Written by Riya, a 2012 LEADer and workshop participant.
It was the summer of ’99. The sun was shining brightly and the day was growing hotter. I was munching on my sandwich when Mom shouted, “Grandma’s here!” and hurried to open the door. I was never very fond of Grandma so I lazily walked over to greet her. After some refreshments, Grandma told me how she would like to see me cook and then make her bed. I took it lightly, saying: “I don’t have time for that! Tell Rob to do it. I have to attend a peace rally fighting for women’s rights.”
Now what could have been worse for Grandma? She started yelling and bits of cookies blew out of her mouth like dragon fire: “You little brat, you don’t care about anything, do you? We were never sent to school, we only belonged inside the kitchen walls. How could you even imagine handing the work over to your brother while you’re off to some stupid rally. What would society think of you?”
I interrupted her, “but who cares what society thinks?” Then Grandma stood up, narrowed her brows and yelled, “It’s not only you Aria, it’s your family’s reputation that matters. Besides you’re only a girl. Nobody asked for your opinion”. I stood there motionless like a statue. I looked at Mom. She didn’t speak. I couldn’t decide what to do. Should I fight for what was right or let it pass? I decided to let it pass and ran upstairs. What good was it anyways to argue with elders? I was furious about how Mom didn’t speak a word. She knows what was right and she knows her values. She was living in captivity and was being forced to follow false traditions.
I told myself: “Grandma never let my mom work at her early age even thought she wanted to do so, she will never let me work if I don’t stand up for myself. Something has to be done.” I took a deep breath and went downstairs where Grandma was knitting at the kitchen table. I slowly started to speak. I spoke with my heart, my mouth was just a medium.
“Grandma, what good will it do if I’m pulled back and stuffed inside these four walls and have to wait for men to bring me food? We praise women who have become heroes and leaders but when it’s your Granddaughter’s turn, why do you stop me?” Surprising as it was, my mom was smiling as I spoke. Then she explained about how my studies were going well, how I was doing well with my extra activities and that even Daddy was proud of me. Mum told me go get dressed for the rally. After some time as I headed towards the door Grandma slowly uttered, “Go Aria, show all your support in the rally. Tell the world what we women are capable of.” With a smile on my face, I closed the door behind me and marched off.