WHERE the mind is without fear and the head is held high Where knowledge is free Where the world has not been broken up into fragments By narrow domestic walls Where words come out from the depth of truth Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit Where the mind is led forward by thee Into ever-widening thought and action Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake. -Rabindranath Tagore One of my favorite poems, which has always inspired me to rise above the narrow lines that my dear brothers and sisters have created in the name of borders. The poem has always inspired me to learn more and more, which gives me an immense pleasure. UN Declaration of human rights has mentioned in Article 26 “Every one has right to education” But still, why many children are compelled to stay far away from the beam of education? This is what Malala Yousafza; a gallant, creative, beautiful, talented 14 year Pakistani girl is fighting against.
Malala Yousafzai, born on 1998, is from the town of Mingora in Swat District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and northwestern Pakistan. She is known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Tehrik-i-Taliban regime had banned girls from attending school in early 2009. During that period, at the age of 11, Yousafzai came to prominence through a blog she wrote for the BBC detailing her life under the Taliban regime, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. Later that year, the Pakistani military intervened, culminating in the expulsion of the Taliban from the Swat Valley. Yousafzai has since been nominated for several awards, and has won Pakistan's first National Peace Prize.
On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by a Taliban gunman while returning home on a school bus. She remains unconscious but her conditions are improving. Malala Yousafza, who dreamt a country where "education would prevail", has reminded me of a young Jewish girl, Anne Frank, whose diary had created similar sensations worldwide. All those hardships she had to undergo hiding in her Secret Annexe always inspire me not to give up. Although Anne had a tragic end, our star Gul Makai (her pen name in the diary) is yet to rise. The way she has been advocating about women’s rights in such a young age, we can surely predict she can compensate the loss of Benejir Bhutto. The thing that I really hate is the way people still think in the 21st century. We still belong to the society where girls are regarded as nothing. We are still crippled by the age-old dead practices that regard woman as a commodity; the material created to satisfy MEN. She needs no rights, education or an independent life who is a slave to man since her birth till she reaches the tomb. She has to be always cautious, the way she walks, the way she speaks, the way she eats, the way she dresses up, the way she laughs…each and everything. She is always being watched. What a pity! The biggest fear women have is the fear of losing her purity or virginity. We have been taught to be pure no matter what and the purity is about the vagina; keeping it safe. And if she couldn’t preserve it, she would be sentenced to death or banished from a society. And what about men, don’t they need to be pure? To explain this I would like to give a wonderful example: Most of us love animals, specially the tigers. The territory of a male tiger ranges 40-45 kms which includes at least 2 female tigers. What I meant by this information is that men who are brave, strong should have as many women as possible. One needs to be safe from the enemy while the other has to possess her for his superiority complex. So, isn’t it a prey-predator paradox? I hear girls getting called sluts, bitch and see implied disapproval of girls who have “too many” boyfriends. I haven’t heard any of this negativity around guys having countless girlfriends. And isn’t it ironic when thrice divorced, morally ambiguous man try to hold a girl on his standards of morality? But, this is what happens every day in our societies. In Egypt, almost over 80% of women are sexually harassed on a daily basis. A recent government survey found that 47 percent of all Nepalese women report being the victims of either physical, emotional, sexual or economic violence. But 84 percent of those who are victims of domestic violence remain silent. The situation is dire.
As Jessica Valenti said- “the hope I have for women: that we can start to see ourselves-and encourage men to see us-as more than just the sum of our sexual parts: not as virgins or whores, as mothers or girlfriends, or as existing only in relation to men, but as people with independent desires, hopes and abilities.” ‘The division of the sexes is a biological fact, not an event in a human history. We might evidently ask ourselves" whether bald and hairy men had the same or opposite natures; and agreeing that they have opposite natures, might forbid hairy men to be shoemakers if bald men are, or forbid bald men if hairy men are." The crux: IF we find either the male or the female sex excelling the other in any art or other pursuit, then we shall say that this particular pursuit must be assigned to one and not to another. Hence, men and women's differences are the result of nature or learning’- Simone de Beauvoir, ‘division of labor must be made by aptitude and ability, not by sex; if a woman shows her skills.’
I am not against men and their behavior. I am against our orthodox patriarchal programming that has manacled our minds. The problem is not men; they were never a problem but a sub-ordinate. We are born with this malady of the spirit inherited from our orthodox norms and values. We have confined ourselves within the Plato's cave of shadows. As the saying goes, ‘Diamond cuts diamond’ women themselves are the enemy of each other, especially in the Nepalese society. We are busy back-biting, pulling one’s leg, quarreling almost till we survive. It’s our own mother who abandons us to touch our father, brother during our periods; it’s our own mother-in-laws who burn us alive for the sake of dowry. The list goes on. And on top of it, wicked men continue to exploit our vulnerabilities. We need to go beyond the boundaries that we have made for ourselves. Just remember, that you have the ability to end things that you don't like and to say something isn't okay when it isn't okay. You have the power to insist on good and real things for yourself. You always have the choice to walk away when you are not being treated with respect and most of all you have the right to make adjustments regarding anything and everything to your life. Life is the sum of all YOUR choices. So, let’s join our hands in front of the Almighty, for the faster recovery of our Malala and vow that no any girl will be devoid of the brightness of the education because our society needs both productive men as well as women. True is the saying ,’If a woman in a family is educated, the whole family will be educated.’ WE RISE!!
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Ending Gender-Based Violence 2012.