“Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”
— Khaled Hosseini ( A Thousand Splendid Suns)
Sometimes I feel like I’m the most unfortunate citizen of this world.
I am African. We who have been used and abused over the centuries, first by foreign powers who came and “discovered” us to our detriment and then by our own leaders who believe our continent main use o help for increasing their wealth and big stomachs.
I am a Muslim. With Arabic ancestry. From the shores of Lamu where the first Arabs settled in Kenya. My Swahili dialect is filled with hot sands of the deserts of Arabia. Also, right now, the world’s most wanted. In today’s world the word Islam most times connotes the image of a bomb strapped, beard faced fanatic. With madness in his eyes.
And then I am a woman. The default victim. Everyone’s scapegoat. An afterthought.
On any given day, I can find at least 2 articles in newspapers, on the internet or even within conversations that make me feel attacked, belittled, oppressed.
A headline like “Woman sexually assaulted by Muslim barbarians” raises all sorts of emotions from me. This was from the Lara Logan sexual assault story. My Muslim brothers attacked a fellow woman. Wooosah.
But from all these identities, I have found being a woman has been the hardest. Especially when it comes to personal goals . When you’re a kid you live in a world where you think every thing is possible. So you build your dreams with an innocence and naivety. When I was younger I wanted to be an actor. I did a bit of drama in school, but it was just for Prize Giving day occasions. I imagined myself on stage the first Kenyan to win an Oscar. But that remained a vague dream. I’m a Swahili girl. I cannot be on stage. It’s just not done where I come from. Those who have, have had to endure a lot and fight hard for it. I commend them.
I have dreamed of many things. I have had to lay many of them to rest. Stillborn pieces of what I could have been.
A lot has changed for women. Even for Muslim women. We are educated and we are allowed to work. Note that I said allowed. It is never our choice. We are contributing members of our societies. But not too much, lest our voices become louder than our men. But we still have a long way to go. My friend recently quit her job because she was frustrated. She was qualified to be head of her department but they would not promote her because she was a woman. The cherry on top was when she had to train the person that they eventually hired. A previously dedicated employee became disillusioned.
When a woman does something wrong, the whole society feels like they’re entitled to correct her. She can be undressed in the streets for not dressing up to standards, she can be insulted in public. She is a woman, a community property; It’s their responsibility to keep her in the right path.
Women are still raped and abused. Simply because they’re there. Children are destroyed everyday. Simply because they’re female.
When a man does something wrong, it is his business. God will handle him.
I have been overwhelmed by the sentiment today. I am celebrated. The same mouth that called me a ho last night, is today calling me a queen. I wonder how that tastes.
I am not proud to be a woman. I had no choice in the matter. I just was. But I accept and I live up to it.
I am a woman; I carry with me the magnitude of the word. I celebrate myself.
Happy International Women’s Day. Beyond this day.