Monday, March 13, 2017

My Belated Women's Day Post

Goodness I've been lazy. I have notes written all over the place for the blog, but then I get sucked in to the 'holy-shit-the-world-is-falling-apart' mode and I lose the will to live. Is anyone else feeling this? I find it so difficult to blog about 'Salalah' when so many major things are happening in the world. The refugee crisis, climate change,Orange Face, women's rights, Syria, etc etc. Is it right to be sucked in regularly? Is it selfish to want to switch off? Am I doing enough? Am I not doing enough? 

Last week I felt the feminist blogging fire erupt after Salalah launched its first 'Ladies Mall'. Yes, a LADIES mall. And guess what? The photo in the newspaper of the opening showed men cutting the red ribbon surrounded by an arch of pink balloons. Not a woman in the photo. A 'men's initiative' apparently. I asked around. 

I was so pissed off. There are so many wrong things about this. Is this what we've come to? Men launching a women's mall to brainwash their women into thinking they are independent and respected? Salalah at its best. Herding women into a corner. Encouraging 'entrepreneurship' (i.e. selling frankincense and starting a home-baking business). They're happy to support women as long as it's within the limits they impose. DRIVES ME CRAZY.

Why can't you raise your girls to be strong and smart and sensible? Then you won't have to worry about them 'misbehaving' and you won't have to constantly obsess about how to chaperone them and control them. Treat them like humans from the day they are born and encourage them to be active members of society. 

I know TWO young women who were married off recently in 'arranged marriages'. University-educated women. Smart women. And I know for sure that they weren't entirely happy about it. Imagine! Someone else making life's big decision FOR YOU. As if you aren't capable enough of making your own decision.. . . especially when it comes to choosing a life partner. 

I hired a smart young woman a couple of years ago and during the offer-signing process, her father came to my office demanding to know what her salary would be. I refused to disclose such information and he made such a fuss about it. 'She's my daughter!!! I have every right to know her salary!!! She will be paying me monthly!!!!'. This is what women go through. I know so many women who were forced by their families to take out a loan the moment they got a job. 

A colleague of mine is university-educated, smart, excellent English, hard-working, ... a shining star at work. Constantly taking on new projects and challenging herself. A very serious employee. I predict a managerial position for her in the next 10 years. She's that kind of person. All nice and dandy, right? Except her husband won't 'let' her drive and gets whiny and sulky when she has to travel to Muscat for one or two days business trips (with other females). 

Examples like these are what drive me so mad. Examples like these remind me (and should remind you) that no, it's not all ok in Oman. Muscat may be modern and supportive of women's independence, but the rest of the country has a long way to go. 

There were plenty of people writing about the positive accomplishments in Oman for Women's Day (March 8) but it's not enough to just highlight the good stuff. It's good for SOME people, but a large portion of female society is still fighting for basic rights. The problem isn't legislation alone (marriage, divorce, inheritance.... these laws are so discriminatory, don't get me started). It's families. It's society. It has to start at home. 

If you are reading this and you have young daughters or are close to young girls, please support them. Get them a science kit instead of a barbie doll. Teach them how to rollerblade instead of manicures. Show them a world map. Take them to 'Hidden Figures' instead of princess movies. Buy them books. Tell them they can be whatever they want to be. Tell them they can change the world. They will thrive if they have a support network. Be that support network. 

Over and out for now. 

Nadia. 

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