When I was 14, my teacher asked me, what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a business woman. The boys in my class began to laugh. They said I was too ambitious. I was confused that how wanting to be a business woman made me too ambitious. But my question was answered when I was eighteen. I begged my father to let me study further. I wanted to achieve my dreams. But he said there was no need to educate me further. After all, I am a woman. Born and raised to be married and bear children. And he said that did not need education.
Today I asked my husband to let me work. But he said no. He says I am weak and economically unsound. And when I argue, because I can no longer bear to hear the hungry screams of my children, he hits me. He beats me. He has silenced me.
mom says that if I cover myself properly, the men in the bus will stop harassing me. So,I wear a burqa and step into the bus. But a man keeps staring at me, brushing his hand against my back. Intentionally. And this time he goes as far as holding my hand. Mother was wrong. My clothes were never capable of changing a man’s mentality.
Nine years ago, I was in a car accident. My husband fell asleep driving and the car fell into a ditch. He managed to jump out and save himself, I am happy for him, but I remained in the car. I was admitted in a hospital. The doctor comes to me and says I would not be able to walk again. I was despaired. Next day, he says I would not be able to give birth. I was devastated. I began to question my existence. I began to paint my sorrows. One day I decided to fight my fears. I divorced him. I liberated myself by setting him free. And from there, there was no stopping me.
Dear men of my beloved country,
I understand that some of you have stood by my side in face of oppression and helped me move forward, and for that I am extremely grateful. But to those men who oppress me or silently witness the oppression, stop taking me for granted.
You are strong, economically sound and as much deserving of education as anyone else. There is no limit to what you can accomplish. Did not the brave women of our country such as Muniba Mazari, Samina Baig or Malala Yousufzai prove that?
I am a phoenix and I will rise above my circumstances. I will rise from the ashes of oppression, misogyny and patriarchy. Limitations are nothing but an illusion and there is nothing that can stop me from achieving my true potential.
Remember, there is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.