S – Sheltered vs Protected

I had a very privileged upbringing.

We were by no means spoiled materially… Hand-me-downs were standard, gifts were reserved for birthdays and Eid, pocket money was not a regular thing, and both of these were subject to good behavior and good grades. But none of us were forced to work for our daily necessities or education. Our parents made sure that we had all that we needed.

My home was also a very conservative one. I was not allowed to do alot of things (one being that I was never allowed to have a “holiday job”) , and what was I was allowed was mostly under adult supervision. The reasons given were almost always religious, and also for my “protection”.

My parents were very adamant that all of us get a good education, and by the grace of the Almighty and the hard work of our parents, we did. But there was a certain kind of education, one that you don’t learn in a classroom, which I don’t think we got enough of (or at all, in my case).

The community I come from seemed to have a particular formula for its girls… Go to school, behave nicely and look pretty, go to university and then get married. I got my first job at 22, but I was never taught how to be financially responsible. I got a good education, but when it came to crossing over into the real world, I stumbled ( a few times). We are conditioned to believe that you must be accomplished but that there will always be a male figure in your life who will be your safety net…your father, your brothers, your spouse, your sons.

I am not trashing the way I was raised. Not at all. But that was a different time. Life today is unpredictable at best and for many women, life does not necessarily follow a predictable pattern.

Over the past few years, I’ve been having some difficult experiences with my family. And each time, I’ve come to the same question: would I be able to survive on my own without them?

My sisters all married in their twenties…I didn’t. My mother married at 17, had me, her 7th child, at the age of 38…the age I am now. I don’t know if I will ever marry or have children. My father is an almost 74 year old smoker with a heart condition – I don’t know for how long I still have him. I lost a brother at 25, and the other 3 are married with families, two of them in their mid 50s.

Regardless of what “should be” there is no guarantee that it will be.

The Covid-19 pandemic was a wake up call to us all. We cannot become complacent in this life. We cannot take for granted that the people in our lives will be there forever.

As much as we should protect our girls and women, we do them a huge disservice by sheltering them from the world. It is an unpredictable place, and we should be giving our daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, granddaughters the tools to be able to deal with some of its harsher realities.

We have a duty to protect our girls. We also have a duty to empower them to take care of themselves.

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