Inequality Around the World...
Gender inequality has been an ongoing battle between females and reluctant, almighty males for decades around the world. United States citizens, typically females, continue to argue the unequal treatment women experience and the existence of stereotypes in a variety of areas. However, the severity of injustice in our nation is not nearly as extreme as that of other countries. Many females from cultures overseas including those of Nepal, Afghanistan, and Sierra Leone, are victims of more obvious disrespect than those in the United States. In these countries, not only are women offered unfair opportunities regarding notions such as career and salary, but they are also looked upon as objects of society rather than contributing individuals. Three girls, Suma of Bardiya, Nepal, Mariama of Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Amina of Afghanistan share their stories of what it is like to be a young girl in their society in the movie “Girl Rising.” This movie is a collection of true stories that are bonded through the theme of girls suffering from gender inequality. "Girl Rising" was made to encourage females around the world to rise above their culture's unequal treatment. Each girl featured in the movie was paired with a female writer from their respective country in order for them to obtain their stories for the film. Every story is individually powerful and moving. Together, they narrate a variation of attempts to defeat injustice for the girls themselves, their sisters, and future generations.
Suma, from Bardiya, Nepal, was only allowed five years in her house before she was bonded to a master at age six. She was forced to move away from her parents, her brother—who, unlike Suma, received sufficient education—and her home. Her parents chose to send her away so that she would have a place to live and enough food to eat. When living at her first master’s house, Suma began the day’s work at four o’clock in the morning. She continued her work through the evening cleaning the house, washing dishes, and fetching firewood from the forest. After a few years she was sold to a second master where she lived with him and his mistress. At this house she slept in the goat shed and “ate scraps from their dirty plates,” as Suma said. When she turned 11 years old, she was brought to a third master’s house. There was a teacher at this house who was able to convince Suma’s master to enroll her in a night class. The teacher of the night class later begged the master to free Suma, but he refused. He said, “Once made, a bond can’t be broken.” Eventually the teacher won the argument and Suma was released from the ownership of her third master. A group of girls, including Suma, went to a master’s house and demanded he set his Kumlari free. It is because of girls like Suma, who stand up for what they believe is right, that less people own Kumlaris. Suma rose by fighting the notion of human ownership.
Mariama, from Freetown, Sierra Leone, has a different story. Her father died when she was young and her mother later married her deceased husband’s brother, making Mariama’s uncle her new stepfather. Her first job was for the Eagle Africa Radio Station as a host; Mariama loved her job. However, her father felt differently about the job due to the criticism he received from friends and family about letting his daughter host a radio show and stay out late at night with coworkers. Mariama’s father then forbade her from working at the radio station and an older woman replaced her. Mariama then talked to the new host and convinced her to speak to her father about getting her job back. After much arguing, Mariama’s father agreed to letting her get her job back as the radio station host. “Now there is nothing to stop me, nothing in the world, nothing in the universe, because I am the lucky one”; Mariama rose above the gender-specific hatred and criticism she experienced regarding her career.
Amina, from Afghanistan, has a dark, yet inspiring story. “I am a girl, masked and muted,” she said. Amina was born into a family that did not want her; when her mother found out her baby was a girl, she burst into tears and “set [her] aside in the dirt.” Amina began working at a young age. She was responsible for doing all of the chores in her house and taking care of her younger siblings. She was given the opportunity to take a class to learn how to read and write, but this only lasted a few years. At age 11, her father arranged for her to marry one of her cousins who was much older than her. Amina spent the money from being sold to her cousin to buy her brother a used car. This act reflects the selfless qualities she acquired by practically raising her younger siblings throughout her childhood. On Amina’s wedding night she was forced to consummate the marriage with her new husband. Nine months later she gave birth to a baby boy. She was called a “lucky one” by those around her because she had survived childbirth and was graced with a son rather than a daughter. “I made a vow that night. I would not only endure, but prevail.” Amina rose in dignity despite the hardships she encountered.
The Impact of Cultural Beliefs
After hearing Suma, Mariama, and Amina’s stories, it is quite clear that females are often treated with much less respect—and sometimes none at all—in comparison to males. Many cultures believe women are meant to work in their homes, are to be uneducated, and disrespected. This is the start of the gap in equality between men and women. Most cultures have traditions regarding gender roles that are many years old. They were created when gender inequality was even more extreme and accepted as a social normality than it is today. These traditions are difficult to break because they are thought of as important aspects of the culture to which they belong. Cultural beliefs that have been passed down from generations typically degrade females and in turn have a negative impact on their lives. Beginning at birth, girls are expected to honor their culture’s beliefs regardless of how unfair they may be. Though cultural traditions as strong as these are hard to break, each girl who rises with the common intention of resisting her societal role impacts her culture for future female generations.
Education for Girls
Gender inequality embraced the idea that only men needed to be educated. This stemmed from the belief that a women’s role confined her to her home. By way of tradition, girls are not offered the same level of education as men in some cultures. If a women rarely leaves her home, what purpose would an education serve her? Without even being offered the opportunity of education, most girls are put to work at young ages. The gap of education inequality between men and women has gotten progressively smaller in certain cultures, but a drastic difference in offerings still remains. The task of fighting for equal education is left to the girls, as it is clear it will not be handed to them as it is to boys.
The stories of Suma, Mariama, and Amina justify the existence of gender inequality cross-culturally. Girls are born into societies where they are looked down upon solely due to biological distinctions. Though it is hard to defeat these discriminative beliefs, "Girl Rising" presents powerful cases in which females attempt to recreate their culture's perception of women.