It is national women’s month in March.
In the classroom that I co-teach in, I started going over what Women’s month means and why. We watched a couple of videos and then we picked a Nearpod assignment. Nearpod is premade lessons by LAUSD and other teachers that are accessible to all educators. We scrolled through the list and chose Malala as our focus today. I thought Malala was a great choice because it shows how far a person was willing to fight for their right to be educated.
Sometimes our students don’t realize what a privilege it is to be able to get an education and I wanted to showcase this. We did the Nearpod together as a class. Students had a lot of questions since the Nearpod was very basic. I found Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize speech and I played it for the children. As the fifth graders were watching this, I started to feel emotional listening to her speak. She spoke about society thinking that only boys had the right to education and Islam (the Muslim faith) never said women can’t have this right. She quoted so many beautiful verses and I felt so much emotion. I was proud to call her a fellow Muslim sister.
To be honest, I didn’t get emotional only because she was sticking up for Muslims but because she was sticking up for women. Her words touched me because I grew up being made to feel that I am less than a boy. I grew up hearing close family and extended family members from all over the world telling me that women were just to be married off. I mean I have family in Canada, Germany, America, Europe, Australia, Afganistan, Pakistan, and more. Women are owned by their dads than by their husbands. Women are meant to cook and clean. The boys in the family would play while the only two girls in the family had to help set the table and clean up. I have been told that there is no point in getting an education or saving money because my husband would provide for me.
I was never enough.
Maybe this is why I have so many insecurities?
All I ever did was reject their words and fight them. I hated to clean or cook because that is what is expected of me. I hate the thought of marriage and children because that is what is expected of me. I spent so much of my teenage life fighting my feminine side. I hated my gender and I hated that I was considered less. I hated that my brothers and cousins can stay out all night but I was supposed to come home as soon as class end or work ended. Mind you, I grew up with 16 guys cousins, and 4 brothers.
My dad would boast to others “my daughter is as strong as a man,” but why couldn’t I be as strong as a woman? If you protested against any of this it would sometimes lead to worse. They would start thinking “what is she up to” or “she is turning into a kafir (non-muslim)” or “you are making this into such a big deal just like a girl.” I was made to feel that God wanted me to be this way and that this was how God envisioned my life. Guess what? They actually believe this because that is what they were taught growing up. The worst part is there are millions of girls out there who can’t find out what God wants from them because they are illiterate. They have to hear from others about what God expects from them. No, where in the Quran does it say that women can’t receive education or that women are less than men.
For the longest time, I rejected my religion. People would always ask me “how come in your religion women are oppressed or stoned or beat.” I didn’t know how to answer and I was ashamed for so many different. Still, I wanted to believe that they were wrong that Allah never said this because God is good.
When I got old enough, I had the privilege of studying my religion and understanding it. I matured and I understood the world better. I understood God better. I grew to love Islam and I became a proud Muslim woman. I realized that the reason my family was so confused was that they were combining religion and culture. The reason for that is because of their lack of education or lack of common sense. It all goes back to that, doesn’t it? They didn’t know any better.
To this day, my grandmother prefers her sons over her daughters. She prefers her grandsons over her only two granddaughters. To this day, she considers my sister and I a burden.
My mom who has a sixth-grade education is different. She has always pushed us and for a women with no education, she has an abundance of knowledge and common sense. I am lucky to have her. My father loves my sister and I but there will always be that disconnect between males and females. He isn’t a bad person. He is actually a really nice guy. He never beat us or harmed us in any way. Yet, he grew up with a certain school of thought.
It is hard though constantly fighting an entire family of aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, and even more extended family over your God-given right in the world. It is exhausting and some days, I want to just give in.
How do you convince women that I am more than my gender when they don’t even believe that about themselves? I mean I hear this from men but when I hear this from women, my spine chills.
After we watched Malala’s speech, the students started typing in the chat about how their grandmothers and mothers never had an education either. Just like my grandmother and mother they did not have the opportunity to finish school.
So is this a Muslim problem or middle eastern problem or a world problem? I vote for number three because a lot of my students are from Hispanic households in low-income families.
We compared the Taliban to the Cartel and they understood why Malala fought for her rights. I hope they appreciate their education a little more too.
You know, I want to do something special in my life for myself and the world. I think that is why none of my jobs feel satisfying. I want to do something that helps the world and helps people feel connected. I want to know that my time on Earth was well spent and I made a difference. For some reason, teaching doesn’t seem like enough. I know that sounds silly. One of the reasons I wanted to be a filmmaker is to inspire other women like me. I wanted to write my non-fiction novel after my mother’s life to inspire others and to bring some type of exposure to so many women like my mother. As disconnected that I am to my heritage, there is a huge part of me that is influenced by my upbringing from my immigrant parents who come from Kabul, Afghanistan.
All of this baggage has messed me up in so many ways. I am sure you can tell from my blogs. Who am I? What is my truth? What do I want for myself? In a way, my family is right, things are only a big deal if you allow them to be a big deal. So am I allowing this to be a big deal? I mean I don’t have a bad life yet why do I feel so conflicted at times? Why is there such a need to prove myself and to be successful? Why can’t my health and wellness be enough?
I do want to add that I do have a limited amount of family that does support women and I am grateful.
Enjoy the rain!
Thanks for reading!
Happy Women’s month to all my badass ladies.
Let support each other and lift each other up.
Your Muslim friend,