i read deborah's latest post and this one from chandni*, and was reminded of an incident that happened to me in saudi arabia a couple of years ago. i went there for the hajj, and it was a deeply spiritual and moving experience. but as with all things, there are the good moments and the not-so-good moments.
the hajj involves many rituals, but mostly a lot of contemplation and prayer. people will pray for for forgiveness of sins, for health and happiness. they pray for their parents, their children and other family members. they pray for food for the hungry, health for the sick, shelter for the homeless, peace and prosperity for those at war. i prayed for all of those things. but i also spent a lot of time praying for all the women of the world. here's the reason why.
during our trip, we spent about 10 days in the city of medinah. one of the must-do things to do their is to visit the famous date market, where you will find many varieties of dates. there is one particular variety of date which is about triple the price of the others, and is highly sought after.
i went to visit the market with my father and brother. the stalls are usually owned by locals but run by migrants. one particular shop we stopped at was being run by a pakistani fellow. he was really helpful and friendly, and my dad got into a conversation with him about the various types of dates. he asked the shopworker what justified the high price for that variety of dates i mentioned above. my dad said the costs for planting, maintaining and harvesting that variety would be the same as for any other variety, so why charge more?
the pakistani fellow, bless his soul, replied that the difference between raising this variety of dates and any other variety was the same as the difference between raising a boy and a girl. just as you put extra care and attention towards raising boys, so did the farmers take extra care in raising this variety of dates.
i just remember standing there listening to this in a kind of shock. i felt sick, not just because it was contrary to all the principles of my religion, but because of the practical implications. it brought to the front of my mind the truths that i already knew: that in so many families girls get lower quality of food than boys, they get medical attention much later than boys, they get much less access to education than boys. they even get much less love from their parents than boys. and in millions of cases, they don't even get to be born.
imagine living your life knowing always that you are a burden and not a joy. that is the reality that so many girls face. from the age that they are old enough to understand anything, they understand this. it's a truth that is constant for so many across the world, irrespective of religion, race, nationality.
those words of his stayed with me throughout the trip. and so i prayed for all those little girls, and the women that they would become. it was as if i could feel their pain. maybe i could, because in a way it was my own.
*hat tip: 6oth carnival of feminists