Life has those funny ways of kicking you when you’re finally getting somewhere and helping you out when you’re ready to give up. Somewhere between nursing our constantly sore backsides and finding the will to soldier on, we discover those things that define us. Attributes like adaptability, perseverance, integrity and resilience are what I find myself reaching for almost daily. It’s not always easy to do what I’m trying to do, but no one said it was going to be.
Picture a teenaged, atheist, bisexual feminist with a seemingly confident personality. You might imagine a strong, young woman who speaks openly about sexuality and gender issues, a public speaker or a member of a women’s rights committee, an active member of the GLBT community or a mouthy, opinionated member of the community.
All of these things would be fine if dealing with on open-minded western society and friends of a similar mindset, but I’m not. I’m almost seventeen, almost an activist and I’m living in Iraqi Kurdistan.
There are a number of challenges that Kurdish women face every day that many just accept as the norm, or even the right way to live. Whether it’s walking through the local bazaar or being approached by males that aren’t your relatives, there is a specific code of conduct that you’re expected to adopt. There is an undefined taboo against speaking out against sexism because of misunderstood religious ties to the subject and cultural influences. Though awareness is improving, we still have a long way to go before men and women become equal.
A notice on the roadside near my home reads ‘There is no democracy without equality’. I found it ironic that when walking past this sign, young men honked their horns at me and shouted from their car windows, while elderly women stared disapprovingly at an adolescent women walking unaccompanied by a male relative. It’s apparent that people do want change, and issues that were once ignored are now being discussed, but as a whole, the population seems uncertain how to create positive modifications. It’s difficult to tackle a problem that isn’t governed by an organisation or a law, but by the way society has been thinking for decades.
But don’t get me wrong. Things are definitely getting better and attitudes are changing. Earlier this year I attended a celebration of International Woman’s Day that was held by a local university, and especially enjoyed a play about independent women and maintaining integrity. It just goes to show that the younger generations are open to change. The event was a hit with both male and female students as well as their lecturers. Meanwhile, at the all-girls high-school that I’m attending didn’t even mention the day. The influence that the institution is having on young women is less than desirable to the open-minded among us, as it pushes strict rules of social conduct and religious attitudes, claiming that anything else is shameful. I’m sorry to say that the majority of girls are highly impressionable and wouldn’t ever consider pushing the boundaries, let alone raise questions of sexual education, feminism or other contemporary issues.
So this year I have a plan. I’m going to join any organisations I can find concerning women’s rights and human rights in general, raise funds for the girl’s orphanage, and spread knowledge of feminism. Oh, and I’m going to blog.
I’m hoping someone thinks that I have something interesting to say.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, Girls, International, LGBTQIA, Religion
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Title IX, News, Sexuality, Middle East and North Africa