Many Women Live a Nightmare Every Day

“Malala Yousafzai. wanted to learn and share the gift of education with the people around her, and she was shot for it.” (Photo by Russell Watkins/Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons)

Between 100 and 200,000 years ago, our species originated in Africa and dispersed around the world.  During this time, a woman now referred to as Mitochondrial Eve lived.  She is the most recent common ancestor of every living human by a direct, unbroken maternal line, connecting all of us into one giant family of 7.125 billion.  However, there are still obvious differences between us in our regions, religions, cultures, and civilizations.  We have no control over our skin color, it is determined by the amount of Melanin in our skin, an evolutionary scale based on where we live in accordance to our distance from the sun. Our religions are based on regional and historical differences.  Despite these differences, we are all a product of one woman from one area. For us, however, it has become a way to scrutinize and terrorize each other: skin color, religion, ideology, and cultural belief.  Our country is plagued with terrorism, whether it be foreign or domestic, and our world is oppressed by widespread suffering and hate. While we always have the fear of a possible attack or act of terror, it is a reality for the people of Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  They live the nightmare every day.

Right now Syria is amid a Civil War that continues to rip the country and it’s people apart.  Syrians have been engaged in a rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad for the past four years, and in the last two they have been fighting the invasion of ISIS as well.  As Americans, we can only imagine and speculate what a civil war is like via our history books.  As an industrialized and modernized Western Nation, we are lucky enough to live in a time of domestic peace and stability.  Meanwhile, the death toll in Syria rises daily because of acts of terrorism and genocide caused by both al-Assad and ISIS.  While we wake up to face the day at school and work, Syrians of all ages face chemical weapons, public executions, and bombings.  So far in our lifetime, the worst act of terrorism against the United States has been the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the attempted attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.  About 3,000 people died due to the plane crashes and the immediate aftermath of them.  Today there has been more than 2,000 reported cases of cancer and other illnesses caused by the debris and air quality of the destruction of the twin towers to create a total death toll between 5,000 and 6,000 people.  In Syria, the death toll continues to grow everyday, and right now sits at just above 200,000 people.  1.5 million people are living with some type of injury or permanent disability.  Yet when we think of terrorism, we imagine the crashing of the towers, or the attacks on the American embassies in 1998 – isolated incidents that happened in different parts of the world three years apart.  The people of Syria don’t have this luxury; everyday they are victims of brutal violence and oppression.  

Women’s rights isn’t even considered women’s rights anymore.  In countries all around the world, women have the ability to be equal to and often rise above men.  In 1924, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women were granted the right to vote in the U.S.  Since then, women have excelled in the workplace, sports, and in other places that were originally designated for men.  In Afghanistan, women are still fighting for the cause that our great grandmothers fought for.  At the same time that American women were granted the right to vote, exposure.   However, we somehow still find Afghani women were granted the right to choose their husband.  Only in 1964 were arranged marriages banned completely. When the Taliban took power in 1996, everything that women had worked for was thrown away.  Under Sharia law, women were forced to wear hijabs, abayas, niqabs, and burqas – cultural clothing meant to cover a woman’s body from head to toe to preserve her modesty.  As independent young women, many of us will find it hard to believe that girls younger than us are married; under the Taliban there is no age limit for marriage.  Men are allowed to beat their wives, and it is not considered a crime for a man to rape his wife.  Women are the property of their husbands.  In some regional areas, women are not allowed in public without being accompanied by their husbands or a male guardian, and more often than not, women are banned from driving.  Women live in a world of oppression and discrimination.

Looking back on the success of the American education system within the past few decades, most Americans are disappointed.  Every year, 1.1 million teenagers drop out of school.  We are ranked 27th in math and lower in science compared to other countries with advanced education programs.  Over half of children in primary schools are behind in reading level.  What people don’t look at is that those 1.1 million teens have the option to go to school and choose not to.  The Taliban actively prohibits young children, especially girls, from attending school, as seen in the heroic case of Malala Yousafzai.  She wanted to learn and share the gift of education with the people around her, and she was shot for it.  In Pakistan, over 5 million children don’t attend school because they don’t have the opportunity.  This practice will continue to raise the number of Pakistani adults that are illiterate, which is already at a whopping 50 million.  While we complain about waking up early to go to school, children in Pakistan wish and pray that they can arrive at their one room school house safely so that they can learn..  The Education Development Index is a composite scale used to compare universal education in 187 countries.  The United States is ranked 5th on the EDI, while Pakistan is ranked 146.  

As Americans, we don’t focus on the reality that we are extremely fortunate to live in the country that we do; instead we call attention to our national downfalls and insecurities.  There will always be some threat of a terrorist attack on the United States while ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban have power, but even then we still should be grateful.  When we focus on the shortcomings of our own situation, we disregard the millions of people living in violence, hate and oppression.  We don’t realize that even the lowest of our lifestyles is better than some of the best of theirs.  We don’t advocate for the people who need education more than ourselves, and in doing so we have left the people of the Middle East virtually alone to fend off the destruction and hate of terrorism by themselves.

Bridgit Sullivan ’16


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