“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, she doesn’t have what it takes. They will say, Women don’t have what it takes.”
Clare Boothe Luce
I have always wanted to be the woman who doesn’t feel the need to talk about her gender issues, but not all our wishes come true.
Do I have any obstacles participating in the community due to my gender?
The first word that pops up in my mind is Equality, which means that I think about gender as equal rights between men and women. Gender is also Norms, social norms. What is expected from me as a woman?
Being a girl, I’m confronted with lots of stereotypes and behavior that pushed me to challenge, to grab my pen and express the things I wish to do, to speak my mind.
As a female, limits were made by my family regarding my dreams and passion.
I still remember when I was a little girl; when young boys swear and use tough language, their behavior is often tolerated as normal for their age. Families assumed that they are trying to act big. Grown men spice up their vocabulary with occasional profanity and it is mostly acceptable. On the other hand, female actions are expected to be more restrained than their male counterparts.
All of that affected my choices in my life like what to study, what to wear and who will I choose as a life mate (husband).
It also had a big impact on my personality, independence and on the type of my daily activities and hobbies.
These issues related to my gender as a girl affected me in achieving my goals.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking of how my life would have been like if I was born a boy instead of a girl. I tell myself that being a man might be easier than being a woman – at least here in the Middle East.
Many times I have experienced that people looked at my gender before they looked at my work.
As an Egyptian girl I have always been a little different from other girls of the same age. I have always thought of being independent from my family and to live on my own. I have always wanted to take responsibility of myself and to be free of the traditions and away from social dogmas that claim that a girls place is at home, but it is not really acceptable to see a girl living alone in general.
I like to talk about a challenge of inherited culture which includes several bad habits that portray women as a human being with less rights than men (Double standards), and the wrong explanation of religion which puts women in a lower degree than men.
My dream is to see gender equality and freedom of speech implemented all over the world, in particular the Arab countries.
Nowadays Egypt is facing various challenges: namely the closed mentality that is brought about due to a huge deficit in democracy and human rights.
The progress for women is hindered by gaps in public knowledge about basic rights as well as by institutional weaknesses in Egypt’s government.
Egyptians stress basic needs when they talk about human rights, and this conception of human rights informs popular attitudes on women’s rights.
Most Egyptians interviewed by journalists, say men and women have equal rights in an ideal world, but in reality these rights are not ensured in today’s Egypt—for women as they are for men. The general sense that men and women should have equal rights does not translate into an attitude where they have the same roles and responsibilities in life. Both men and women see women as having the primary responsibility for taking care of the home and raising children, while men serve as the primary breadwinners.
In all Arab countries, males have traditionally been the providers, females the homemakers.
People argue that there aren’t enough jobs for everybody, so women need to sit at home, and let the men work, so every family will have at least one income!!
Even when we have the right to work and are educated, women’s job opportunities are not equal to those of men. In Egypt for example, women have limited opportunities to work in the private sector because women are still expected to put their role in the family first, which causes men to be seen as more reliable in the long term
Women don’t get jobs to work or become productive. They have jobs so that society can indulge in the lie that both genders are enjoying their full rights. The majority of women have jobs that are not mentally challenging. Their employers always keep in mind that they won’t stay long enough to hold any managerial position.
My dream is to see men and women working together, swapping ideas, sharing power, but in my country women are still struggling to minimize the gap between what their annual salary is compared to their male counterpart within the same profession.
The wage gap is determined upon a number of variables. These variables include the median wages of both gender that work full-time and throughout the entire year, their education and skill levels, the number of men and women entering the workforce, and the strength of the economy at that point in time. Women are continuously being hired less compared to men, being given fewer training opportunities compared to men, and are being given smaller pension and benefits packages relatively to men.
On the other side, sexual harassment in workplace is a problem being addressed in many forums and feminists have raised concern regarding this burning issue.
Due to economic pressures and increased educational opportunities many women are entering the work force. They have to work to supplement their family income and at times have to support the family as well. Single women have to earn their livelihood. Pressures are many and added to it sexual harassment is an additional problem they have to face.
The sexual harassment of women in the streets, schools and work places of the Arab World is driving them to cover up and confine themselves to their homes.
The harassment, including groping and verbal abuse, appears to be designed to drive women out of public spaces and seems to happen regardless of what they are wearing.
– A better tomorrow for women!!
Being Female – is it affecting my future? Should I copy male behavior to get a successful career? Or will female values begin to be embraced and appreciated with the increased number of highly educated women in society?
I have no doubts that women have a lot of obstacles in the Middle East, but it’s up to us how we choose to handle these obstacles. We can either see them as problems that are oppressing us or we can see them as challenges, this is a choice we have to make ourselves as women.
First of all I am a human being and if I have some goals I’ll work on achieving them. Life always comes with obstacles whether you are a man or a woman. I think that if we rise above the gender issue and become qualifies aware and educated we can reach much more than we are aware of. I realize that women in the Middle East are facing more obstacles in their way to their goal, but I believe that if you really want to achieve a goal and work hard for it, it can become a reality. Obstacles are there to be overcome. The knowledge we get from this will make us stronger as human beings.
So I see many strong women, which makes me confident that women are made of certain strength. So obstacles or no obstacles women can do a lot of great things. The key word is to believe in your self. Because if you don’t believe in your self who should?
So to all women – keep fighting for your dreams- not because you are woman but because you are human beings that have a lot to give to the world.
By: Jasmine Elnadeem