Photo: Rukhsana Ahmed, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa presents certificate to Rayhan Pitigala.  Rayhan was one of the winners of a writing contest launched by the Ottawa Multicultural Media Initiative (OMMI).

My community role model is much closer to home than most. Through a lot of soul searching, I have come to realize there is no one I know better who inspires me than my very own mother. Being Sri Lankan-Sinhalese, a minority in Canada, has many inherent challenges, and throughout my mum’s life she has had to work much harder than most other people for the same ends. Through her example, I have learned the value of perseverance and appreciation of hardworking women.

Earlier this year, my mum lost her job at the WSIB, which left my family and me devastated. It came as a massive shock, and could’ve become a true burden if not for my mum’s character.

It hurts to see the ones we love go through a hard time, and seeing her cry was hard to take. I wondered if her pain would go on for long, but sure enough, the very next day she was back on her feet on the hunt for a new and better job. I have to credit my mum for her mental strength, because she was confident and resilient enough to assure my brothers and me that we were going to be fine, and that she would soon work again. Unfortunately, what followed were days of disappointment, as most of the companies she had applied to were not interested. Many would get disheartened if they were in a similar position, but my mum doubled her efforts. Within a week, her persistence, experience, and qualifications helped her land a job that she is much more satisfied with.

When things don’t work out for me in my life, I try to draw from her experience, to reason with myself so as to not give up on my dreams and goals. In life it can be far too easy to succumb to adversity and capitulate. She has shown me to keep fighting, and keep trying even when my back is against the ropes with the odds stacked against me.
Throughout her career as a business analyst/project manager, my mum recalls numerous occasions on which she lost out on opportunities to men who were less qualified and experienced than her. She also admits that for the majority of time in her career, there has been unequal pay between men and women. My mum regularly attends the “women of influence” conferences in Toronto to gain inspiration and bring about change for working women like her. Through this, she has motivated me to become a feminist.

I think the South Asian community ought to make further strides towards appreciating the women and the hard work they do, and break free from the bounds of an outdated patriarchal society. I think what women in the South Asian community can learn from my mother is that they don’t have to feel subservient or see themselves as inferior; they should stand up for themselves and never settle for less than they deserve.

By: Rayhan Pitigala, University of Ottawa

Rayhan Pitigala was one of the winners of a writing contest launched by the Ottawa Multicultural Media Initiative (OMMI).

For more information about the OMMI, please visit: