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WOMEN: Make changes through dance

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No to violence against women! A flash mob on Friday puts this across strongly, writes Kasmiah Mustapha

TO mark International Women’s Day on Friday, The Body Shop Malaysia is organising a flash mob to raise awareness of violence against women.

Its managing director Datin Mina Cheah-Foong explains the significance of the event:

What is the aim of the flash mob?
This flash mob comes after the One Billion Rising flash mob we did on Feb 14, together with Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters In Islam, Tenaganita and other groups. It was held nationwide in all our stores throughout the peninsula, following American playwright Eve Ensler’s call for one billion women around the world to dance together to show collective strength.

The tremendous response made us want to do it again on a larger scale. We will again be joined by the activists, students from Inti College as well as our employees and customers. We will be dancing at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, behind the fountain at 1.30pm. We are using dance to reclaim our bodies and to make a stand to end violence against women.

What will the mob be dancing to?
Break The Chain. The dance is choreographed by Debbie Allen and the steps can be found on www.facebook.com/thebodyshopmalaysia.

Why the theme Expect Respect?
Respect is fundamental before we can make any changes. Respect has to start from birth, giving girls and boys equal value. Society has to change its mindset and to learn to give respect to girls for us to see any form of change.

Who do you want to take part in the flash mob?
Everybody! Men, women, children, those from non-governmental organisations, student bodies, government agencies, corporate companies and retailers because it affects everyone.

Everybody has a story to tell about violence — be it your daughter who’s had her bag snatched, your sister that got wolf whistled or your neighbour who was mugged at the car park. Everyone should stand up and dance, and make a difference.

How many people are expected at the flash mob?
One thousand people but the more the merrier.

Will The Body Shop organise more flash mob events in the future?
We are constantly campaigning and raising awareness about things we are passionate about. Activism is in our blood. We try and get people involved as much as we can by using trends to promote our message. Today, it is a flash mob, tomorrow it may be something else. While we can’t be certain if there will be more flash mobs, we will keep campaigning for what we believe in.

What other issues on women need to be highlighted?
More should be done for women in the workplace. There isn’t enough protection for women who are subjected to harassment in the office. Why should a woman be subjected to sexist jokes or comments? Culturally, things have to change as well. Men are told to speak out and be bold while women remain submissive and modest. Things have to change at every level.

Are women’s issues in the country addressed and dealt with by the authorities?
It isn’t enough. Take child care for instance. More places should be set up for women to leave their children in a safe place while they work.

Why grant only maternity leave? Grant paternity leave as well. That way, both parents can take turns to look after the child and employers will not look at woman as a liability.

What is The Body Shop’s role in raising awareness of women’s issues here?
As a business, we have a responsibility to do good. We need to use our influence as a retailer to inform customers on what is going on and how we can create change.

Eight million people walk into our stores annually. We have an opportunity to reach out and tell them how change can come about through working together. Thanks to our customers, we have successfully launched many campaigns for women, the environment, children and animals. It is through the passionate campaigning of our employees that these messages continue to be delivered and it is through the support of our customers that change is possible.

What other women’s issues is The Body Shop passionate about?
Gender equality. Once that is in place, everything falls into line. The Body Shop has been working on women’s issues for more than 20 years now. What people consider taboo, we take a stand and break the silence. We have to keep expanding areas of participation for women, break enforced boundaries that curtail personal freedom of choice for women. Those of us who can, must stand up for our sisters who cannot.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. We need to continue fighting for what we believe in.

PORTRAIT SERIES OF WOMEN
ALLIANCE Francaise de Kuala Lumpur (AFKL) is organising a photography exhibition and fashion show to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The exhibition, The Beautiful Truth, by Shuhada Hasim will showcase a portrait series of women that features their real beauty.

In her portraits, Shuhada shares her belief that beauty exists not only physically but also in the form of energy that emanates from inside. Her images show that every woman is beautiful regardless of age, skin colour and body shape.

Her portraits cover women from the age of 8 to 80.

Meanwhile, the fashion show will feature a collection from The Association Balo, which was set-up in 2005 to raise funds to provide free education and medical care to underprivileged children in Calcutta, India. Since 2007, Balo has also empowered and trained a group of young Indian women to create a range of design clothing for the European market. The collection will be available for sale after the show.

The event will be held on Friday at 7.30pm at Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur, Lorong Gurney. Admission is free.
 

“We need to continue fighting for what we believe in.” Datin Mina Cheah-Foong

The flash mob held on Feb 14 at Body Shop’s stores nationwide.


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