Dear Indo-Caribbean Woman
Written by: Tiara Jade Chutkhan
Dear Indo-Caribbean Woman,
As I write these words, we are all going through a period of intense emotion. It’s no surprise that recent events have brought us all to a place where we may feel helpless, angry, frustrated or despair. There is so much content going around right now spreading awareness on the issue of gender based violence and all the subsections within it. It hurts to read the lived experiences of women in our community, it hurts to see the statistics that show undoubtedly that there is an epidemic going on whether people realize it or not. All of this is yet another burden that Indo-Caribbean women have been made to carry. This particular burden is one that stems 200 years ago from the moment our foremothers stepped onto the imbalanced indenture ships. But today I want to take us into a new space, into a new moment, into a new feeling.
Right now, I am thinking about each and every one of you. I am thinking of our mothers, our aunts, our grandmothers and all the women who came before us. I am thinking of the women we descended from, still in India, contemplating the journey to these islands they had never heard of. I am thinking of their voyage, months of being on a ship, of their arrival and the life they had to assimilate into. I am thinking of everything they fought to become, to protect, to break free of, knowing there would come a day when their descendants would have the opportunities they could never fathom. And I am thinking of what it has meant to be an Indo-Caribbean woman over the past 200 years.
I like to believe our legacy began with a need for change and newness. Whether we know specifically or not about our ancestors' personal stories, we know that they wanted to change their circumstances and experience something new that would change their lives. With that yearning for the new, came bravery. Women weren’t always permitted control over their lives and bodies and we know this is still a struggle to this day. The minute they stepped on those ships, there was a sense of liberation that hadn’t previously been experienced. We needed men less and less, we earned our own money, we could walk away from partners that no longer served us and choose to be with whoever was the better option. Women led and took part in some of the most well known uprisings omn the plantations. This is not to glamorize the indenture period, but to remember that it was the birth of Indo-Caribbean feminism. We've always known that we have power.
Take a minute and think of the women before you. Your mother, your grandmother, your aunt, your great grandmother, whoever comes to mind first. Think of the stories that they’ve shared with you over the years. Perhaps your grandmother fled an abusive relationship and came to North America to create a better life for her children. Maybe your mother had you at a young age and still managed to put herself through school because she wanted more for herself and for you. Maybe your aunt worked two jobs, day and night, to save money for that home she now owns. And maybe because of all the resilient women you saw around you, you are currently writing your own legacy with each of those sacrifices in mind. Can you think of a stronger set of women?
As we moved into the modern day, being an Indo-Caribbean woman has taken on a different tone. There is no doubt that we still experienced an immense amount of trauma and inequalities due to gender. But that resilience never ceased to flow through our blood, nor the ability to create something new. Indo-Caribbean women ran businesses and got educated in different fields. Even those who remained in more traditional roles were making the best of their circumstances, ensuring their children would get the opportunities they weren’t able to. When I look around nowadays and see all the Indo-Caribbean women in medical, law, culinary, creative, business and so many other fields, I’m incredibly proud. We never grew up with this level of representation and it’s only continuing to grow. Our women are excelling in spaces that weren’t creative for us or welcoming for us. Whenever I sit down to edit a Brown Girl Boss post, one common thing many women say is that there were people who looked down on them within their field because they are women and women of colour at that. Has that stopped any of us from making our dreams come true? Nope! We are a group of women that knows no boundary.
Each and every one of us carries these qualities of strength, resilience, creation and bravery. We are doing the things our ancestors dreamed of and beyond. I can only imagine how they’d feel if they saw the things we are achieving, making ourselves known and showing up authentically each day. I once heard a saying that went something like, “do it for the thousand women who came before you and the thousand women who will come after you.” That has stuck with me ever since. All the work we are putting in to unpack our personal traumas, the generational traumas and the issues in our community are going to create positive, safe and loving spaces for Indo-Caribbean daughters in the future. While the problems we’re facing might feel defeating and repetitive, everything we do is not in vain. I want you to remember that your contributions, no matter the size, are working to build something great.
And so, my dear Indo-Caribbean woman, remember that you are a force, a power, a beauty, and your existence on this planet, your role in this community, is valued to the highest degree. Right now, our community needs us more than ever and we each have unlimited love and skills to offer as well as gifts that are exclusive to us. Look to your ancestors for guidance and strength, look to your sisters to uplift and empower and look to your family for love and tenderness. Continue to create new things, push yourself to become what you cannot yet fathom and step into the powerful woman you were put here to be.
I am rooting for each and every one of you.