By Maryam Hasan
On 25thNovember, 2014, IEEE-WIE SEECS chapter organized an awareness seminar at National University of Science & Technology, Islamabad which aimed to target the issue of colorism that exists in the Asian region. IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting female engineers and scientists, striving towards innovation and technological advancement. The mission of IEEE WIE is to facilitate the recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines globally.
IEEE WIE envisions a vibrant community of IEEE women and men collectively using their diverse talents to innovate for the benefit of humanity. The seminar was IEEE-WIE’s first formal event after the newly appointed executive council, 2014.
Before the seminar, IEEE-WIE successfully set up a photo booth of its own kind to create a general awareness amongst the crowd about colorism in society, its purpose being promoting the idea of loving ‘The Skin We Live In’.
The seminar’s main objective was to create awareness amongst the masses that skin color should not be a criterion to define a person’s potential. Live streaming of the seminar was aired on PTV for Dark is Divine, where different speakers of diverse backgrounds expressed their opinions on the issue. Dr. Culbreth, founder of the “Intra-racial Colorism Project” based in the US, started by defining colorism. Colorism is a distinction based on color, resulting in favorable or unfavorable treatment towards an individual in the society. She further continued by pointing out that it can be done both consciously and unconsciously, whereby inflicting a sense of inferiority on the discriminated person. She insisted on the need to understand colorism, in order to study the effects it has. It has various physical, social, psychological and emotional effects on a person. She pointed out that in various cases, women end up bleaching their skin just because society has labeled their skin color as ugly. Similarly, girls that are discriminated against because of their color end up having poor relationships due to their emotional vulnerability.
The next speaker, Ms. Maha, a renowned social activist, then further explained what the idea behind “Dark is Divine” was. She explained how the social standards of beauty have evolved into having a fair complexion and to be beautiful, one needs to fit into society’s mold that calls an individual beautiful. She further explained that geographically, it is impossible to change and transform ourselves as people from different regions have different skin tones. Furthermore, due to Media’s image and concept of beauty, many are now a victim of an inferiority complex, believing they are simply not beautiful enough. Media dictates a standard of beauty, how to behave, how to look, which has left people in a state of confusion. She concluded by saying that in order to overcome this effect of Media on us, we must therefore first unlearn these unreal ideals of beauty.
Ms. Fatima Lodhi, who initiated the campaign ‘Dark is Divine’ in 2013, concluded by saying that the purpose of the seminar was to redefine society’s standards of beauty. Society has a set of ideals that are both fake and unreal; therefore she urged the need to respect the differences amongst ourselves, respect diversity in order to uproot this social issue completely.