No country for usWhen I tell my daughter that she can do anything boys can, am I not lying to her?
No one ever told me that I cannot be anything I wanted to be. Yet, I always understood that it was not possible because I have always been a very practical person. I knew my limitations even as a young girl. Yet, I let my dreams run wild.
I grew up with many siblings. My brothers were driving cars by the time they reached grade 8. So when I turned 14, I demanded that my father teach me how to drive as well. My father happily obliged. I was obviously excited to get behind the wheels. And when I steered the vehicle and hit the gas I felt as though there were no boundaries for me. Little did I know that being practical and driving a car did not mean life’s road would be any easier ahead.
The next generation
Now I have a daughter who is going to embark on a new journey this August and I could not be more excited. She is graduating to grade 1. Every so often, we converse like any mother and daughter duo would. I am usually either yelling at her or showering her with love.
I repeatedly tell her that she can be ‘anything’ she wants to be. I refrain from making statements like, ‘sit properly, you are a girl’, or ‘you cannot do it because you are a girl’. Yes, physically she is different from the boys, but should her physical build bar her from wanting to become who she wants to be?
She often asks me, “Momma, what do you want me to be when I grow up?” It leaves me speechless to be honest. My first thought is, what do I say to satisfy her? Then I wonder if I should tell her what I want her to be. And then I question myself if I should tell her anything at all. Well, I do not know what I want her to be when she grows up because she has not even started grade 1. Then I worry. What does ‘anything’ mean to her? Should I be specific? What if she feels the pressure to become ‘something’ that I mention casually just to dissuade her from probing further.
How do I make sense of what it is like being a girl, a woman, a mother and not being able to define what that ‘anything’ is to my five-year old. It is overwhelming when I think about the insecurities we face as women right from our parental house to our husband’s home and then from the state. It is simply overwhelming. The financial insecurities coupled with a zillion other social insecurities deeply worry me. Being practical is no longer enough. So how do I go about securing my daughter’s future?
A sensible country has laws and policies that protect their citizens’ rights. And here I am, a citizen of a country that is hell bent on taking away my right to be a mother and an equal citizen. So, when I say you can do whatever the boys can, am I not lying to my little daughter whose right to be an equal citizen is being violated as we speak?
So from where do I start fixing the hurdles awaiting my daughter?
Giri Bohara is fundraising and communication manager at Samriddha Pahad