Being a Palestinian means having a huge power to be patient in every situation, not only because of the occupation, but also because of how youth have an incredible power and WILL to change our society and community in a way that assists towards the reality of having a great WORLD!
One of the most prevalent issues that always come to my mind is gender inequality in Palestine. When I talk about this issue I do not mean that we are all suffering from this throughout Palestine, however, it is still a problem that every woman is forced to cope with nowadays.
In some cities, I had the opportunity to develop close relationships with women who had immensely difficult situations dealing with gender inequality. For generations, education has been one of the most important ideals for sons in Palestine. On the other hand, however, it is not as important for daughters to receive an equal education, if any. Traditionally, the goal for a woman is to get married and start a family for them to care for rather than further develop their own education. Women do not have as many choices as their obligation is to lead a life that coincides with their traditions, often times pushing the goals that they desire to achieve for themselves farther and father away.
I had the opportunity to assist in a project that aims to let women get to know each other in multiple cities throughout Palestine. The purpose of the project was to understand those traditions that still face many issues surrounding education, early marriage, and the outright lack of work opportunities for women throughout multiple cities. Amid all of the amazing women that I got to know, there is one woman who’s story has stayed with me till this day: Fatima.
At the beginning, Fatima and I were not sharing any of the intimate details about our lives, nor did I ask for any stories until we became close friends. She began telling me how she might be different in her city for a single reason- she had no desire to be the same as her sisters, nor the other females in her neighborhood, she wanted something more. Captivated by her dream, day in and day out, she stuck with it. I was so inspired by her stories and how she fought the traditions of her family; even then, I was waiting for this moment to write about her story and how I felt after knowing everything that she had been through.
It shook me to know how hard Fatima’s life was. She did everything to continue with her education, despite her family refusing to accept this decision after she had finished the 12th grade. Never letting go of her dream, she insisted on the continuation of her studies, never faltering to achieve her goals. The determination and perseverance engrained in Fatima’s personality allowed her to come closer to her dreams.
In the beginning, her family agreed to let her enter the college, but it was a female only college in order to make sure that she won’t talk with males. Yet as time went on and the support of her family lessened, she started working not one, but two part time jobs in order to pay for her college education. Her brother, also university student pursuing his desired major, lack that same level of focus that Fatima had mastered. She was smart, fixated on her objectives, and an overwhelming sense of drive. Losing hope of these goals, even if the college was not exactly what she wanted, was never an option.
When I heard everything she told me, I was distraught that people could and would refuse to let their daughters continue their education. How could they feel comfortable not letting their daughters develop their knowledge and being a helping part of their community? Deep inside I was upset, upset about those people who knew nothing about Fatima’s will or her story. It makes me feel responsible for being a part of my society, a society that supports women who give up on their education because of their familial and cultural traditions.
I know that inequality reflects a frustration in everyone’s personality. The differences in how Fatima’s family treated her brothers versus her and her sisters was always apparent. However, she knew this and accepted it from the very beginning.
Years and years later, Fatima and I would meet again. This time, however, she was in a very high position. She had made her dream come true- she had gotten her first college diploma and was working on a second bachelor’s degree in business administration from Birzeit University. Today, she works as a supervisor at a thriving company in Ramallah. I can still picture how her eyes lit up with a shining ray of happiness when she told me her story.
Unfortunately, Fatima was not the only female who suffered from this issue, we still have inequality in some cities in Palestine and it’s not only because of lack of education- the labor market, salaries, adventures, decisions and dreams are still in need of strong females who can fight for them!
Not every woman in Palestine is like Fatima, some women give up very easily once their educational goal is rejected by their family and/or community. Some women accept being uneducated because of their traditions and in turn, they end up being an ignorant person in a society that is full of knowledge and technology!