In early March of this year, I was invited to present a research paper at a conference in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I’ve never left Istanbul, never left the houses, streets, and neighbourhoods of my childhood,” says Orhan Pamuk in his Memories and the City.
Walking on the romantic roads of Istanbul, I felt like I was walking in another world, amidst the majestic residues of the glorious Ottoman Empire of the 16th Century.
It was love at first sight. Turkey is a picturesque fusion of the East and West.
In essence, in Istanbul, there is nothing ordinary; everything is strange and beautiful in a peculiar way.
People appeared to be warm and welcoming. I can speak volumes about Turkish cuisine, art, architecture and culture. But that is another story for another time.
My theme at the conference was Born with Wings Made to Crawl; A Qualitative Study on Muslim Women, Choices and Empowerment. The purpose of this study was exploring the role of Muslim women in independent decision-making from family to the society in Sri Lanka and analysing the disparity between Islamic texts and the popular customary practices.
I always get new ideas for writing, while I am with people, listening and observing them. I am introduced to new ideas, find challenging brains, converse with profound minds in the conference.
Watching academics from all over the world present their papers, I was overwhelmed. It is true that there are improvements in the domain of women empowerment, but there’s still a long way to go before we can see any significant changes.
Still today, most women are deprived of their freedom of choice.
The real empowerment of women can be achieved only when they are provided with the freedom to make their own decisions, about what concerns them directly.
Empowerment of women is the process by which women gain power and control over their own lives and acquire the ability to make strategic choices.
I would say that the world’s most untapped or wasted resource is the female population.
Women are deprived of their identities. Their voices are suppressed.
Even today, in many eastern and western societies, women are not as recognised as their male counterparts. They are deprived of making choices as individuals.
Women are alienated from many political, social and religious institutions across the world. They are denied the power to make decisions on behalf of themselves and the society.
Several studies have investigated the contribution of Muslim women in various fields of the classical civilisation of Islam, not only in jurisprudence literature, and medicine but also in education science, technology, and politics. They have also held influential positions in governing and administrating the socio-political processes in the countries in which they lived.
No one, let it be a man or a woman, should be given the right to make important decisions over another person, nor do they deserve to be dictated to, about what to do in their own lives.
Let each woman make her own choice.
Let it be her dress, career, education, marriage, social contribution.
Let each woman choose what to do with her life, and in her life.
30 April 2018
From My Editor's Note FemAsia Magazine