This post was written by 2016 LEADer and Women LEAD Blogger, Samika Mali
Whether it is a weekday or weekend, my mom wakes up every day at 6am and sweeps the entire house. Preparing lunch every morning until 9am is a compulsion for her no matter how sick or weak she is. Then, in no time, she has to gulp down her lunch, get dressed, and rush to work.
After a long day at her shop, she returns home tired and exhausted. But she doesn’t get to rest. Though her duties as a businesswoman are over, her responsibilities as a housewife have not ended yet. In the evening, she has to serve food to all her family members and do the dishes. Then, she cleans the whole kitchen. Sometimes, she even mops the floors, throw the clothes in the machine to wash, and sits down to help me with my projects. Finally, her day ends.
Growing up, I saw my mother balance her life as a successful business woman in a culture where women are expected to limit themselves within the four walls of the house. A few years ago, my mother decided to work alongside my father in his business, even though she was highly criticized by my grandparents, who asked her to stay home. But she refused to be silenced and instead raised her voice against social taboos in order to pursue her career.
In our Nepalese society, once a women gets married, she can’t keep herself away from all these responsibilities. Wearing a red bridal dress, a woman promises her new husband to be his partner for life and adjusts herself in his family, leaving her own parents behind. It’s a common story of every Nepalese woman. Her new life can bring her tons of happiness, but along with that she gets many new responsibilities— responsibilities of a daughter-in-law, a wife, and a mother. She works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as a caretaker, a cook, and a cleaner without expecting anything in return.
A woman sacrifices her surname, sacrifices her beloved parents, and sacrifices her body to be pregnant. And only a woman does it.
After marriage, my mother says that a woman compromises in ways that a man would never think of, especially when it comes to her career. The dedication, effort, and hard work that she used to invest in her job before marriage is now invested in doing all her household chores. The promotion that she deserves based on her ability and skill is given to another man just because she can’t afford to be away from the home for any extra hours or because she wants to avoid the additional workload. In Kathmandu Valley today, men are rarely expected to make the same compromises.
Though we live in 21st century, and Nepal is a federal democratic country where women and men have equal rights by law, the traditional thinking of the people hasn’t changed yet. The social structure of our society discourages married female members of their house to go out and work competing against male members. They are expected to look after the house and rear children rather than to do a job or run a business. People should understand that the economic contribution of both women and men is necessary for a country to progress. And only a change in our culture shall ensure this can happen.
Affording a healthy, balanced, and satisfied life in this era is a big challenge. So, gender equity in both workplace and household chores should be maintained. A working woman not only supports her family financially but she can introduce good cultures too. A working woman most probably is educated, has a skill and meet new faces everyday. Thus, she knows better culture, she is independent and she can deal with problems effectively.
My mother says, “In Nepal, after a woman is married, there are so many boundaries set for them not only in terms of work but also their dress code, lifestyle and more. Thus, we ought not to stay quiet, but fight against the society to get our right and freedom, we have to raise our voice to be equally treated in the family as well as community and we have to be strong enough to eradicate male dominance in the society.”
Because of my mother, I know that a woman can be a great parent and a successful entrepreneur at the same time. But if women are not given equal rights, treated equally, or allowed to contribute to the workforce, then our country cannot develop. A country cannot progress if they are not willing to acknowledge half of the population as equal. Women must be encouraged to participate in entrepreneurship, contribute new ideas, and involved in the workforce. This will ensure both the development of Nepal in one hand and progress for women in another.
Featured image: Robert Stansfield/DFID (Creative Commons)
Images inside text by author.