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'Breaking the Bias' - Canadian Tamil Congress celebrates International Women's Day 

Sahithya Rajith's performance on the Veena

The Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) marked International Women's Day by hosting a virtual event discussing "gender equality and breaking the bias for a successful tomorrow" and showcasing several talented Canadian Tamil women. 

The Facebook live event included a keynote speech from Canada's Minister of National Defence, honourable Anita Anand, several dance and singing performances, and a guided discussion between four accomplished Tamil Canadian women.

The event's host, Swetha Pararajasingam, highlighted that the CTC event was integral in "celebrating the contributions and achievements of women to the social, economic, political, cultural aspects of life."

The honourable Anita Anand, Canadian Minister of National defence and CTC keynote speaker, addressed the audience. Anand commented on her background as a South Asian woman, stating, “one of the reasons why I ran for Public Office is that when I looked across the House of Commons I didn't see anybody that looks like me.”

"Building an inclusive and diverse society is important because we know that when women succeed, everyone will benefit," Minister Anand continued. 

CTC Vice-President Raveena Rajasingham also spoke at the event stating, "Imagine a gender-equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination… Together we can bring forward women's equality by breaking the biases in our community, workplaces, schools, colleges and universities." 

The CTC also announced the 'Women in Leadership 2022' award recipient, Janani Pathy. Pathy is a Principal at the York Region District School Board (YRDSB), cited as a "trailblazer" in education. 

Commenting on the vital role her parents played in her success and drive to succeed, Pathy stated; "My hope is that all Tamil Canadian families invest in the dreams of their daughters because families play a significant role in helping to break the bias so that girls can succeed and achieve their true potential."

The CTC event also included a discussion, guided by Pararajasingam, between Sumi Prabaharan, Dr. Kanna Vela, Luxmi Jeyavel and Initha Subramanium. 

Realtor Sumi Prabaharan disused her experiences growing up in the 1970s in Sri Lanka as a young Tamil Woman. Prabaharan explained the gender-based expectations put on her, such as "walking like a lady" and the several ways she "rebelled" from these expectations through her naturally loud and expressive personality.

In one instance, Prabaharan described that while attending Jaffna University, she was humiliated by a group of men who described her as rebellious, telling her to "wear a sari and Pottu, not bellbottoms." However, Prabaharan explains that the instance made her more resilient and willing to fight for her rightful space in society as a woman of colour. 

Dr. Kanna Vela also spoke at the event, explaining the importance of raising strong young women. 

"Breaking these biases starts at home… It's these non-traditional things that you teach girls at a young age that can move them forward and allow them, in their adult lives, to challenge these biases," Dr. Vela stated. 

Luxmi Jeyavel, a Director at the Royal Bank of Canada, also contributed to the discussion, stating;

 "Your only limit is the limit you set for yourself. Get out there and network and seek advice and be your own advocate. Challenge biases when you hear them, open up a conversation and help others unpack where those biases are from because if we don't take action, we cannot evolve from it."

Initha Subramanium, YRDSB Vice-Principle, also spoke about her childhood stating, "I am very appreciative of how my dad raised me to be a strong Eelam Tamil woman," explaining that "the bias came from outsiders." 

"It's important for Tamil female-identified students, all female-identified students, our trans women and non-binary folk to see that they have a voice and they can be leaders. Embrace our identity. We don't need to shorten our names. We don't have to change who we are to be successful… Don't let stereotypes and assumptions limit you," Subramanium added. 

Watch the recorded event here.

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