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It's time for girls to stop taking a backseat

When I was born, I became another statistic, just another girl born into a world full of anticipating parents waiting for their first born son. Back in the 80s boys were still much preferred over girls and if I was born in China, I'd probably have been abandoned so lucky for me, I was raised but my parents went back into production. There was another disappointment before we finally had a boy in the house and it was the happiest day of my mother's life. It was as if all her prayers were answered and the doors of heaven opened and out of the shining rays, my little brother was delivered. He of course was spoiled beyond imagination and was at her side as if closely guarded in case he might get snatched by imaginary kidnappers. At times, I thought I'd sell him to the neighbours and then pretend I didn't know where he was but the opportunity never presented itself. I'm not complaining nor did I have a bad childhood where I was raped or tortured or grew up in a war zone. I grew up in a Pacific island in the middle of the Pacific ocean where I shared my room with my siblings and the occasional cousins that get sent from overseas to learn the culture and speak the language.

I was lucky to have been raised by parents who were liberal enough to educate us and even allowed religious diversity within our home. We were allowed to make our own decisions and base our own experiences on our best judgements. When I became too liberal, I was shipped off to a local all girls boarding school, where I was corporeally punished for every little thing that could go wrong, like showering out of the allocated shower time or sneaking around during lights out. Studying was the last thing on my agenda when every teacher seemed to be out to pick on me and I was always the second last or third last in the overall grading out of the entire high school. I used to think I was the dumbest student they had until I finished high school and entered a different school for my last year in high school. What do you know - I became one of their top outstanding students. I wasn't dumb after all. After high school, I worked for a year and thought I'd check out the night life and socialize a bit but during the late nineties, girls who went out without a chaperon were often considered promiscuous. Being female was a burden and culturally, girls were expected to stay virgins until their 21st birthdays which is often celebrated in the biggest ever festival of all times where mothers show off their handiwork in keeping their daughters prim and proper. You were expected to stay a virgin up until your wedding day.

There was so much expected out of girls that when you finally get your head around the fact that you're not a firstborn son or a son at all, you're thrown into a prison of sort by society and their expectation of how a girl should be raised and what her roles are. So even when you're raised quite liberally at home, you still have the rest of society plucking feathers from your wings when you try to fly free. If you're strong enough to develop thick skin to ignore the gossip around you and reflect the glaring stares and make it out to university for an even better future, then you're one of a handful of lucky girls. Others who can't afford to make it into high school especially from the smaller outer islands almost always end up going back to their small islands where they intermarry and raise young families with almost no income. They live off the land and sea and if by some miracle they find a way out through migration whether legally or illegally. It's a statistic that is not written in any history book or archeological text but found in the memory of oppressed young women who are not given the opportunity that most girls on the main islands have access to.

We can't all migrate overseas or attend university or have access to funds that support us in our journey. Not everyone will become successful in life and this is not a socialist world. There will always be a larger amount of girls left behind to pick up the pieces that most of us leave behind. That's why building our own economies and supporting sustainable development in small isolated communities is important. We must always remember the girls who carry the weight of our own decisions to become successful women. We must rise together if we are to eradicate poverty and the suppression of women and girls. We can't all be successful but we can all share the responsibility of becoming better carers for our own nations. In order to do this we must see men as our allies, our partners through thick and thin because without them, we can't build our perfect nations. With them we make stronger links and we combat our own differences. This can't be about men and women and gender differences, this is about harmonizing the future and it can only be achieved through team work.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

libudsuroy's picture

Thank you, Ana for showing me

Thank you, Ana for showing me a glimpse of girlhood in Tonga, my country's neighbor in the Pacific.

This observation strikes me:
"It's a statistic that is not written in any history book or archeological text but found in the memory of oppressed young women who are not given the opportunity that most girls on the main islands have access to."

Keep writing!

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Ana Ake's picture

Thank you for reading Libudsuroy

I'm glad you read and enjoyed the piece.

Precious M's picture

Important point

I totally agree with you on this: "In order to do this we must see men as our allies, our partners through thick and thin because without them, we can't build our perfect nations. With them we make stronger links and we combat our own differences."
We need to stop seeing men as enemies but as compliments because we really need each other.

You will certainly excel as you take the front seat. i enjoyed your post!

Best regards,
Precious

My pen speaks

Ana Ake's picture

Thank you Precious M

Hello Precious M

Thank you for reading and I hope that we can all learn to appreciate our differences.

Ana

fozia yasin's picture

touching piece

Hi Ana,

A very touching piece indeed. I agree with you dear when you say, ...So even when you're raised quite liberally at home, you still have the rest of society plucking feathers from your wings when you try to fly free...

Keep writing
Best,
Fozia

Ana Ake's picture

Thank you for reading

HI Fozia

Thank you for reading.

Ana

Sarjo Camara Singateh's picture

Good to know that...

you have achieved a lot through your parents. is only informed parents to leave their children to be liberal to an extend of deciding which religion to be.

sarjo

Ana Ake's picture

Thanks for stopping by

Hi Sarjo

Thank you for stopping by, I'm thankful for this site where we can all connect from our remote corners of the world.

Ana

Sarjo Camara Singateh's picture

that is great

this is the benefit of integration.

sarjo

Sarjo Camara Singateh's picture

Good to know that...

you have achieved a lot through your parents. is only informed parents to leave their children to be liberal to an extend of deciding which religion to be.

sarjo

Susan K.A.'s picture

Thank you for your piece

Hi Ana,

Your writing is very thoughtful and wise. I enjoyed reading your piece and was inspired by it--thank you so much for speaking candidly in your own voice, raising the issue of sexism which is so prevalent...I believe that sexism will eventually be eradicated thanks to people like you who refuse to acquiesce to the status quo. I hope you continue to express yourself!

Warmly,

Susan

______________________________________________________________________________

"I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being."
-Hafiz

Ana Ake's picture

Thanks for reading

Hi Susan

I am glad you enjoyed reading my journal entry. I often have very little time to write as I am currently a full time graduate student but I believe that if we can stop drawing lines and building barricades over gender differences then we can't really move forward. Thank you for reading and I hope to write more and get into the field later in the month so I can collect more stories from real women in isolated island communities.

Ana

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

inspiring

Mindblowing.... In your every word I thought that the story is coming from India.... so many common areas of gender bias.... keep well.... keep fighting :)

I live in my convoluted mind....

Ana Ake's picture

Thank you for reading

Hi Sutanuka

We all find common ground within our stories because we are all women and we have been brought up in similar settings. We think that the feminist movement happened light years ago but it didn't. We have just begun to appreciate our rights as women and demand that our presence be recognized as we also contribute to the global economy and the maintenance of social structures that bind political powers and maintain a state of almost equilibrium. We don't ask for much but we ask that we not be treated in manners that are degrading and less than that of our peers.

Ana

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

Keep moving

exactly so.

in solidarity

Sutanuka

I live in my convoluted mind....

LisaXi's picture

Thanks for sharing your

Thanks for sharing your thoughts/experiences with society telling girls who they can and can't be. Who gives others the right to attempt to determine girls destinies? Shouldn't each girl, like you, be allowed to self determine who she'll be?

Thanks for sharing, so articulate and well put.

cassie_levy's picture

Your solutions are fantastic

Your solutions are fantastic and in my mind seem very realistic. I especially like what you write in the last paragraph: "In order to do this we must see men as our allies, our partners through thick and thin because without them, we can't build our perfect nations. With them we make stronger links and we combat our own differences. This can't be about men and women and gender differences, this is about harmonizing the future and it can only be achieved through team work." Keep up the good work!

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