Date (5 March, 2013)
Those smiles showered with innocence, those meaningless loud laughs and cries of mere pretense that’s how wonderful my childhood was. I gradually grew up and started to spend even more time with my friends. No one was boy, no one was girl, and we were friends playing together. Life was free of obligations. I did not witness any gender discrimination. I turned eleven. I started to socialize with women in my society and observe their responsibilities. Gradually I was acquiring “feminine” behavior to fulfill my mother’s expectations. While practicing my cultural norms I started to do gender without noticing the discrimination. Then, through books and travelling, I was exposed to the world which helped me to spot gender biases in my country Pakistan.
As I grew up my responsibilities escalated and the society’s expectations of me changed. When I was eleven, I was asked to stay home rather playing with my friends. My mother encouraged me to learn cooking and help her in house chores. My teachers and family members used to give me long lectures about my responsibilities as a female member of society, and they emphasized making me perfect woman. They used to define perfect woman as a lady who is good at cooking, maintains her house properly, is able to grow vegetables, respects her parents and elders, and does not argue with male members of society. I tried my best to live up to their expectations as there was a competition among all girls of my age to impress the elders and be the perfect woman. To be the “perfect woman”, I started to wake up at cockcrow and helped my mother in making breakfast, in washing pots, and in cleaning house. At that time I was naïve and I used to think that every woman was expected to behave the way women in my society were taught to behave.
While trying to be the ‘perfect woman’, I started to give more importance to male members of society. I started to cover my head in front of male members of my society: which is considered as a symbol of respect in our culture. I used to communicate very politely with male members of my family than female members. I stopped arguing with my brothers and my cousins to show the respect. I stopped asking question from them. The first dish I learned to cook was my father’s favorite dish. I preferred to spend most of time within home, helping my mother in the kitchen. I was doing gender without noticing it. During those days I received the first love letter from one of my classmates. My brother heard about that. He was mad and he beat that boy brutally and warned me to avoid disgraceful behavior. Consequently, my father, my mother, and my brother started to emphasize on me being their family’s honor. If I did anything wrong it would affect our clan’s reputation and honor. After that, I started to totally avoid male members of society except for my close relatives.
I began to read different books and travel to different cities in my country. I was exposed to different cultures. I met different people, learned about their life and their values; this exposure extremely affected my perception of what it means to be a woman. I read books like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, Change Your Lens Change Your World, by Faiez H. Seyal. One of my favorite quotes in Seyal’s book is “life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% what you do with what happens to you! Change your life by changing the way you look at life” (Seyal). This quote and many other legendary ideas of these great authors appealed me to change my unidirectional thinking about woman’s status and her responsibilities in society. I spent six years away from home; I travel to different areas in these six years and finally came to AUW. At AUW, I met students and staff from different countries and from different cultures. This diversity compelled me to ponder over the inequalities in my society and the ignorance of women about their rights. I come across many facts about my country regarding gender inequalities such as honor killing, “In Pakistan in 2002, there were more than 450 honor killings happened and almost 250 women were killed and another 750 seriously disfigured and injured by acid attacks” (Human Rights Watch). These sinful incidents are frequent in the name of honor in my country. After knowing about my society I am trying to find different ways to demolish gender inequalities. The one on the top of my mind is arranging an awareness seminar on woman’s rights in my village in coming summer vacations.
Like many other societies in the world my society is also marginalizing women. Most of the time, women of my society, unable to discern between gender discrimination, think of it as her obligation and duty and don’t question the status quo. There are thousands of such women who don’t know about their rights. I was one of them. Through education and questioning I realized all the gender discrimination and its harmful effects on my society and especially on women. Now I am hopeful and determinant to help those women in my society who are suffering from the traditional customs.