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April 23, 2013 / Man in the Mirror

The day I realized that gender inequality existed

Once can never really empathize with someone’s situation until and unless you have walked in their shoes. Unfortunately that is reality and no matter how much one feels for societal problems, one can’t understand the intricinsies until they have experienced it themselves.

I must have been 12 or 13 when I went to visit my relative sin Pakistan. During this particular trip, my grandparents decided to take the kids and grandkids up north. It was also an exciting time because it was my only opportunity to explore the country. This particular summer, we went to Ayubia and stayed at a guesthouse surrounded by beautiful landscapes: hills, clouds, clear blue skies and cold ravines.  We stayed there for a week and I don’t know if the occurrence happened everyday or once. But it was at this time of my life I realized that there was such a thing as gender inequality.

One morning, all my female cousins woke early, got dressed and cleaned up our makeshift beds. Once we were done, we walked over to the family room where the boys were sleeping. At the same time, someone had started cooking breakfast and bringing it to the table. With the delicious aroma surrounding them, the boys finally awoke and staggered from their beds towards the bathrooms. As we girls made our way towards the breakfast table, one of my aunts caught us and told us to fold up the pillows and blankets that the boys had been using. When the boys re-emerged from the bathrooms they walked past us straight to the breakfast table.

Out of naiveté or for being the most vocal I asked: “Why? Do the boys not know how to fold sheets?”. To which my aunt gave me a disapproving look and said that girls are supposed to do this for the boys. And that was the moment…

I felt like someone had slapped me across the face. I remember feeling physically sick. I did not answer back to my aunt. I think primarily out of shock, and once the shock were off, I stayed silent out of respect for an older person. The whole time while I helped to clear up the boys’ beds, I kept thinking that in my community, apparently as a female, I was considered less than a male.

I was not given any brownie points for cleaning up my own bed or waking up on time. Instead I was told to go hungry in order to clean up after men. And it was not as if the men were told to wait for breakfast or help until.

It is a cycle that exists in most societies but predominantly in South Asian communities. Men are taught from a very young age to use women and women are taught that they are subservient to men.

As long as gender inequality continues to exist so well abuse and violence towards women.

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