Imagine being a 13 year old girl growing up in a very poor family somewhere in Asia or in the Middle East. You have three younger brothers and a father. Your mother passed away the year before because she was sick. One of your brothers was also sick at the same time; he only survived because he got medication for it which your mother did not get. Your father said he “could always find a new wife but maybe not a new son”. Your father wants you to marry your cousin but you refuse to, instead you ask to go to school just like your brothers. Your father dislikes the question, he decides to beat you constantly for a week, and threatens to kill you unless you marry your cousin. But you manage to escape. You barely make it out and you have no money, but you finally hear about a dishing job in Malaysia. You go to the country, but you were tricked and instead of doing dishes you are taken to a brothel. You refuse to work as a prostitute, but the owners rape you, beat you, and drug you until you have no power to fight anymore.
You turn 14. You are still in the brothel working as a sex slave. You have learned by now that if you do not make enough money a day selling your body, you will be beaten more than usual. You are a drug addict; heroin is what makes you getting through your days. You turn 18 and you are still in the brothel. You have not kept a penny from the prostitution; the owners took them all. All you have is a bruised body, possibly HIV, and two daughters who are raised in the brothel to become just like you: a prostitute. Your daughters do not know you are their mother.
You cannot escape.
You are a prisoner.
You are a slave.
An item used for service and business. Your body is being sold by businessmen and businesswomen and there is no way out.
This story I just told is not only one true story, but a combination of a few that I read about in the book Half the Sky. This book discusses the inequality between men and women, how women in many countries are abused, not educated nor given medication if they are sick. In the book, I read about an Ethiopian girl who was severely underweight, while all the males in her family were well nourished. The family chose to feed all the males and not give her anything. It was also mentioned in the book how girls and women in India are more likely to die than boys and men, which is only because they are not considered as important.
Most of the stories that I read in the book upset me, and I was able to connect some of it to what we have read about South Africa. In South Africa all the black people were treated differently, and they were discriminated, and they were actually treated in a similar way that many women are treated like in some countries today. The only difference is that, legally and officially, apartheid was abolished in 1990, while there is no specific plan to stop the bad and unjust treatment of women like they were able to stop apartheid.
That brings me to question myself- Am I supposed to do something about a problem like that? And what can I do?
I, as a woman, feel like some people out there are not just hurting and discriminating women in their country, but the gender as a whole. When I read the stories in Half the Sky I was honestly offended because I knew that if I was born in a different country I might have been completely unworthy and treated with such disrespect and dishonor, only because I am a woman. Luckily there are groups out there that are supporting women, children, as well as families. Some of the groups are Women for Women International, and Plan International.
I do think the real big issue is that women do not get the education they need to know necessary and important things. Women do not get educated and may not know about all peoples’ rights. They are already born into a society and the people around them teach them where their place in society is. Uneducated women also do not know about diseases, for example HIV/AIDS which is a huge problem, especially in South Africa. Women do not know how to protect themselves from the diseases and without an education it is tough to teach their children anything as well.
One of my favorite parts in Half the Sky that I read was when Bill Gates visited Saudi Arabia to speak for a group of people. He soon realized that the audience were mostly males; closer to four fifths were males and one fifth were women. The women were sitting on the left side, separated from the men on the right side. At the end of Bill Gate’s speech a man from the audience asked if it was realistic that Saudi Arabia could become the top ten countries in technology by year 2010. Bill Gates, who was aware of the few women in the audience, replied, “Well, if you are not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you are not going to get too close to the top ten.”
I found a video that was very inspiring on Tedx. It is about a woman from Pakistan who grew up under the identity as a boy so she would be able to do what she wanted in her life. Her family was very supportive and her father let her and her sisters get educated and become independent. I would recommend watching it!