The fight for equality continues by Nermin Jamal, Palestine


gg-540Icon-5I was on my porch, drinking a cup of tea at 7:00 am, looking at my beautiful town (Bethlehem), just observing the ancient buildings, both mosques and churches. This view never fails to capture my heart. In the meantime, there was a boy and a girl who were 6 to 7 years old, I was attracted by their voices as they were playing hide and seek. I heard the boy say “you are a girl, you do not have the right to play the role of a boy you just have to play a role in cooking.” So I went to them and I asked the boy why he wouldn’t let the girl just play the same role as him. “She cannot” he said. I asked him “why not.” “This is what I see in my house, my father does not let my mother do anything but the cooking and the cleaning and she’s not allowed to go out because she is a woman” he replied.
I was shocked from what I just heard. Kids are affected by the environment in which they live, so why we are teaching our kids to differentiate and separate females and males. ‘You are a boy so you have the right to do anything you want, and you are a girl so you do not have the right to do anything besides cooking, cleaning and getting married.’ After that, I returned to my balcony to continue my cup of tea and I closed my eyes a little bit flashing back all the scenes I just saw. I did not see this as a big issue before. I felt anger toward the boy and pity for the girl, because of the dialogue.
After the conversation between the boy and the girl, I started doing some research and decided to write on the subject of gender. I came to the conclusion that the world is out of balance, especially in the developing world where women are more likely to be illiterate, work for less and die earlier than women in the developed world. Everyone is suffering as a result. A report published by “The Guardian” in 2014 highlights the education gap of 493 women and girls in the developing world who could not read or write by the time the report was written. The 2013/14 ‘Education for All Global Monitoring Report’ highlights that more than 60% of adult women in Arab states, south and west Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa are still illiterate. According to the 2010-2015 Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) “World Population Prospects Report” the life expectancy for women can be as high as 86 years in developed countries and as low as 47.3 years in developing countries.

Equality means less poverty, hunger and disease. Girls are like boys; they can teach, drive, work, serve in the army and can even be presidents. They have dreams and ambitions to be someone in this world. A women’s fight for rights is despised by the patriarchal society. “Defense of women’s rights: political and moral limitations” (1792), a book by a British feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the most powerful books in my thesis about feminist philosophy. Marie defended the right of women in education commensurate with their status in the community claiming that the essential role of woman is indispensable to the nation, because they educate children. For her husband, she will be a companion to help him bear the burdens of life instead of being just a wife.
In the ancient society, women were considered like jewelry that was exchanged through marriage. Marie insisted that women are humans and they deserve to live like men. Then I read about a woman who was executed in the guillotine in France just because of her activism to advance women’s rights, Olympe Dogoj, a French playwrite and political activist known as Marie Jose, was the first to demand that French women be given the same rights as men in France. She spent three months in jail without a lawyer in an attempt to defend herself and the court rejected her legal right to hire a lawyer. She was sentenced to be executed on November 2nd, 1793 and was buried in the Madelyn Cemetery. After reading this, I put my pen down and stood on the porch again to get some fresh air. After reading about the suffering of women over time, this information made me feel that I’ve been living in a bubble that suddenly burst and changed the way i see the world. I went back to my research when I felt good. The majority of the world’s poorest billion people are women and girls. The share of women employed outside of agriculture remains as low as 20 percent in Southern Asia, Western Asia and Northern Africa. Around the world, it is women and girls who are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination.

Imagine that women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours. They earn ten percent of the world’s income, yet they own just one percent of the world’s property. In some places just 1 in 5 landowners are women and 450 million women and girls cannot read and write. Getting girls to school is the first step for equality. These days, more men and women accept the idea of gender equality. I asked some young men from my town of Bethlehem about their opinion on gender issues and most answers were similar. They mentioned that women should be treated equally and respected; they should be supported beyond their traditional gender roles, but all within certain cultural and traditional boundaries. After getting these answers, I’ve divided the rights into two categories: one for the rights enjoyed only by men and the other for the rights enjoyed by both genders, like education, driving, and being able to pursue a career. A women’s work should no longer be limited to house cleaning and cooking. Now in the modern life we can see women do a man’s work or the reverse. People have the choice to be what they want to be, no one has the right to judge anyone. If you are gay, you can dress like girls or like boys. This is not anyone’s business. Society will not accept you being different than the norms it sets, and it won’t accept a woman with something powerful such as vision and determination to go and do what she has set out to do. We all have the right to follow our dreams, express yourself and don’t be afraid to stand up. Do not be scared. We are not here to be compared to anyone. Value yourself no matter who you are.

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