Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

Coming out of a shell and making it natural

Mother woke me up one morning, blazing with anger and waving a letter. I was hazy from my sleep and was thus having a hard time figuring what was going on. I knew she was upset, but my mind was slow. I felt my flesh being pulled, as she scolded me, and the pain left me more disoriented. I recoiled back into my blankets to protect myself.

“What did I tell you about boys? Why is this boy writing you this letter?” she enquired. “Do not lie to me, how did he get your postal address, and why is he saying all these things. What did you do to attract him?” So many questions.

I have never known the contents of that letter, but the scolding and the pinches I got many years ago, irritate me till today. Why was I blamed for a boy’s choice to write me a letter? Why was it assumed that I must have done something to attract the boy?

“Do not hold your hair like that, who are you trying to attract? Why are your lips glossy, remove that?”

I now understand my mother was doing her best to protect me from boys; I know she had my best interest at heart, but why does it always have to be the woman’s fault and burden? When I was 15 years old, I remember girls in my school being rounded up and forced to cut our hair short.

“This is a distraction”, the school administration explained. “Girls are using hair to attract and distract the boys.”

Why is it that the woman has to confine her body, her sexuality, her talents, her need to explore, all in the name of respecting limits which have been imposed by and continue to be re-invented a patriarchal culture?

A close friend of mine recently called me to share what he thought was a fascinating sight. He had decided to treat himself to a nice meal, one Sunday evening, when a small boy proudly aiming his pee into a fish pond caught his attention. Everyone watched him, amused but not embarrassed. My friend was excited when narrating the story. “The boy was just being a boy,” he explained.

I could not help comparing this story to that of the girl child. Would the sight of a small girl, squatting to shoot a stream of pee into a pond draw the same reaction? Would they have been amused, and simply say, “The girl is just being a girl”? Even with such natural performances, and from early ages, the destiny of the boy to “move out” to explore to challenge gravity is encouraged. The girls on the other hand or encouraged to respect limits; respect gravity.

Such acts are reflective of the socialisation processes in society. They encourage a feeling of conservativeness in girls, and exploration in boys. As a young girl I learned to bottle up feelings and experiences, because I knew that society would either blame me or be embarrassed of me. The burden lies on the woman.

Do not get me wrong women can be and are assertive, they can be and are explorers; they can be and are seen as active participants in public spaces. However, such women are considered empowered, because they are rejecting what patriarchy has branded as normal and it has not been an easy. Challenging patriarchal limits leads to such labels as wicked woman, among others. Hence, the struggle of the empowered woman continues. My worry is: will it ever be as natural for the girl as it has been for the boy? Or will the woman forever have to fight against such patriarchal natural processes?

Coming out of my shell; this is what I have been doing for the past few months; learning to trust my voice. I have read theories about women and travelled to remote communities to listen to her-story. I have seen women working hard to take control of their lives, coming out of their shells. Being a voice of our future correspondent serves two purposes for me: personal exploration and discovery as I do that which I feel in my pulse; making the empowerment of the woman natural.


Daydri's picture

thank you

i loved reading you!


The Afrika way's picture


Thanks d*...right back at you!!!!

Farona's picture

My dear - if I had a chance

My dear - if I had a chance to wrote one more post - it would have been on this observation !
I can't imagine cutting my hair short just because my hair will 'attract guys' :S :S
Growing up, I realized we condone so many ridiculous acts just because it's conducted by a 'boy' and punish so many girls for mundane matters. In this way, we have created a society that hinders a female's mental growth.

Thank you so much for this post - hopefully I can listen more of your stories ! the best VOF week four post for me :-)

Hugs !!!!!!!

The Afrika way's picture

Hi Farona, Couldn't agree

Hi Farona,

Couldn't agree with you more. I am glad you like the post....and I can tell you now, your "pichu" (our pichu) is winning. She gets more stronger and beautiful with every time she sheds her skin. You are doing great, keep going and all the best in your studies.


Farona's picture

Much appreciated. I do hope

Much appreciated. I do hope to read more of your observations ! they are logical and inspiring :-)
(LOL) My pichu has grown a lot - I have been shaping her character for 10 years now ! that's a long time hahha

Myrthe's picture

Great post, Grace! you are

Great post, Grace! you are asking questions that I keep running into as well: Why are women so often expected to take responsibility for men's actions towards women or for the way men treat them, very often actions that those women have no control over whatsoever? And why are women expected to stay within their limits, why are they expected to not be bold, assertive, exploring etc. whereas the same qualities in men are valued?

The Afrika way's picture

Hi Myrthe, thanks!!!! We

Hi Myrthe,


We should be careful not get too comfortable, patriarchy keeps re-inventing itself, and sometimes we do not even notice its presence....we need to keep watch, raise questions, and speak out, even when the truth is inconveniencing.

In solidarity and love,

Ladybug's picture

Reflection on "Coming out of a shell"

I enjoyed reading your post, Grace. You have posed some thoughtful and evocative questions around gender differences in the socialization of children, based on your personal experiences.

I was particularly moved by your recent intention of "learning to trust [your] voice" - a crucial step in your journey of self-discovery. I want to congratulate you on the courage to "come out of your shell" and share your story with the world.

Keep up the great work!


sallysmithr's picture

I enjoyed reading your post.

I enjoyed reading your post. I loved how descriptive your writing truly make me (the reader) feel as if I was there and having those emotions! Keep doing what you are doing:)



Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative