Ramadan Kareem! (and a call to action)

On the eve of the first Roza, I am writing to wish all my students at our training centres and makers at our all women factory Ramadan Kareem!

Last year this time, we had half the number of people in our team fasting than we have today. This year, the number is up to 40%. We have grown in numbers and so has our responsibility. I am reminded of the resilience of the makers this time last year and the lessons in tolerance, inclusivity, empathy and love for the rest of us as an outcome of this collective experience. At our factory, we plan for the month of Ramadan taking into account the changed timings, fatigue and other needs of those observing fasts during the month of Ramadan. Those observing the roza come in earlier in the morning after Suhoor, and leave early so that they can prepare Iftar for their families before it is time to break the fast. The month of May in Delhi is the hottest summer month. Last year, Kahkeshan, (22 years old, maker-in-charge of production) and Rijbana, (26 years old, maker-in-charge of new sampling), didn’t take a single day off during the month. It was almost as though their determination was strengthened and focus doubled.

‘Mujhe yaad nahi ke mere abbu ne itne saalon mein kabhi bola ho ki jab roze chal rahe hai toh mein kaam nahi karunga. Shayad un dino unhone zyaada mehnat kari hogi taaki hum naye kapde khareed sake. Allah humari mehnat dekh rahe hain. Mein pure maheene kaam par ayungi.’ (Rijbana Bano)

I don’t remember in my entire life that my father said he will not working during Ramadan because he is fasting. If anything, he probably had to work harder to make sure we could all buy new clothes before Eid. Allah is watching my hard work. I will work throughout the month of Ramadan. (Rijbana Bano)

The divisive narratives of the irresponsible media and political leadership must be countered with everyday citizens taking responsibility in spaces where they have the ability to make decisions that impact those most vulnerable and afraid. Since the elected leaders have failed to create safe spaces, I am calling upon leaders of corporations, organisations and educational institutions to be vocal and not let ‘diversity-at-the-workplace’ be just a chapter in their HR handbook.

Indeed, God is watching and each of us is responsible for the thoughts we think and the actions we take when we think no one is watching.

Leaders — Of schools, businesses, communities and families, be audacious and step up so that next generation can learn what courage looks like. Be the one who stands up for what is right and not what is easy when everyone else is willing to camouflage.