Have you ever thought about your name and what it means? Why did your parents give it to you? What does it mean to them? What has it meant to you? Are you proud or maybe ashamed of it?
All these questions may seem to lead nowhere, but fact is that our names mean so much. They bear our culture, our heritage, our family line, our religion of birth. They may bear hopes and requierements, meaning the beautiful one, others meaning the knowledgeable one, others refering to religious qualities or virtues. But most of all, they bear our identities.
I am Terèse. I am not very happy about my name, but my name is me. Terèse is who I am. I live in the country of my parents, so the pronunciation has never been a problem. Although when I meet foreigners who can’t pronounce it I sometimes present myself as Teresa, which sounds good in English as well as in Spanish. It never bothered me to be called something else, but on the other hand I was never forced to change my name, I do it voluntarily.
In occupied parts of the world, your name isn’t an obvious expression of your heritage, but many times the expression of your occupation. Your name as well as your language is suppressed, in the same way as your identity is ignored and bypassed by occupying powers. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) claims every childs right to his/her name and identity. CRC also claims that no child should be discriminated against, which too many times is the case when it comes to occupied peoples’ names and identities. But also in Sweden there is great discrimination against people with foreign names, making it hard for children of immigrant parents to feel proud of their heritages and names.
It is crucial to our self-esteem to be proud of who we are, and our names are a key to our identities. So the next time you meet someone new, instead of asking where he/she lives, ask where he/she got his name from, it may be a start of a great friendship..