“Everything that is great in the world, all the works, beneficial and good, half must be credited to woman, and to man half only we should.”-Kazi Nazrul Islam
Years ago poets have written about the equality of men and women, they have written about equal contribution, but even in this 21st century can we say that we have achieved gender equality?
The fight for equality has to start from our home. Even in today’s day and age, parents differentiate between their daughters and sons. When a woman is pregnant she is expected to give birth to a boy by her in-laws, relatives and sometimes by her husband also. There are many times when a woman has to give birth 6/7 times to bring a son into the family and if a boy is not born the blame goes to the mother but not the father. Even now a son is believed to be the heir of the family but not the daughter.
In our society the difference between a girl and a boy starts from their very own house. Born into the same family the son gets to enjoy as much freedom as the daughter’s gets caged with rules and regulations, the girl has to explain all her actions while the son needs none. The son realizes this difference in power and freedom between him and his sister while the girl slowly becomes timid and powerless. And this is how the first difference between a boy and girl is created. As these young boys and girls grow older, the man dominates over the woman whom he considers weak and powerless.
Now I will tell you a story of a person very close to me.
Orunima (pseudonym) was a dear friend of mine. I met her when I was in grade eight. Not only she was a very bright student but she was also a great human. She used to live beside our school. She had 4 more siblings, one sister and two brothers and her parents were also quite educated. I used to visit her house quite often. Orunima used to be very embarrassed every time when her male chauvinist father disrespected her mother in front of me.
We both loved reading books. Right beside our school there was a public library which used to stay open on public holidays too. During our long vacation, I used to go to the library to read books and used to pick Orunima from her house so that we could go to the library together. Her father was always resistant to her going to the library. There were times when she was not allowed and the times when she was allowed she had to give explanation of the books she read or she had a time bound of an hour within which she had to return home. If her father was not home, Orunima had to take permission from her younger brother who used to set similar restrictions for her just like her father. Her younger brother also used to go to the library to read books and he used to spend hours after hours at the same library without any restriction.
When Orunima was in grade 9 her father started looking for a groom for Orunima. He used to believe that there is no point in investing in Orunima’s education, instead he wanted to spend whatever limited income he had on his sons’ education so that they become successful when they grow up.
When Orunima was in her high school her father made her married to a good guy (according to her father) who was 10 years older than her.
After a year Orunima was pregnant and while giving birth she lost her life.
Maybe Orunima’s father was sad for the loss of his child but he was also happy because Orunima gave birth to a baby boy.
The story doesnot end here. After a year of Orunima’s death, her younger sister who was 5 years younger to her, was made to marry Orunima’s husband.
Hence I am saying, women empowerment needs to start from home. A woman needs to be valued like a human. Every man is born and raised in a family, so when the teaching will start from home women empowerment will automatically follow.
Nazma Khatun, Senior Officer,
Human Resource, SAJIDA Foundation