“Isbah stop being stubborn! You don’t need to study further, and this is my final decision,” Mr. Shams yelled at his daughter, Isbah.
Tears welled up in her eyes, and her pale cheeks turned red. Lots of questions swirled in her tiny mind, ‘Why is it always me who has to quit? Why not bhaiya quit his studies? He is not even a good student. Why am I treated differently? Why am I always at fault?’ However she didn’t have the courage to ask these questions in front of her father. She knew she had no option left right now except moving out of his sight. Isbah simply nodded her head, and left the living room. Her tiny mind and body couldn’t comprehend this discrimination herself and her bhaiya.
Mr. Khalid Shams had two children; sixteen years old Anas and fourteen years old Isbah. He was a man of orthodox mind, who was against the education of girls. Shams family allowed their girls to study till eighth class. When Isbah started her school, her family had same plans for her. However it turned out that she was different from her girl cousins, she was ambitious about her studies. She didn’t know what waited for her in the future. After her father announced his decision, she made up her mind to fight for her basic right. This was not her own self-consciousness that made her mind to fight. It was the awareness that she had gained from her education. It was the awareness she gained after watching Malala Yousafzai standing for the women education rights. This was what inspired her tiny mind to do something big.
Light seeped in through the window blinds. Isbah stirred and her eyes fluttered open. Her eyes were all red and puffy from crying. She left her room to talk to her father again. She organized her thoughts on how she was going to convince her father. She took a deep breath and knocked the room’s door. “Enter”, a loud, authoritative voice came from the room. Mr. Shams was sitting on his king size bed with his optic glasses on using his mobile phone. He looked at her and sighed.
“What are you here for? To talk about your school again?” Mr. Shams asked him with the hint of anger in his voice. Mrs. Shams looked at father and daughter worriedly.
“Abu, I have only one request. You have full authority over my life. You know I am your obedient daughter, I have always listened to you. Please listen to me this time. Let me complete my study. Bhaiya is not even good in his studies, but you are allowing him to do whatever he wants to do”, Isbah pleaded. Suddenly a loud slap could be heard all across the room. Mrs Shams gasped loudly. There was fury in Mr. Shams’s eyes.
“How dare you question my decisions? When I say no, it is a no then. Anas is a boy, he can do anything, and he is allowed to do anything. You know how difficult it is for us to raise a girl. If you ever do something, our family’s respect will be in danger. Girls should stay at home, this is where they belong”, He shouted.
Isbah started to feel suffocated, and her head started to fee heavy. Her tears were on the verge of falling. ‘So I have no right to stand up? I am not allowed to go out because I am a girl, and Bhaiya is allowed because he is a boy? They all talk about girls’ rights, but why am I all alone then?’ She thought with her head hung low. However this event didn’t suppress her confidence. She wasn’t aware of her goal before, but now she was. She had understood that no matter what happens she is not going to stop speaking for herself and other suppressed girls. That time she made her mind to come back stronger, and fight for the true girls’ education rights. No matter how many slaps she will get. That one slap had awakened her inner self, and had made her realize her worth.
Mehneel Asif, LSU Volunteer