Gender roles and expectations have constantly evolved throughout history. Many of the practices that used to restrict the rights of women have been gotten rid of, thus giving women are more equal footing in modern-day society. However, even with the rise of awareness for women’s rights, many women are not afforded the same luxuries and opportunities as women who live in countries that are more developed.
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In places such as the Middle East, women virtually have no rights whatsoever. In My Daughter, Malala, Ziauddin Yousafzai addresses the issues that Pakistani women face. They are used as bartering tokens in marriages, and are restricted from leaving their homes, unless a man accompanies them. In Kenya, women are treated just as poorly as Middle Eastern women are. In A Girl Who Demanded School Kakenya Ntaiya details the struggles that many Kenyan women must put up with. Arranged marriages are also a common occurrence in Kenya. Kakenya Ntaiya, a native of the small Kenyan village of Enoosaen, was engaged at five years old. She had to agree to undergo female circumcision, so she could stay in high school. Once she graduated, she was able to get permission to go to college in the United States of America. She was the first girl in her village to ever leave and pursue a higher-level education. In Our Century’s Greatest Injustice, Sheryl WuDunn speaks on the numerous occasions that she was witnessed women being deprived of their rights. In My Daughter, Malala, A Girl Who Demanded School, and Our Century’s Greatest Injustice, it is evident that despite being disadvantaged through cultural, religious, and societal means, women all around the world are still striving to better themselves and break the molds of traditional gender roles.
In My Daughter, Malala, Ziauddin Yousafzai speaks on the climate regarding women and their quest for equality in Pakistan. Ziauddin is an educated man who was freely allowed to go to school and learn when he was younger. This is the same for all boys in Pakistan. If Pakistani boys want to further their education, it is completed accepted. This, however, is not the same for girls growing up in Pakistan. In Pakistan, men are the dominant figures in society. Everything is decided by men, and often times, they do not factor in the opinions of women. Pakistanis believe that men should have the final say in any discussion, and any woman who tries to give her input can be punished severely, or even killed. This causes many women to stay inside their homes since this is where they are the safest from inequality and ridicule (Men and Women, Gender Relations). In Pakistani culture, it is only acceptable for me to receive an education. This allows men to get jobs that require skill, which in turn allows men to get paid more. Since women can’t go to school, they are confined to the home. Ziauddin Yousafzai’s daughter, Malala, decided to go against the grain and go to school. Her defiance of gender norms angered many Pakistani men. The terrorist group, the Taliban, was so enraged that they attacked and shot Malala in the head. Thankfully, Malala survived the attacked, and she continues to speak out against the outrageous treatment of women in Pakistani culture. Malala and her father use their newly-found platform to help provide awareness for the issues that Pakistani women face on a daily basis (Yousafzai, 2014). The way women are regarded in Pakistan is slowly changing for the better. With more exposure and awareness for their cause, the Yousafzai’s will hopefully be able to change Pakistan’s gender disparity forever.
In A Girl Who Demanded School, Kakenya Ntaiya discusses the disparities between men and women in Kenyan society. In her TED Talk, Kakenya Ntaiya recounts the story of when she first learned that she was engaged to be married. Shockingly, Kakenya was only five years old. Prearranged marriages are oddities in developed countries, but they are the norm in developing ones such as Kenya. As she was growing up, her mother and grandmother would point out her husband whenever he would walk by. From the age of five, Kakenya was trained to do all of the tasks and chores that were expected from a wife. She collected water, swept mats, and milked cows (Ntaiya, 2012). Like in many other developing countries, Kenyan men are the ones tasked with getting skilled jobs. Men are the breadwinners in society, and nearly all of the family’s financial responsibilities rest on their shoulders (Kenyan Culture “ Family). Although many Kenyan girls do not attend school, Kakenya was determined to receive her education, because her mother was not able to go to school. This was easier said than done. Kakenya Ntaiya had to bargain with her father just to be able to complete high school. They agreed that Kakenya had to undergo female circumcision before she could finish high school. Kakenya Ntaiya graduated with very good grades. Her grades were so good that she was able to get a scholarship to attend college in the United States. Although her college was completely paid for, Kakenya still had to raise enough money to get a plane ticket to the United States. Many of her village elders were originally skeptical about helping Kakenya. Most elders felt that such a great opportunity should go to a male villager, and not a female. Thankfully, the elders eventually decided that Kakenya’s cause was a worthy one, and they raised enough money to fly her to America. Once she graduated, Kakenya returned to her village of Enoosaen. In Kenya, many schools only accept boys or have limited spots for girls. Because of this, Kakenya founded her own school, designed for the sole purpose of educating young girls. The girls are taught leadership, empowerment, and other life skills. Kakenya’s school has grown exponentially since its initial founding (Ntaiya, 2012). The status of women is rising in Kenya each and every year. Many women are receiving higher level education, which provides them better-paying jobs (Kenyan Culture “ Family). Hopefully, more Kenyan women will continue going to school, which will, in turn, help raise awareness for women’s rights.
In Our Century’s Greatest Injustice, Sheryl WuDunn speaks on the terrible realities that some women have to deal with each and every day. WuDunn states that the biggest moral issues of the 18th and 19th centuries were slavery and totalitarianism, and she believes that crimes against women are biggest issues that will plague society in the 21st century. She states that millions of girls all across the globe are at risk of being raped, neglected, or sold into slavery. WuDunn notes that the number of women and men living on Earth is almost split evenly 50/50, but when living conditions and quality of life are at peak level, women have been found to live longer. However, in developing countries, when living conditions are lower, boys are 50% more likely to survive than girls are. This is due to parents feeling less compelled to provide for their daughters when their sons are in need. Parents in poorer southern Asian countries are also less likely to enroll their daughter in school. Rape and prostitution were two of WuDunn’s major talking points. India is one of the biggest hotbeds for sex trafficking. Many Indian men want to preserve the decency of their women, so they hire prostitutes from Nepal. Often times, they don’t even pay for the women’s services. They just rape the women, and sometimes they kill them. WuDunn believes that through education, she can get people in first world countries to donate money to charitable causes in third world countries. She also feels that people in developed countries need to rid themselves of the idea that people in third world countries are helpless and hopeless (WuDunn, 2010).
All around the world, women are being deprived of basic rights that all people, no matter their gender, deserve to have. In places like Pakistan, little girls are rarely allowed to go to school. The ones that do are instantly put at risk of attack. In Kenya, girls are forced into prearranged marriages. They have no choice in the matter, and they can be killed for trying to object the union. People who live in developed countries can help to raise awareness for women and the struggles that they go through in under-developed countries. By donating and volunteering, people can help impact the lives of women who live thousands of miles away. My Daughter, Malala, A Girl Who Demanded School, and Our Century’s Greatest Injustice all illustrate the drive and determination women have to better themselves and the situation for other women. Women like Malala, Kakenya Ntaiya, and Sheryl WuDunn will continue to raise awareness for the hardships that women have to endure all over the world. These women are the light that leads oppressed women to continuously overcome the stereotypical gender roles that often confine them.
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