Letters to a Better World
Dear fathers, dear sons, dear partners: Join us in the struggle for equality.
Letter to My Unborn Son
By Sangita Thapa | Nepal
You’re not yet in my womb, but I love you with all my heart, my dearest. I can feel your tiny warm fingers against my skin, while you sleep calmly on my lap. I could have written to your unborn sister, but I chose you because I don’t want my son, my own blood to violate a woman, to devalue her worth. I want you to be a man who respects women in all her forms. When I see all the mistreatment and violence against women, my blood boils, my soul grunts. It makes me angry, sad and hopeless, and therefore my love, I want you to understand all these injustices and brutalities and hope you will never do this to any woman.
I shall instill one truth from the day you are born until I breathe my last: respect women; give her dignity as a fellow human being; recognize her ‘self’ as a nurturer of humanity and a source of inspiration. I shall teach you how to best adore her power of feeding and nourishing the whole of human kind with her endless love; how to appreciate her beauty that lies not in a 36-24-36 size or a white fairy-princess face, or a sexist doll image, but in her supreme feminine intellect and grace.
And my love, I hope to share with you my own experiences of womanhood- my hardships, the challenges I faced, my story of struggle, and the sacrifices I made because I am a woman, a mother, the only beauteous truth.
Because it is crucial for you to first understand the exploitation and subordination of women to gradually prepare yourself to defy and deconstruct patriarchal values and mindsets, I shall teach you to respect each and every human being, regardless of their sex, religion, color, or caste. I shall teach you why it is essential to respect each mother, sister, wife, female classmate, teachers, or any woman. By the time you are a teenager, I shall teach you not to bow before the temptations of the popular cult of disrespecting or dominating women. I shall teach you not to devalue women or objectify women into a mere pleasure of flesh.
I shall teach you not to harass women and girls, or hurt their emotions in any way because it is important for you to understand the very basic truth that a woman is NOT for entertainment. Please remember, physical wounds alone are not the ultimate form of violence. It may manifest at a deeper psychic level, which doesn’t always have to be rape or acid attack, or trafficking or molestation. Even “Eve teasing” is violence. Playing with a woman’s emotions or using her body for the satiation of male desires or ego, they all amount to some sort of psychological and emotional violence, which is subtle but equally devastating. How could one ever seek pleasure out of someone’s pain?
In the near future, I hope that all families and societies in the world will have instilled in the young minds of their sons a tradition of respecting women, of appreciating their worth; and of not promoting cultural values that dehumanize, brutalize, or disrespect women. I’ll give you courage to stand tall against injustices, discrimination, and violence. For you, my sweetheart, I envision a world where there is peace, love, and respect for each human, for each being alive in this universe. And, finally I hope you’ll be a good son, brother, husband, father—and above all, a good man. I pray that all mothers could make this beautiful dream come true. God bless you with reason, courage, and patience to act humanely.
TO: Fathers of Afghan Daughters
FROM: An Afghan Daughter
By Parwana Fayyaz | Afghanistan
Afghan fathers, I want you to know that there is no shame in having daughters.
In fact, international studies show that if you nurture and educate daughters, they will grow into women who will help their families, communities, and country move forward to find peace, stability, health, and economic development. If you give your daughters an education and give them the opportunity to learn to think freely and critically and to find their voices, they too will turn into women who can use their abilities and knowledge to improve the situation for their families.
In Afghanistan, educated daughters will help our country imagine a different future beyond today’s reality. Today, most Afghan women feel shame for being daughters because they have been treated only as oppressed women in homes, schools, streets, and even work places. Let the fear, shame, and guilt that your daughters feel for being Afghan women fall away and give them freedom to first hope for and then work for a better Afghanistan. Do not kill them; rather, let them fly. Do not be ashamed of them but rather be proud.
Let me offer just one example—my own. With my father’s support, I left the instability of Afghanistan and the dust of Kabul’s roads in August 2009 to study at the Asian University for Women (AUW), a liberal arts college for women located in Bangladesh. I studied politics, literature, history, poetry, philosophy, mathematics, and photography. I found my voice and my passion as a writer and photographer. My professors and advisors came from all over the world. They encouraged me and taught me to believe in myself. They saw my hopes through my eyes and taught me to be proud to be an Afghan daughter and woman with my own unique voice, talent, and glittering eyes. I began to love learning and to find joy in each day.
Now I know that no challenge is insurmountable and change is possible. I want every Afghan daughter to be nurtured and educated in ways that make them proud to be Afghans.
During the summer of 2011, I spent a month at Stanford University in the US with two-dozen of my university colleagues in a program aimed at developing our thinking about leadership. I learned about history, democracy, politics, and feminism. We discussed ideas, compared our experiences, and discovered a world beyond our imaginations. We walked freely on campus and we walked alone or together—as we chose. We met many strong women who made us feel proud of our education and our womanhood and inspired us to work not only for our families and our countries, but for the world. In that month at Stanford, we had real minds to think, our own hearts to beat, and joy in our voices.
On my first day home, my father asked me what I had learned from the “Sar-Zamini Azadi Farhang Jaded”—the land of freedom and new traditions. I told him about Condoleezza Rice’s speech about the importance of women’s education and empowerment, and I shared my learning with him.
Imagine the difference all fathers of Afghan daughters can make for their daughters and for Afghanistan if they allow their daughters to become educated and self-confident women. Please fathers, educate your daughters. They are Afghanistan’s greatest hope for a better future.
To the Real Man I love
By Dudziro Nhengu | Zimbabwe
I love you because you are a real man, because you have agreed to share my politics—the politics of women's emancipation and freedom from violence and rape.
Today sweetheart, I invite you to be my ally, to join me in spreading the message on no tolerance to violence against women in Zimbabwe.
Today, I urge you to reach as many men as you can with this message of peace. I know they will listen to you more than they would listen to me, because you are a man like them, and you understand the language of the game better. Please take the following key messages to them:
Tell Clifford and Lovemore that no day is a day to abuse women. Tell them to spend their energies on activism, on fighting for the rights of the oppressed.
Explain to Rugare that violence against women is a violation of human rights, and it must stop. Tell him that the rape of women is an abomination, and there is no excuse. Ask him to join the women of Zimbabwe as we march from Town House to Africa Unity Square to protest against the rape of women and to demand stiffer penalties for all rapists.
Tell Juzeyi to wear his orange shirt on every 25th day of each month. Every 25th day of each month is orange day, and we must all dress in orange to highlight the need for eliminating violence against women from our spaces.
Today my love, I beg you to go to the golf course, not to hit the balls as usual, but to tell Sam that every day is a day to honor women’s rights. Tell them that there is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, and that this movement constitutes a group of people in their diversities, people that refuse to stand by as violence against women continues, people that choose to take action in whatever way to build peace.
Today my love I know you will show your courage. You will go to the police camps, to the government offices, and to your employer’s office and deposit this beautiful message of outrage, that, ‘Enough is enough! No more violence against women’. Tell them we say NO to rape and sexual violence, NO to femicide, NO to impunity, and NO to murders of passion. Tell them we say YES to peace, YES to human rights, and YES to justice and equality.
The last task, sweet heart, is for you to sign a petition to President Mugabe. Be part of the voice that tells him that it is not enough for the government of Zimbabwe to have laws and policies on elimination of violence against women. What Zimbabwe wants is to see the full implementation of said laws and policies. Explain to him the need for Zimbabwe to sign the global Declaration to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. Reason with him that yes, Zimbabwe is not in violent conflict per se, but there are a lot of structural inequalities that breed violence on a day to day basis. Tell him our neighbors across the borders are in conflict, and we cannot act in isolation because the effects of their conflicts will spill over to us. Please remember to convey to him that all survivors of rape have the right to access justice, and effective remedies for the harm they have suffered—including access to services, programs, and opportunities for their recovery and reintegration into society.
After that my love, we can sit together throughout the night, hip to hip, and sing to celebrate the prowess of Chaminuka and the valour of Nehanda, as we load our mouths with spoonfuls of traditional, romantic foods.