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What girls must not do is a long list of rules that seem designed to keep them submissive and unquestioning!
Manjulika Pramod describes herself as an engineer by profession and a writer and painter by passion. She is currently offering a big book giveaway at her book site, Writers Melon.
As a girl and only child of my loving parents, I grew up with no comparisons and pressures to grow up as the son of the family and neither was I asked to prove myself at any step. I grew up with taut lessons on equality of gender. So far so good! But there have been many unsolicited advices and practices in our society which even my parents could not keep them away from me. I term them as atrocities which we girls face in the name of moral, religious and social values! The ‘MUSTs’ and ‘SHOULD NOT’s’ have gagged us for times immemorial.
It’s perturbing to see the kind of life we have come to build around females in our society. A girl and later the lady of the house go on to live a different set of rules, from one home to another. A ‘SHE’ is always taught to be somber, soft spoken, respectful, sacrificing, and meek and never someone who could question every rule of the world. We are expected to do things just to please others irrespective of our choices. Our thinking and reason is nullified. I have tried questioning the existing dogmas and the reply has been clichéd, ‘You have to do it…. Everyone does it…. It has always been this way; the girl has to do it’. Someone please tell me why?
I remember my howls still. I had cried my heart out on the day one when it came down flowing for the first time. For a fourteen year old, the phases of metamorphosis were not easy. I had overheard about it from my age girls in school but had no inkling it could be so painful. The Devil, called periods had finally knocked my puberty doors. Mum consoled me and did best to explain me all but I was hopelessly scared and irked with the unrest created in my life suddenly. On top of it all, I felt like yelling at my Granny because she sat happy and smug, calling me a grown up then.
Too many verbose dialogues came from her… Every girl must go through this… You should not go to the kitchen… You should not visit a temple… You should not wash your hair in these days……..‘You should not mention about it to any member of the family, no males at all’. Blah.. Blah….My mom had to drill down the last one into me strictly because she knew I would blabber it all to my Dad as everyone was being cruel to me. But I did not and since we do not talk about it to anyone, we never kill many myths.
My granny would go on with her reiteration that a good girl MUST be spiritual and should be praying for an hour each day, keeping fasts, paying visits to temples. For me praying was never about reciting prayers and requesting God but always about talking to him casually. And my equation with different Gods in temples was always too bad. I never understood the concept of pushing, stomping and toppling one over another to see a glimpse of an idol when God thrives in our own hearts.
When it comes to studies, a girl ‘SHOULD NOT’ study much. However nowadays, parents make their daughters self-sufficient with the ulterior motive of getting a nice groom. She has to go to someone else’s house thus she MUST know about the cooking and the cleaning. Why? What If she doesn’t want to do it…? If a female proves her mettle in the career, she actually has to prove herself everyday otherwise she will be termed another pretty face in the company. At every step there is a war which we have to undergo with ourselves and with the other sex.
Whining and wailing amidst fulfilling her aspirations, when the girl begins to understand the culture, rituals, practices of her own house, comes the times to marry her off. Another round of discussions begin to make way for themselves… You MUST get married soon. One year to marriage and you SHOULD NOT delay the first baby as the biological clock goes haywire… You MUST be dutiful to the inlaws. Wanting to live single and independent is simply out of question. In the new house, there is a new set of rules of follow. So, again if she tries to question the reasons and beliefs, she cannot and if she refuses to abide, the peace of the house is lost. It is all so cluttered and bothersome.
Has someone ever bothered with what a girl wants? We do not need a pacified life; we desire more and have all rights to live the way we want. Why make these moral and social values matter so much that we make a hell out of each other’s lives? We are born free, we die free, then why spend the in between time among the shackles of our own myths and torturous beliefs.
Today’s changemaker of the day that we’d like to highlight is Bhopal based voluntary organisation Aham Bhumika. One of the key focus areas for the group is the education of girls belonging to very poor families, in rural Madhya Pradesh, where the quality of state-run educational services and access to them tends to be very poor.
There is also resistance from families in sending children, especially girls, to school, and therefore the larger community needs to be convinced of the value of education. This is something Aham Bhumika is trying to address with its programme, Mahak.
Working in one of India’s poorest states, and facing formidable challenges, Aham Bhumika deserves all the support you can give them. You can help by donating or becoming a volunteer (they have many tasks that you can do remote, without being present in Bhopal).
Pic credit: Dakotilla (Used under a Creative Commons license)
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