If a boy is seen holding hands with a girl, he will not be frowned upon, but she will face taunts of being "spoilt", one "diplomat" remarked. Another, pointed out the obvious but often glossed over gender bias in associating girls with Pink and Blue with boys. "What if I tell you that I like Blue more than Pink?" It's not everyday that "High Commissioners" and "Ambassadors" of top diplomatic missions in New Delhi deliver such home truths, in a hall full of dignitaries and the media, but it was no ordinary day. And 19-year-old Reeya Prajapati or Madhuja Nigam, 22, was not just another diplomat. They were among the chosen few who "took over" as high commissioners and ambassadors at 12 missions in the national capital today, albeit briefly. It was part of joint initiative taken by 'Plan India', an NGO, delegation of the European Union to India and the High Commission of India on the occasion of 'International Day of the Girl'. The young women, belonging to diverse family and educational backgrounds, narrated their experiences during an interaction here, flanked by the envoys of the respective countries. The High Commissioner of Canada Nadir Patel said breaking gender stereotypes, which was the talking point of the discussion, was a "collective responsibility" and it will not happen overnight. The embassies and high commissions which were part of the initiative include the Embassy of Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Slovenia, France, USA and High Commission of South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and United Kingdom and the Delegation of the European Union to India. The young women emphasised that bringing changes in one's own self and the family was crucial in order to bring gender parity. "There's tremendous inequality in our society. Here women are treated as goddesses but they are not provided equal opportunities.
If it is given, girls perform better than boys," 18-year-old Babita, who is pursuing BA from IGNOU and had taken over as the French envoy, said. Neha Manjhi, who represented Spain, stressed on the need for women to "speak out" against discrimination and violence against them. "We have to take these issues up at the individual level. If we can't help ourselves, no one else can. Others can merely guide us, so it is important to make noise and speak out, especially in a male-dominated society like India," she said.
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