Toronto East women community leaders share ideas and goals on gender equality

On Monday, June 6, Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS) feminist leaders held a meeting in the lobby of their office with community media representatives. Photo credit: Dr. Mahbub Hasan

Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS) feminist leaders held a meeting with community media to highlight issues affecting women in Toronto East neighbourhoods, while sharing their own experiences with the campaign

Urbi Khan and Dr. Mahbub Hasan ||

In early June, the Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS) held a meeting with journalists from community media in Toronto.

The event was an opportunity to bring together both the women community leaders and journalists to hold a conversation and build a partnership by sharing experiences and stories “The main objective of the “Fighting Misogyny, Achieve Gender Equality” (campaign) is to bring about systemic change that promotes equitable societies for everyone,” said Joyce Mgbolu, one of the BCS feminist leaders.

Mgbolu also added that together, the group of feminist leaders – who have been mentored since October 2021 by Dr. Mahbub Hasan, a social worker and faculty member at Centennial College and Dr. Nasima Akter, the executive director of BCS – have made “tremendous strides by bringing stakeholders together to discuss and act on dismantling all forms of misogynist and oppressive systems that subjugate women to violence.”

Basirat Naphew gives a presentation to media representatives along with six of her fellow feminist leaders. (L-R: Basirat Naphew, Mahye Choudhury, Kaniz Fatema, Rumana Rashid, Joyce Mgbolu and Rehana Islam) on Monday, June 6, at the Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS) office in Toronto. Photo credit: Dr. Mahbub Hasan

Six feminist leaders were joined by BCS, out of the total of 33 leaders, to give the presentation and share the group’s collective journey as community leaders to the following community media groups: Shohidul Islam and Abdul Halim Mia from NRB TV and Bangla Mail, M.R. Jahangir from Bangla Kagoj, Shaughat Ali Sagor from Notun Desh, Khurshid Alam Probashi Konto and Emamul Haque from The Radio Metro Mail and Mahbub Osmani from CBN. BCS founder, Mustaq Ahmed and BCS youth leaders were also in attendance.

The feminist leaders consist mostly of South Asian women; however, they differ in age, ranging from high school students to senior citizens. The spectrum of representation and different educational and career backgrounds gives the group a positive boon, as they work together and learn from each other to build a better understanding of community.

The campaign was first conceived as a result of the rise of domestic violence issues during COVID-19 across Canada.

In January 2022, BCS released a report with the support of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, which highlighted that during COVID-19, when families were shuttered in their homes in close quarters, family violence became rampant and mostly women and girls were affected.

South Asian, specifically Bangladeshi, women and girls faced physical, mental, verbal and financial abuses. The abuse was often perpetrated by the husbands and/or fathers of the family. The report was the result of two workshops held in Oct. and Nov. 2021 by Qazi Shafayetul Islam and Nasima Akter, with 60 women participating.

To provide the feminist leaders with tools and ideas to combat gendered discrimination and violence, BCS conducted modules and training workshops held by experts in their respective fields. The workshops included (but were not limited to) sessions on anti-oppression, anti-racism and anti-Black racism and feminist theories and critical race feminism, and as well as writing stories for media and social media.

Over the last two months, BCS feminist leaders have held “circle meetings”, consisting of an intimate number of fellow community members. During these meetings, conversations were held on the impact of gendered discrimination and violence while highlighting women’s issues.

To further their campaign, this meeting with journalists provided an opportunity to spread their experiences wider through community media. The leaders were able to bring attention and highlight how misogyny and oppressive systems affect women in racialized and marginalized Toronto East communities.

“Media plays a vital role in a society,” said Rumana Rashid, another feminist leader, on why it was important to hold this conversation. “It opens the door for discussion, sharing information, and engaging community members to achieve common goals. The media can influence, direct and motivate society.”

Dr. Mahbub Hasan is pictured with BCS feminist leaders (Dr. Mahbub Hasan, Kaniz Fatema, Basirat Naphew, Joyce Mgbolu, Mahye Choudhury and Rumana Rashid: from L-R) on Monday, June 6, at the Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS) office in Toronto. Photo credit: Dr. Nasima Akter

For the upcoming future and into next year, these feminist leaders will continue to work with BCS and in the community at large. The leaders aim to use their platform and share more stories concerning women and gendered discrimination to the forefront of their community’s conversations.

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