Kisa Fatima, Pakistan: Mediterranean Forestry and Natural Resources Management (MEDfOR)
How many times in your life have you looked up to someone for an approval? The approval for being appreciated, the approval for being independent, the approval for being right. Trust me, if you take a minute to reflect on the thought, you will come up with thousands of such scenarios. If you are a woman, chances are that you might have experienced such a scenario more often. And let me explain how.
As a daughter you are taught that in order to be a good one, you always have to look towards your parents for their approval before making any decision in life – be it related to studies, traveling, dating, falling in love, and even marrying the person of your choice. Similarly, once you find yourself in a romantic relationship, you always look towards your significant other for approval when it comes to your looks. Are you looking pretty enough? Are you attractive? Is your body perfect? And once you attain motherhood, the pattern continues: You look into your children’s eyes and look for an approval. Are you being a good mother? Are they proud of you? Are they embarrassed to introduce you to their friends? In short, a woman’s life is not her own life: it is a life that has been established around approval from others. And when I say "women", it does not only include women from developing countries like me but the pattern exists across the globe.
I have consoled a roommate after her breakup, when her boyfriend cheated on her and said that she is "too loud to be a woman". Similarly, I have tried to comfort a friend who was forced to move back with her husband in the face of domestic violence because to her parents, a one-off incident of abuse is not reason enough to seek for divorce.
We – as women – have to go through a lot of hurdles in life to be what we want to be. We are born free; live in free country; and probably many of us are also financially independent. However, are we truly empowered? Do we only need men to change their behavior to empower us or do we need to step up and empower ourselves in the truest sense of the word?
We need to set our boundaries and realize that anything that hurts us should be shunned from our lives. We don’t have to make sense in order to fit into someone’s standard of sensibility; we don’t have to look pretty to please others; we don’t have to seek others’ approval to live. We are not robots who function with a remote control. We are humans – with hearts and brains; emotions and the ability to reason.
And I know that it takes a lot of courage to say no, but remember that 'NO' is a sacred word.
Even when you feel like you are alone, consider yourself to be a one-man army!