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Foreword Women of the World Unite Miguel Da Costa Frias My mother, Cheryl Braganza, was a Montreal artist and human rights activist . Her painting on the cover of this book, Women of the World Unite (2014), sends a message of empowerment to girls and women. It envisions a future where women of all cultures join hands to collectively enact positive change. In speaking about the painting, she said, “Power, especially the power to effect real and meaningful change, is rarely a solitary achievement. More often, power is born out of a deep connection with others and a sense of ourselves in the world.” The authors in this book bring to light the issues that confront women who live within patriarchal systems that often oppress and divide them. Yet as Ayesha Khurshid points out in her chapter on rural Pakistan, women are active participants in these patriarchal systems as they attempt strategically to claim their rights and navigate hierarchy through their connections to others. In so doing, these women often transcend boundaries, reshaping the opportunities open to them and the systems in which they live. My mother did just that in her lifetime, and her personal story as well as her artwork continue to inspire the hope that other women can as well. Born in Bombay, India, and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, my mother grew up within the strictures of patriarchy. She was raised Catholic in a Muslim country and attended a convent school run by Belgian nuns. She reported that in school she was never asked to give her opinion about anything and that home was not that different. “No one asked for my opinion. I just obeyed. . . . Respect and family values were so important that even if I had different ideas on anything, I kept them to myself.” A gifted musician, my mother auditioned on piano at age 14 for a professor from the Julliard School of Music. She didn’t hear anything more until six months later when her piano teacher mentioned in passing that she had been accepted and offered a scholarship but that her parents had refused to let her go and had chosen not to tell her. They had decided for her. My mother later wrote about this experience: “I thought back to the traditional way South Asian ix society regarded daughters. In a very general sense, we were considered burdens to families. . . . I couldn’t help but feel the burden of an oppressive tradition. I was allowed to excel but just in the confines of a certain frame, within certain boundaries.” She would later say that as a young woman she felt she had no voice. In the 1960s, her family finally allowed her to go to college in London, where she discovered her talent for painting. In 1966, she made her way on her own to Montreal, Canada. The young girl from Pakistan who could never speak up began to communicate through her music, her writing, and especially through her art. Married with three young sons, she encountered racism in the suburbs of Montreal that caused her to doubt herself. Eventually, however, she found the courage to leave an unhappy marriage to a controlling man, and without any support, she went on to build a life and career for herself as an artist. Her activism began when she was approached in the streets by a woman promoting a benefit for the women of Afghanistan. When she asked the woman why she should get involved, the woman answered, “Why not?” This simple answer struck a chord with my mother and motivated her to paint their suffering and their hopes. In 2008, she was named Montreal Woman of the Year by the Montreal Council of Women for using her art to fight for women’s rights all over the world. In her acceptance speech, she noted that people are not, for the most part, moved to action by written information. Rather, they are moved by images that touch the common center, inspire, and provoke thought and understanding. On her sixtieth birthday, my mother was diagnosed with a bone-related cancer . For the last decade of her life, she developed her painting talent with exponential speed noting, “I am in a race against time. I have so much to say and so much more to bring into the world.” Confronting the reality of death enabled her to blossom with unlimited creativity, courage, and joy. She died peacefully in December of 2016, after seeing her three children...


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