Women of Worth: Empowering women to be agents of change

Women of Worth (WOW) is a network of women from across the city of Chennai who believe that they can be agents of change. By empowering women and standing up for justice and equality in every facet of life and society, WOW seeks to help women be the best they can be.

In the past, WOW has sought to address issues like domestic violence, dowry, female infanticide, gender discrimination etc. through seminars, workshops and counselling.

The Issue: The toxic belief that a woman’s worth is measured by the fairness of her skin

As WOW has interacted with thousands of women, one of the key issues that has surfaced is the belief that the beauty and value of an Indian woman is determined by the fairness of her skin. This false belief, shaped by societal attitudes and reinforced by media messages, is corroding the self-worth of countless girls and women.

Our interactions have revealed that women with darker complexions:

* are often seen as the second or last option in industries that seem to set beauty norms, such as fashion, film, hospitality and services, etc.
* have been discriminated against in the workplace, and feel they have to work harder to be accepted by their peers
* have been insulted and mistreated by their own relations
* have been rejected by potential marriage partners

It’s not only women who experience the bias towards fairness. Men have similar experiences when it comes to jobs or feeling attractive.

The Goal: To engage the city in discussion to challenge and change attitudes

WOW is developing a multi-faceted media campaign called “Dark Is Beautiful” to be culminated during the week of International Women’s Day in March 2009. The campaign will:

1. seek to bring attention to skin colour bias and its toxic effects on our society and

2. challenge our city to think positively about every skin tone and esteem all people based on their innate value.

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