and cut off from their rights.

When I met with GL I thought it was the best way for me to give back. I realised I was lucky and blessed and I felt the need to help people who are suffering injustice. Since I started digesting this fact about life my approach to people, especially women, has changed. Unknowingly, I already was aware of gender, but I started to look at things in a more critical manner, especially when it comes to the media. I read, view and analyse things in a more gender sensitive manner and this is one of the things that cannot be undone. Once you start this battle for equality and justice, you just don’t stop. GL provided this platform for me to give back and my outlook towards life itself has changed. Personally, I have never encountered any sort of gender based violence or discrimination and nobody wants to encounter it. If someone is facing violence, it is against his/her will. No one deserves to face such a situation.

GL can take all the credit in the world for this change. Through writing and contributing to content, GL has allowed me to give back and fulfil my social responsibility. My upbringing and the values I was taught by my family since childhood have definitely contributed to this change in me, but GL has amplified these values and paved the way for me to act upon them.
I have never been happier nor felt as proud of myself as when I see my works being published through GL. It is like working for a cause and contributing to the welfare and betterment of a person, society at large and in the long run, the entire world. I have learned a lot from Mme Loga, she is a very inspiring woman. I am truly appreciative of how she has anchored GL Mauritius to become what it is today. Through her, I learned what university could not possibly teach me. My first journalistic encounter with people and women with problems was though GL. It was Mme Loga who taught me how to talk to people who had faced a very troublesome past and how to get them to talk and make them feel good. Never in a million years could I have learned this at university or anywhere else.

I have learned how to write “I stories” and “autobiographies”. GL has allowed me to put my university learning into practice. I have learned to view and consume media content with a more critical eye and I deal with everyday life in a gender-aware manner. Personally, I have become a more open-minded person and I feel that I have become more “approachable” as well. Most importantly, I have learned to listen to people pour out their heart. Even at university or in my everyday life, people tell me “Sakinah, you’re one of the people I wouldn’t hesitate to run to, because I know you will listen to me without judging”. This is truly an honour for me and this would not have been possible had I not met GL.

I am extremely thankful to my parents for my upbringing and ever since I realised my luck, I am even more thankful and grateful to them. I have even more respect for them for making me value education and promoting gender equality right in the home. It is a skill for life and I find myself acting upon on it everywhere I go. My family and those immediately surrounding me have always been supportive. They form the strong foundation on which I stand and when I share my newly learned knowledge or skills with them, they are thankfully very open and they accept whatever I have to offer. Up until now I have not faced any resistance. On the contrary I have gained many good wishes and encouragement from my family.

Being the eldest, I have always had a certain influence on my siblings. They tend to follow my actions even though we have different goals and ambitions. I have noticed that my siblings tend to pause and think before passing judgement on anything. Also, my friends at university and outside did not seem to know about gender and gender based violence. I am happy that I have at least been able to share some knowledge and information with them.

The biggest challenge for me has been the bitter reality of real life. It is like Alice waking up from her dream of Wonderland. It has been hard for me to accept that I have been taught something and the outside world has been practicing something else, but I have learned to adjust and GL has been with me all along. I will forever be grateful for that.

My plan at the moment is to find a job that I really enjoy. God willing I will find it soon. For the time being, I am taking the time to enjoy some well-deserved vacation. I want to keep on giving back and I hope to walk the road with GL even further. I am grateful. Simply grateful.


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