What’s Wrong With My Gender? by Oumaima Fathi, Morocco

When I was a kid, I loved my grandfather’s job. He was a known farmer in the village. I liked the way he planted, how he took care of the farm, and his paramount mission in the family. He was the one in charge of nearly everything, while my grandma and aunts were spending most of their time in the kitchen: cooking or talking about every single detail. Honestly, I preferred at that time what my grandfather used to do. I kept telling everyone “When I grow up I want to be a farmer like him.’’ But he laughed every time. “You can’t be so, this is a man’s job only,’’ he used to say.

I grew up feeling detached from his world; I felt that I was not strong or good enough as my male cousins who could easily go with him to the farm. I thought that the problem was my gender, that me being a girl meant that I was weak and fragile in my grandfather’s eyes. It was clear as the sound of a bell that he unconsciously preferred boys over girls.

My grandpa’s attitudes have changed over the years, especially after he witnessed the power of education through his granddaughters, who succeeded in school more than any male in the whole family. My personal experience is one of many different stories of women around the world. These moments when we felt the gender gap and its enormous impact on our lives can defie who we are.

In schools, they taught us that ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’. But hold on, why behind not next to him or in front of him? They somehow engrave in the mind of little boys that they are better and stronger, which for me is so wrong.

The cultural component has great part in that. In the Arab world, in many cases, gender equality is just a myth; many jobs remain out of reach for women and sadly some men manipulate religion and traditions to impose their misogynistic attitudes.

You all know James Brown’s famous song, It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World. What I hear each time is “this is a man’s world”  where women should work hard to succeed and to prove themselves. I believe that every woman today should be independent and as  intellectual as she can. She must think for herself, believe in her capacities, and unleash her creativity in the world. She is a whole, not a half to be completed by an arranged marriage. She is not a doll to be crafted as a man wishes. She’s neither the slave of his desires, nor a servant for his orders. She’s unique, powerful, and smart.

Throughout history, Muslim women were scientists, scholars, and queens who ruled empires. Just by taking a glimpse of their stories — Shajarat Durr, Zineb Nafzawiya, and Queen Balqis — we can feel beyond inspired. In fact, there are limitless examples of powerful, inspiring women who have proved themselves in patriarchal societies. Their stories light up the path for every woman to take the lead and to be successful.

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