Every year on women's day, medias all over the country publish inspirational tales of successful women who have made a name for themselves: Women who work in senior positions of well-respected institutions, entrepreneurs and women who do work that are not typically done by women.
As a woman, while it makes me extremely proud to hear the stories of these women, I am left with a few unsettling thoughts:
Is women's day only about the successful women? Is women's day only about the struggling women? Where do "average" women fit in? Do you either have to be successful or struggling to be celebrated? Where are the stories of challenges faced daily by the average woman?
Life as a woman is not easy, let me tell you this.
Let's walk through the daily life of a woman, be it a working woman or a homemaker, shall we?
I am a woman. I don't have an exciting job. In fact, I work at a mediocre private office, sitting at a desk from 9 to 5 doing mundane tasks that do not excite me.
I neither have a handful of young children to look after nor a husband to please. I do not suffer financially, I am pretty much just fine on my own.
But here's the thing:
I am judged for my choice of clothing
Every single day, I wake up in time to make it to work and dress myself in what I deem to be work appropriate outfits. I put on a minimal amount of makeup, just enough to make myself look presentable in a professional environment, but not too much to suggest that I'm open to suggestive behavior from my work mates. It doesn't matter how professional our conduct is, apparently, it's how others read our appearance and body language that dictates how they should treat us women.
I am harassed on the streets
As I step out into the street every morning, the cluster of neighborhood "cool boys" are already gathered at their corner, waiting for the first sign of a girl.
I have to brace myself for their catcalls and whistles, as I wait on the street with my arms outstretched in hopes of stopping a taxi.
It doesn't matter that they see me every single day. Their "compliments" don't stop. It doesn't matter whether I ignore them or respond to them. - it still goes on.
Taxis are no exception
I cannot count the number of times taxi drivers have asked me whether I am married. If I take a taxi ride with my 2 year old nephew, many taxi drivers have assumed that he is my son and asked me why I had kids at such a young age. I mean, what does it even matter to them? What business do they have with my personal life? I pay them MVR 25 to be able to sit quietly in the backseat while they mind their own business and take me to my destination.
It doesn't help that I spend my quiet time in the backseat making escape plans on what to do if I am in danger.
Needless to say, I do not feel safe.
Can I cook?
After signing in at work, I sometimes go to the nearby corner shop to get myself some breakfast. I usually don't go home for lunch. If I were to go home all the way to the other end of Male' for lunch, it would easily cost me MVR 50 for the taxi rides. I do not have my own vehicle, and if I were to go with a colleague, I would still get judged for that.
You will not believe the number of times I have been asked "Why don't you have breakfast at home? Don't you even cook? It's not that hard! You better learn before you get married, otherwise your husband will leave you!" - sometimes even by the older support staff working at my office.
Society has already decided that as a woman, I should be eating home-cooked meals three times every day, whether its feasible or not.
Sexual harassment and misconduct
God knows how much I hate facing certain department heads in my office. Some of these men, usually in their late forties, cannot help but make inappropriate comments about their junior staff.
I remember this one instance where my boss was on speaker phone with this certain boss from another department - who coincidentally was his brother. Now the person on the other end did not realise he was on speakerphone. My boss said on to him, 'I am sending ___ to your cabin with the file".
"Oh, the girl with the big booty?"
I was mortified.
Also to be noted: I do not want to be called pet names. I am happy with my name and do not need you to add adjectives such as "dear" when addressing me.
Being out after dark
Since childhood, it has been ingrained in me that it is not safe for girls to be out after dark. As a grownup, the sad truth is that I feel intimidated to be out alone after 10pm. Every time I am walking alone on the streets at night, I always phone a friend and stay on the call without hanging up until I reach my destination I have sometimes been followed by strange men, and have entered "safe zones" such as well-lit shops and cafe's to throw them off my trail.
Why is it that us women have to always be afraid of our predators? Why do we allow these predators to feed on their prey?
These are some daily challenges that I face every single day as a woman.
My experiences are not unique, and are not confined to my country. They are experienced every day by a large percentage of women all over the world, be it working women, stay-at-home moms or the young woman who just turned 18.
The point I am trying to make is that, this women's day, let's acknowledge the daily struggles faced by the average woman. Let's celebrate how she overcomes these challenges and is still successful in her own unique way. Let's make sure that society views women differently, and grant us the same privileges as men in terms of safety and acceptance.
A very happy women's day to you all!