Pink – the colour of courage
By Vish Viswanathan
Breast cancer is a major concern for women in Australia, with 1 out of 8 women, particularly the middle aged and elderly, running the risk of developing the disease in their lifetime. It has recently been discovered that women from Indian and Sri Lankan backgrounds have one of the lowest breast screening rates in New South Wales, a concerning statistic. It is clear that there exists a culture of silence about breast cancer in these communities as affected women live in fear and denial, possibly putting their lives at risk.
The Pink Sari Project recently hosted ‘Portraits in Pink’, a photographic exhibition to raise awareness about breast screening and to felicitate 14 breast cancer survivors from the Indian and Sri Lankan communities in NSW. Images of the survivors taken by professional and volunteer photographers were displayed and the survivors themselves talked about their personal experiences in understanding, treating and managing the disease. A group discussion involving community members was conducted to find a solution to better awareness of breast cancer.
“Regular mammograms are absolutely essential for all women over 50. There is no shame and very little pain. But it saves your life. Today I am healthy and happy,” stated Behroze Billimoria, while volunteer photographer Prashant Bharadwaj said, “Working with initiatives like the Pink Saree Project gave me an opportunity to understand a part of our society which most of us are not aware about, or have little knowledge of. Being able to work in any capacity on such projects is an opportunity to contribute.”
“Having a regular breast screen is key to early detection and treatment of breast cancer. These women have shown tremendous courage in sharing their stories and should be proud of these beautiful portraits which serve the important purpose of initiating breast screening” said Sarah McGill, Director of Screening and Prevention at the Cancer Institute, NSW.
“There are a multitude of cancers for which there is no clearly defined early detection process. Fortunately there is for breast cancer, so why would we not get ourselves screened? Let us women put on the oxygen masks for ourselves first… not just for our sake, but also for our loved ones,” stated Shantha Viswanathan, a key founder of the Pink Saree Project and an active member of SAHELI, a community organisation supporting the Project. “SAHELI will be participating in the Parramasala opening day parade once again this year in support of the Pink Sari Project and women’s wellbeing. We invite women and men from all communities to unite as one voice,” she added.
The Pink Sari Project is led by NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service and its partner organisations, with support from the Blacktown Arts Centre and Blacktown City Council.