Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who is Oppressed?

In this post, I will tell you the true story of 3 women who live in different parts of the world. I will try to present the facts as narrated to me and you can be the judge.

Helen is 34, married for the past 8 years. She works as a nurse and pursues an undergraduate degree at a university in Chicago. She has 2 kids; aged 2 and 4. She gets up every day at 5:30 a.m and prepares breakfast for the family, as well as her son's lunchbox. Thank God, her husband, Kevin, would drive their son to school. She drives to work through the busy streets of Chicago. After her shift, she drives to the university to attend lectures. She has to do this throughout the week; switching between lectures, work and housechores. When her husband isn't hanging out with his buddies, as he has the habit of doing, he would help with the housework. Running the errands is her responsibility, and even though she has a car, she has little time to go around shopping for household needs. Paying the nanny to stay with their kids in their absence costs her a small fortune and she is not ready to get a maid to do the housework. This would be peeling the skin off her back and send her bankrupt. She has to deal with the challenges...this is the real world. Besides this, if the car is down, she has to take it to the mechanic for repairs. If her car is low on fuel, she has to fill it. If the school summons the parents for a parent-teacher meeting, she has to put everything aside; Kevin would never accept to go because he says it is a "mum's duty". OMG! What a life!

Dolly is 41, a wardress at the main prison of her town. She is African and lives in a West African city, one of the most populated and crowded towns of this continent. She has 5 kids who all go to school. Every morning she gets up at 5 a.m to prepare breakfast for the family. Then she has to go to work on foot because it is practically impossible to catch a cab in her neighbourhood. The distance she has to walk to get a taxi is approximately the one she would cover to go to work. What the heck! So, she goes to work on foot. After a 30-minute walk, she gets to the prison. At the end of the day, she goes home and takes a little nap before getting up around 7:00 p.m to set the table for dinner. After dinner, she has to cook the meal of the next day, then store it in the refrigerator. No one to help her because the kids are all doing their homework with the help of their daddy. She pays a maid who works part-time and leaves immediately she comes back from duty. Her role is to babysit the kids in their absence and to do laundry every Saturday. Talking of Saturdays...Dolly has to run the errands once every week. She hires a cart pusher to go around the market and to deliver the grocery at her home as they do not have a car yet. And it doesn't end there. She has to make sure everything runs smoothly at home even when she is on 24-hour duty! Her husband is a typical African man who has little tolerance for a mother who does not perform her duties fully, even if she is working. What is this life?!

Eman is a 42 year old Saudi mum. She lives in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and works at a public institution as a programmer. She lives in an apartment with her husband, 5 children and 2 maids. She gets up everyday at 6 a.m. to supervise the maids. One of them has to give the younger kids a bath and prepare them for school. The other maid has to prepare breakfast for the family. At 7 a.m the family driver drops the kids at school while her husband drops her off at work. She comes back home at 4:30 p.m. Her lunch is on the table, set by the maid. After eating, she sleeps for an hour or two, then helps her kids to do their homework. Rasheed, her husband, would not do it because he says it is the role of the mother. Besides, he doesn't expect his kids to be geniuses at school. By 9 p.m she is tired and has to update her knowledge in programming, so she has to go online to study. Before going to bed, she has to tell the cook what to prepare for the next day. And then goes the routine again. When the kids are ill, she has to take them to the doctor; Rasheed would not go. It is her responsibility, he says. When there is parent-teacher meeting, she has to go. This time Rasheed can't go because it is an only-girls school and therefore not open to men. When it is time to run the errands, she has to prepare the list and give it to him. Waoh! Her friends do not have to do that; their men just know what to get for the house. In addition, they (her friends) just sit at home all day and give orders to their maids. Why does life have to be so unfair?

Everyone is complaining of being oppressed. In the western countries, women have fought for their rights at various levels. There are many laws that protect women, yet, they complain about the work load and the challenges that they face as wives and career women. 

Women in Africa, especially those in the rural (and remote areas) are still fighting for their rights. Many are however emancipated, but still comes in this cultural issue that an African woman has to be submissive to her husband, whether she is working or is a stay-at-home mum.

In Saudi Arabia, a few courageous women like Dr. Hatoon Al Fasi and Wajeha Al Huwaider have stood up to fight for women's rights in the Kingdom. Groups such as the Saudi Women Revolution have been created to support this cause. Some have launched campaigns to make their voices heard and have gone as far as defying Saudi more here.

And Saudi men? What about them? Do you imagine a western husband who has to drive his kids to school, drive his wife around (to the hairdresser, to see her relatives, to buy herself some clothes and jewelery, for social events...), and run the daily or weekly errands for the house (while the wife is sitting at home watching television), besides driving himself around for personal and work-related matters? OMG! Can you say that again? The typical Saudi guy (even the lazy type) does this. His father did it. His grandfather too.

Now YOU tell me who has the right to scream?

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