Cure for our daughters
The day my mum had to take the last oral assessment for her MBBS degree (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) was also the day she was set to be engaged.
When her male examiner found out about this, he was furious and ready to plaster an F on her results sheet.
You see, during my mum’s times, a woman getting married would mean her professional career or studies would come to a startling halt. She was supposed to settle down and completely take up domestic duties, without having a say in the matter. That examiner told her that her studies were a waste of money and resources that could’ve been used to make a male doctor instead.
“What’s the use of learning to use a stethoscope when all you’re going to do in life now is pop out babies and wander around within the four walls of a kitchen?”
Tears glistening in her eyes, which were already worn out because of an all-nighter study session, she swallowed her pride and took in all of the sharp remarks. After completing that hopeless exam, she returned home and cried buckets on the lap of her mother, just a few hours before she had her wedding make-up appointment. Tragically enough, my Grandma was helpless too. She understood what her daughter was going through too well, but was unable to do anything in the face of family and cultural traditions.
Regardless of her in-law’s slight disapproval of taking up a hospital residency after marriage, my mum persevered. Being the eldest daughter-in-law of the family, she had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities, looking after not only her own immediate family, but other relatives in the household as well. After my siblings were born, my mum completely gave up her job.
My mum’s situation wasn’t one of a kind. Many women who complete a challenging university degree in my home-country, Pakistan, are praised by people for their hard work, but have backs completely turned on them if they dare try to continue a career.
After a few years, my mum was finally able to get back into the world of medicine, but had to start all over again. Her senior doctors praised her for being a diamond in the rough, but were disappointed that she wasn’t able to continue her career earlier.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody work harder than my mum.
She would get up before sunrise, prepare food for us, go to work, come back at night and then study for her exams. She would often envy her girlfriends from medical school who were lucky enough to continue their jobs even after getting married. While she was restarting her profession, they had already established their own clinics.
Half a decade later, after blood, sweat and tears were shed; my mum was now the owner of three degrees from three different countries, becoming a sought-after GP like she had dreamt of. People around her often say that if she hadn’t taken a break, she would’ve been even more successful. While others ask her, how she even managed to come this far.
My mum just replies with: “It’s all part of being a woman.”
While telling her stories, mum remarked how lucky I am, not being born during her generation. Times have changed a lot now. My grandfather wouldn’t even imagine imposing the same values on me that he did on my mum. If that male examiner existed today, there is an 80% chance of him not blaming my mum, but the society that forced her hand.
Not all Pakistani girls are as fortunate as I am today. Toxic societal values are still taking a toll on them. We can’t be satisfied with the how gender roles exist today and need to actively campaign for female empowerment.
However, it won’t hurt to take a little joy from the fact that less females now have to go through the adversities their mothers did.