Fatima Bano is a Pakistani student studying business management at Edmonds Community College through the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program. In this piece, Fatima reflects on the new experiences she has had in the United States.
One of my NWCCI friends recently asked me a question which forced me to think about the unequal treatment of men and women in the society where I grew up. The question was, “Fatima what things have you done for the first time in your life because you are here in the U.S.?”
My list of “first-time experiences” in the U.S. is long and it includes river rafting, hiking, ice skating, bowling, playing soccer, playing volleyball, riding a bike, going clubbing, attending live concerts, carving pumpkins, and more. These were all new experiences for me because the cultural milieu in my home country never allowed me to do them. I have always longed for adventure and challenge. Unfortunately, I, like so many other females in a male-dominant society, grew up with many unfulfilled dreams because of our society’s cultural values and the perspective that “girls cannot do certain things”.
Bike riding was one of the best experiences of my life. I always wanted to learn how to ride a bike, but my family discouraged me because I was a girl. Men and women are treated differently in Pakistan; women are often denied their rights to enjoy life the way men do. I was once worried that my wishes to ride a bike and try other new things would remain unfulfilled, but here in the U.S. I have had the chance to fulfill these dreams. For me, it is not just about riding a bike or going clubbing, it is about the freedom to express myself. Freedom of speech and freedom from coercion gives one the opportunity to truly express one’s self.
Back at home I sometimes felt sorry for myself for being an oppressed and weak girl. I used to be dependent on my family, but here I find myself strong and fearless. I call America “incredible” because every day here brings with it an opportunity to learn something new and different. I have become more confident and independent. Working with male counterparts now gives me strength instead of fear.
William James said, “If you can change your mind, you can change your life,” and I see a positive change in my perspective that will have a positive impact on my life as a whole. I will take this perspective with me throughout my life. I will seek to find a balance between respect for family traditions and taking risks. I will work to convince people back home that women can do things as well as men and still have honor. I will encourage my nieces, cousins, and sisters to try new things and open their minds to possibilities.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.