Women’s Freedom: A Reality or Just a Myth?



sumera_reshiBy SUMERA B. RESHI   

A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkable difficult, says Melinda Gates.

Today people believe that presence of women in the workplace, with less attention being paid to family and domestic affairs, has led to the decline of traditional structure of the society. They hold the view that woman is in race of being independent and in that competition; she has missed many a things for which God created her. She, according to these people, is not in line with God’s great plan and that is why she is in chaos in so many ways. Her work, her talent, her sacrifices are never been recognized and nor has she been appreciated for her role in a family or in a society.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, women are the main farmers or producers. In Uganda, 75 per cent of the agricultural producers are women (World Bank.et al, 2009). Throughout, the roles of women have largely remained unrecognized. She has limited access to resources and choices. People believe her life has come to the full circle and the 21st century belongs to her. Nevertheless this is not a reality, but rather a mirage. Today more women are educated and financially self-sufficient in a way. Yet their future is in the doldrums.

According to the bargaining model, lack of resources means that within the household, women often have a lower ‘fall – back position’ (in the event of breakdown of marriage) and therefore they are obliged to be subservient to and accommodate the interest of men in order to save the marriage from breakdown. This susceptible position of women in the bargaining process results in men gaining an upper hand at women’s expenses.

Despite improved education and better income levels of working women, gender disparity remains an everyday reality.

There are a lot of living examples out there. Life is not really rosy as it appears. For instance, I am in the UAE at the moment and you can see many women walking down the streets of the United Arab Emirates, very proud and independent from the outside. Nonetheless, the story inside seems to be a contrasting one. Lives which seem to be in rainbow colors are actually in black and white with high patches of grey. To the outer world, the daughter of eve might look satisfied and successful; however, she only knows how much she has to struggle, to balance her existence in this world which claims it has given her more than what she deserves. They come with dreams. They travel to far off places to support their families and their so called better halves.

I could see her rushing each day to work. She is on time. She tries hard to be perfect hat work. Her mind is never empty. It works 24/7, sometimes thinking of the family and sometimes of work.

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Once her duty is over, she has to prove herself at home with her husband and her only kid. For a moment, I felt she is too dominating. It’s not done. She is dictating and dictating at an eleventh hour. Not all can be as perfect and as upright as her. I was really pissed off with her on her commands. To me she was a wicked genie who doesn’t understand human values, or its limitations or me as a human.

At first, my interaction with her was quite strained. I have to be in sync with her because she was my senior and I was a new entrant in the organization. It was a relationship of respect with compulsion rather than a relationship of natural chemistry. Her every act ignited my anger and hatred towards her. I started hating my job as well. Like her, I was also helpless. She had to accommodate me and I had to accommodate her. She was fed up with my creativity and I was dejected with her timeworn ways and ideas. We both played Tom and Jerry and with each episode, we began to understand each other at length. We started to converse more on daily basis on varied subjects. We got little closer and that increased an understanding between us.

No, Raheela wasn’t a wicked genie. Though she didn’t prove Cinderella’s fairly to me but she wasn’t bad either. In her stern face, I could see she was fragile and feeble. In her sunken eyes, she stored all the pain and agony. She hid all her hurt inside those small black pair of eyes. Indeed Raheela’s eyes were a gateway to an undiscovered territory of her life which is unknown to all others than Raheela herself. I don’t claim I saw the unseen in her eyes but there was something which has buried deep in her soul. Even her soulmate, I believe has failed to unearth.

While walking down a street in Abu Dhabi, I enquired about her life. Are you happy Raheela? I posed this question and she answered in surprise – ‘Yes of course’, she said in a loud voice. However, she failed to hide that immense pain which emanated from her eyes. There was a strange hollowness in her eyes, gloom all over her face. There was a bizarre sadness on her face also.

She got a call from her husband. She got quite nervous and fearful as she talked to him. She shivered from top to toe. For a while, I observed her and to me she looked very worried. She pretended to be content and mollified. I was not at all happy with her answer. I looked deep into her eyes and then insisted her to narrate her tale of woes.

At last, she burst into a pool of tears. ‘I am living my life. For women like me, we have to live and it hardly matters whether we are happy or sad. I have to work at home and in my office, serve my family, satisfy my husband, my in-laws and take care of my kid’. She sighed deep and continued, ‘You know what, I work hard day and night yet I have no control over my life or on my hard-earned money. To the world I am an independent woman and in reality that is a hoax. And in my case, I have no choice. Life to me is a compulsion. I have to be acquiescent to my husband in every matter. I love my only son. You know he is my life’, she said with a weird smile. Even she has no choice to choose the number of kids. That was also decided by her lord, her so called better half.

There are thousands of Raheela’s in this world which seem to be independent to the outside world but inside they are precarious and instable. Unwillingly, they continue with life, not considering whether they are happy or sad. They are caged and choked inside, yet to the world they are independent women who have played bad with God’s great plan.