I have passed my childhood in Dhaka city among the periphery of the four walls in a quarter near the Sangsad Bhaban (The Parliament House of Bangladesh). I remember that all the buildings in the quarter were yellow in color. Our one was white and was designed with ceramics in it. In 1994, to my little eyes, it seemed to be a palace where a king and queen must be living. In this palace like building, we had only one room to live in with a large heavenly window in it. The slender plywood bed near the window was my kingdom. I used to sit there after returning from school and looked outside through the window. It was perhaps any trivial winter break in my living memory. I was in a KG school. Unpleasant cold in the winter. My mother forced me to put my red sweater on in the morning and my pink shoes that my uncle had brought me from India. I vividly remember the shoes making tinkling tune whenever I attempted to walk or run. Every afternoon, I used to go to the terrace, passing the corridor of the owner’s place, and sit quietly in a chair to see the neighboring girls playing, running here and there, chatting, and shouting, unlocking their minds. I kept sitting there until the sun set down. Within few days I also started going outside and playing with them. They taught me to laugh, to have fun. Kanamachi, Boroph Pani, Kumir Kumir, Phul Tokka, and there were many more. I forgot the names of the numerous games we used to play. All of a sudden in grade 7 or 8, I have realized that my childhood has ended. Like a Kalbaishakhi at the summer time. Like a helpless raisin in the scorching summer sun, I had to grow up. There were many times when my parents scolded me for laughing out loud while watching anything in TV. I had to get used to with a mountain like rules and regulations such as putting my scarves or veils on while going to schools, not speaking with people loudly, not going outside at night, not going to the nearby shop to buy food even if I feel hungry, not going in front of my brother’s friends and talking to them. Days went on and I grew up. Things have been changed a lot like I am living far away from home for my study. But still, the parameter of rules where I was growing up did not stop following me. Sometimes my parents call me and tell me to be a good girl, not to go outside much, go outside alone. I wonder whether they would say the same thing to my brother if he lived far from home. I question myself thousands times where they found this definition of “being a good girl”. Is being a good girl always agreeing with my parents and brothers? Is being a good girl keeping my mouth shut in spite of all the domination upon me? I love my father because of his saying “I did grow you up not because you have to listen to my every word. I have educated you but that does not always mean that you always have to abide by what I want.” I convey trillions of Salams to my father because he has opened my eyes by saying these enlightened words. Though for many years I have been subjugated in a male dominated society, I feel happy because I have found a way, a hope to make a difference. I feel like if I would not get any rights, freedom in my life for a lifetime, and then still there is nothing to worry because I have the power to shape my nation’s future. Here begins a new story. I will grow my daughter in a way that she will roll on the floor laughing, watching TV if she feels like. The one who will tell her not to laugh will be taught why laughing out loud is important. I will buy my daughter a binocular if she wants to know how the stars look like. She might want to be an astronaut. There will be nothing like this that my son will only fly kites just because e is a boy and my daughter will only play dolls because she is a girl. Perhaps I will tell my daughter to wear blue if she feels like and son to wear pink if he feels like. They will not worry about what colors to wear because I will grow them up in a world where there is nothing like Pink is only for girls because pink symbolizes softness and blue is only for boys because blue symbolizes power and arrogance. I will teach my son to fall in love with a woman by judging the light of a woman’s heart but not by judging her by the skin color. Wake up woman. This is the time for you to change the world. Every woman has the power to make a difference. Let’s plan now how to bring a change and let this world be enlightened. Observing a woman’s day would be a success if people’s mentality would have been changed to think large.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future Application: Your Vision.

Comment on this Post


for you Shaila that your father's words were there to encourage you to live a wider life! And I am so glad that you ahve had the power to resist the constraints put on you from early on so that you can give your own children the freedom that everybody in this world needs. The freedom to be who we are because it makes us and those around us happy. Boys and girls, men and women, just free to be themselves! What a thought!


Hi Shaila, I really enjoyed reading your post--you help your readers capture the true essence of your experiences and feelings and you demonstrate leadership and a strong vision for women. Thank you!

In partnership with you, Marti

Shaila, You are so fortunate to have a father who had the wisdom to educate you and encourage you to think for yourself. Through this simple act, he has laid the foundation for a whole new generation who will know what self-respect is and that your value is not determined by society's rules. All of your children, whether boys or girls, will learn to value one another not for their gender but for their minds, hearts and spirits. How amazing is that? Janice