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Lets trade positions-Try living like a woman

Jogging is my favorite activity during spring season. Every time the weather helps, I put on my sweat shirt, Nike shorts and sneakers and run in Sami Abdul Rahman park, pretty big well organized park in Erbil City.

One day I decided to walk and enjoy my time at the park. I saw two men jogging, wearing regular T-shirts, not wearing shorts like me so they don’t show their legs, very decent I must admit, but I really could not help not checking them out running around the park. They passed by a group of women who suddenly started to whistle, make comments and the poor two men felt so shy and quickly left the park. Yes, Poor men are not allowed to work out or take a walk in the park like women.

Men have enough freedom to go shopping and sit in cafés, but they have to be bold enough to withstand the staring of women smoking hookah (Sheesha) blowing the smoke on their side to make them feel uncomfortable and eventually leave the café.

I hope, one day, women stop beeping inside their cars when they see a man crossing the street. I also hope that women do not get offended when a man tries to pass them when he is rushing to his work, not trying by any sense to prove he is stronger behind the wheel.

If you are a man living in Iraq or Kurdistan, regardless of your outfit, you would still worry about the comments women make about your body. Regardless of the car you are driving, there is always a woman racing you, passing your car from the right side, or even follow you down to where you live or work.

If you are a man living in Iraq or Kurdistan, and you are trying to have a career, you need to think twice because working men are often judged to have too much freedom. You will also have to worry about the possible harassments you may face at work.

If you are a man reading this I hope that you know what I was talking about. I hope I could make some of you feel how bad women feel about themselves when they cannot practice their least rights of being normal human beings .

It may sound funny to switch parts, but it saddens my heart to face harassments despite all the development we witness in our lives. What we really need is mentality development. I wish I could take a picture or shoot a video to make it sound more realistic, but I am definite that most of us realize how annoying it is.

If you are a man reading this, I want you to imagine living like a woman. I do not want to generalize. I am surrounded by amazing men who added so much to my life being so respectful and kind; however, there are men who really need to imagine our lives facing all kinds of harassments.

It took me quite some time to figure out a solution to this issue. I have searched the internet trying to learn techniques to avoid harassments in my life, but there is always that dude who thinks it is okay to embarrass his female colleague at work. There is always that man who would find a woman to harass in the street.

If you are a man reading this, you would probably put some of the blame on women. I agree, women may need to wear decent cloths, respect culture and work environment, but again, most of the cases I witness has nothing to do with women style.

According to Bas news, there has been an increase in the number of violence against women reported in Kurdistan region. Harassment is among those cases that have been reported. The numbers reported during the first 8 months of 2013 is way higher than what has been reported in 2012 (Shwan Barzinji , Basnews).

The higher figure indicates that there is less control, or more disrespect toward women. The funny thing is that we see so much demand for development in different areas of life, yet, we see less acceptance from the public to modern trends.

As a woman, I do not want to wear too short outfits for work under the name of freedom. I do not want to say everything and insult everyone under the name of free opinion. I just want to feel comfortable being a woman.

The solution is not that we stop doing what we do. The solution is that we make the community accept us being ourselves. The solution is not that we ignore the harassment and enjoy what we do, but rather take action. The solution is not that we stop going to work, but rather find a way to end our discomfort.

Government should impose rules against harassments. I have been searching for related laws in the Iraqi constitution. Unfortunately, there is no law that gives the woman the right to report harassment (Iraqinationality.gov).
Women are not just unable to report it but they are often the ones to blame or criticize when they try to defend themselves (Iraqhur.org).

Women must be able to report harassers by calling or texting a number. Government must place charges or fines to harassers depending on how assaultive the harassment was. There are countries like the US, or not far from our country, like Egypt where laws were clearly defined to protect women from harassments. (Sheroit, The National Council for Women).

Companies, especially private ones need to be more restricted about their policies. It is not enough to have a written policy that says harassment is not allowed at work place, but rather implement those policies by warning or terminating harassers.

The media can also play a vital role changing the situation. Condemn harassment on TV and newspapers can draw people attention to the issue. Having someone to speak on behalf of so many women will make more people realize the size of the issue.

It is important to mention that it is not just local Iraqi or Kurdish women that suffer harassment; it is also the international ones from different places around the world. I often hear complains about taxi drivers harassing women by asking too many questions or taking long routs to spend as long time as possible with the female passenger. Our country is receiving a lot of nationalities, it is critical to ensure citizens comfort.

My mother used to tell my brother to think of how his sister feels if someone made inappropriate comments before he tries to say anything to a woman. I am not going to ask men to think of their sisters or mothers I want them to try living like a woman and imagine themselves worrying about every single move they make.

If you are a man reading this try accepting a woman as she is. A human being rather than a sex object. It is not always what she wears that makes you harass her, it’s what you feel and think watching her being herself.

References:
1- Shwan Barzinji , Violence against women in Iraqi Kurdistan increases in 2013, Bas News, available at (http://www.basnews.com/en/News/Details/Violence-against-women-in-Iraqi-K...).
2- The Iraqi Nationality- Iraq constitution brief, available at (http://www.iraqinationality.gov.iq/attach/iraqi_constitution.pdf)
3- The Iraqi Woman being harassed, yet he one to blame. Iraq Hur channel, available at (http://www.iraqhurr.org/content/article/24781890.html)
4- Sheroit, Law against harassment text, The national council for women, available at (http://www.ncwegypt.com/index.php/ar/docswomen/harasara/310-law)

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Comments

Greengirl's picture

A Round Applause for you Shahd

Two wrongs can never make a right, and I think it is best if women keep speaking and appealing to men's senses rather than attacking them.Your piece is well written, objective and balanced; and I just want to read it over and over again.

The statistics addedd a shine and I cannot bu appreciate you for sharing your beautiful thoughts!

Greengirl

shahd's picture

Appreciate it

Thank you Greengirl. I am sorry that some of the sources are in Arabic, I just do not have much info in English but I tied hard to illustrate whats happening and I hope I was successful. Thanks again for reading my article darling

Y's picture

Do heterosexual men like it

Good examples. I used the same when my young son became upset in being harassed by homosexual men.

Do heterosexual men like it when homosexual men or unattractive women make sexual advances and comments toward and about them? This is how we feel when they make their ignorant remarks about us.

Y

shahd's picture

thank you

Exactly Y. If we only try to put ourselves in the shoes of others, it can make a difference. I always try to learn how to want for others what I want for myself. Thanks for your comment dear.

Cali gal Michelle's picture

It would be great if you

It would be great if you could go back and edit this piece to add more tags, specifically checking the 'Gender Based Violence' box. That way, this article will appear on the Gender Based Violence topic page found here: http://worldpulse.com/hub/topic/gender-based-violence

Thank you for sharing this article!

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

shahd's picture

Done

Cali, Done! I will edit it and add more tags

delphine criscenzo's picture

So creative!

You had me so convinced at the beginning of your post that Iraq was a different place! Your writing is so strong! Beautiful flip of the script!

Your post made me think of this video: http://www.upworthy.com/a-french-film-showing-men-what-being-a-woman-fee...

Delphine Criscenzo
Online Training Coordinator
World Pulse
www.worldpulse.com

Mary S's picture

Hi Shahd What a wonderful

Hi Shahd

What a wonderful post! If men around the world really could be made to experience life as a woman, even for a day. I think attitudes would change very quickly!

If the authorities are not doing anything, are local women's groups trying to raise awareness of, and stop, harassment? You might be able to learn from other organisations doing this around the world e.g. Stop Street Harassment in the US http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/

Mary

shahd's picture

Thank you Mary! Appreciate

Thank you Mary! Appreciate your support! I dont think there is any effort made to stop, so you are right, it would be brilliant to do something!
Thank you
Shahd

Mary S's picture

Hi Shahd If you do decide to

Hi Shahd

If you do decide to start an awareness campaign, I am sure there are people on World Pulse who have experience of doing similar things, so they may be able to give you some ideas on the best way to get started.

Good luck!

Mary

Ray of Hope's picture

Amazing approach

Wow Shahd,
I just loved the way you address the issue. This is not only an issue of a particular place. All over the world, we face the same problem. I think you have also brought the point about sense of empathy here. If men step in our shoes then they will understand, what we have been facing just because we are women.
I also love the way you have put your thoughts clarifying the fact that all men are not like that. So well written.

Good luck!!

shahd's picture

I am so glad you read this

I am so glad you read this and liked it! Its something i face every single day! We often tend to live a fake like and pretend to be someone else just to avoid some men, but oneday i woke up and said " thats it" you either stop, or i will do whatever you do and lets see how you feel, but since we were raised differently, we cant do the same ,but we will definitely talk about it and try to make it stop

shahd's picture

I am so glad you read this

I am so glad you read this and liked it! Its something i face every single day! We often tend to live a fake like and pretend to be someone else just to avoid some men, but oneday i woke up and said " thats it" you either stop, or i will do whatever you do and lets see how you feel, but since we were raised differently, we cant do the same ,but we will definitely talk about it and try to make it stop

JaniceW's picture

Love it

Shahd, you always bring such insightful commentary to the community. You will therefore be interested in this Egyptian public service announcement which shows what it's like to be a woman in Egypt from a very personal point of view. This video talks directly to men and asks to "put yourself in her shoes, instead of finding ways to blame her"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jePvXFz4XDc

Salaam.

shahd's picture

Thank you dear Janice. This

Thank you dear Janice. This is a great source to look at! We experience harassment but we never experience attempts to stop it. Thanks for reading

Phinnie's picture

Challenging Harassment

Shahd--

My hope is that many men and women will read this...I lived in Beirut as a teen and the flirtatious comments and pinching of my butt by men on the street, in cars, and on the bus made me very uncomfortable and at times, fearful. We all deserve to live free of harassment and we all could benefit from putting ourselves in someone else's shoes!

Thank-you for your courage and for sharing!

PEACE!

Phinnie

shahd's picture

Thank you dear Phinni! I know

Thank you dear Phinni! I know its something happens everywhere!
It is sad how they accept to be so cheap and view women as cheap as themselves.

Betty B. Ackah's picture

Great piece!

Hi Shahd,

I was also going to refer to the French film that Delphine mentioned above, I saw it just this morning. I really loved your writing, but it made me so sad as well. Why does a woman have to go through any of that??? How can it make sense to anyone to treat their fellow human being in that way??? I know I should get over this quickly because it does happen ALL THE TIME to so many women, but over and over and over again I allow myself to be saddened by such treatments.... must such men really have to be shown the flip side before they realize their wrongdoing? Shouldn't it be obvious that they are harassing people? But then I always come back to my logical self and realize, no they don't see their wrong. And even when they do, they feel entitled to the power of abuse. That is why we need people like you Shahd!

Thank you for this.

Betty
Maternal Health Channel
Asking questions. Seeking solutions. Saving lives

shahd's picture

Betty, thanks for your

Betty, thanks for your comment!
Yes, i was just saying how sad it is that they view us as cheap as they are! If man has enough self respect to himself, he wouldnt accept to disrespect women!
The moment men view us more than just sex object is the moment we get live better life!

LizBarron's picture

Really good writing

Really enjoyed your very original approach and clear writing style. I look forward to reading more

shahd's picture

glad

Glad you liked it dear Liz

hanasazi's picture

Dear Shahd, your writing had

Dear Shahd, your writing had me wondering where in the world you might be that you could experience a walk in the park like that! You have a very natural style that makes it easy to read and to understand the point you're making, and what a wonderful storyteller you are!

I have often wondered why it is always the woman who is expected to compensate for the lack of self-control (or refusal to exercise it) that many men display, while men have no expectations placed upon them. It has been this way for so long that many men simply do not see why they should make an effort to control themselves when they could blame the woman, any woman, for somehow bringing the man's unwanted advance upon themselves. What do they think we are, and what does that make them?

Before I married it was always a sorrow that I could not have any male friends I could trust. Always came that moment when it was suddenly clear that my "friend" had an expectation ll along that friendship would lead to something more. Trust was broken, friendship over...and that sorrow took an ever deeper hold.

On the other hand, I recall reading about an American feminist who traveled to Iran to speak. She was not looking forward to covering herself while there, but found that when she did, to her surprise she received more respect from men there than she ever had in the States. But we know it is not always like that for women who cover themselves, either.

"As a woman, I do not want to wear too short outfits for work under the name of freedom. I do not want to say everything and insult everyone under the name of free opinion. I just want to feel comfortable being a woman." With these lines you have said it all! We are not looking for freedom so we can run around wild and behave as those who have tormented us have. We simply do not want to worry constantly about these unexpected and unwanted incidents of disrespect and personal violation, and fear that they might escalate into something worse. If simple modesty is not enough to protect ourselves, then at some point men must meet us in the middle and start making adjustments instead of requiring us - in some places, under threat of death or severe punishment - to carry the entire burden of keeping every interaction between genders "clean." We would certainly feel better if we could be sure that our every encounter with men did not bring with it the possibility of having to deal with an unwanted advance for which we will then have to take the blame.

Even a married woman is not safe if her husband has deceived her about who he is. My daughter married a man who she thought was "a good Christian" and learned immediately after she married him that she was in for a life of misery, emotional pain and physical abuse. She stayed with him until after 22 years his threats to kill her became frighteningly real. She found that calling the police when he threatened her was no help. Even though domestic abuse is against the law here, police will not step in to protect a woman from a violent husband, so she is on her own. Nor was her church any help, instead it believed and protected him. Thankfully she did finally make her way to freedom and safety, and is now writing about her journey on her blog while she seeks a publisher for her book. She shares her blog posts here at World Pulse. Her name is Jennifer Faith.

Your positive list of actions that governments and law enforcement, corporations and media could take are excellent. Unfortunately, here in the US many of those steps have been taken, yet we still experience this kind of inequality. In the end, it is impossible to legislate morality, and it is up to each individual to govern himself. Women have reached an end of patience for being blamed for these things, but rather than see themselves as victims, would like to see men learn how to interact with us appropriately. Stories like yours can help them understand why this is so important, how different our perspectives are, and why they need to show us that they care enough to do their part to create nonthreatening relationships with women that celebrate them without making them into sex objects.

Thankfully, as you made clear, not all men have such a sense of entitlement, and positive, healthy relationships are possible. Maybe the answer is in cultivating these healthy non-sexual relationships so there will be more and more examples that other men and boys can pattern after. Then perhaps we could begin to change the toxic cultures we so often see in the workplace, law enforcement and religion that perpetuate the abuse of women instead of protecting them from it.

Thank you for bringing this difficult subject to the table for discussion in such a balanced manner, Shahd. I look forward to reading more of your writing!

shahd's picture

Grateful

I am so grateful for your you great rich comment! I am so happy that a strong mother like you found the time to read, analyze every part of my piece !

Congratulation for your daughters victory! Years of struggle and pain become a life changing story that can empower every single one of us! I have read through Jen's profile and she is a true strong figure any woman would admire

I am now in the US and would love to connect with you closely! On the long run, i will have stronger stories to share with you!

All the love and support my dear

Shahd

hanasazi's picture

Oh, goodness, your writing

Oh, goodness, your writing was so compelling I could not stop reading, and then I could not stop thinking about it! Your writing brought so many things to mind that I hoped would be helpful contributions to the discussion you raised.

Thank you for your kind comments about Jennifer. She is now one of my biggest heroes, and she is determined to help other women in the same situation she was. She is also the mother of two boys and an emergency room nurse, so now she hopes to save lives in more than one way.

Yes, yes! Let us connect! Please send me a message and I will share my email, but we can also connect on Facebook juct click here!

Thank you so much for being who you are and doing what you do, Shahd!

Hannah

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