For many single Arab women, to live and work or study away from their family is not a choice made easily, because of fear of ‘what people will say’. A number of bloggers from around the Arab world have voiced their frustration recently at the obstacles single women face.
Rambling Hal in Amman, who blogs at Rants and Rambles, has decided to take up a job in Abu Dhabi :
Will someone please, PLEASE explain to me, just what, WHAT is so gravely wrong, so unnatural, so indecent about being an ambitious, young woman with the ability, desire and drive to relocate to another country in the Middle East, where she will be living as a single expat (oh the horror, oh the shock), solely for the experience factor? And not just any other country, but the UAE in specific, with its standards of living and safety, with its challenging work environment, with its branded reputation as the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East'? […] If myself and my immediate family members are understanding, supportive and accepting of my decision to CREATE A LIFE FOR MYSELF, then I really do not appreciate the backwardness of this society shoving their displaced prejudices and misunderstandings of the accepted societal norms and traditions down our throats. Our only concern should be having to deal with missing one another (and with packing my shoes), and most definitely NOT with ‘what people are going to say and think.’
I'm a person with plans. I'm not going to sit back and dream about them one day coming true. I'm going to make sure they come true, and I'm going to actively work on ensuring that things happen for me. If that makes me abnormal, atypical, destined to forever sprint down the wrong and evil path, inappropriate, stupid for turning my back on the comforts of irresponsible living, deviant even…then so be it.
Hala is from Saudi Arabia, currently living in the US and blogging at HALA_IN_USA; she tells us about the experience of a young single friend of hers working in Riyadh, away from her family, who faced a long campaign of harassment by a man which she found she could do little about. Hala concludes :
I feel for single females living alone in a man-designed world…My mother suggested marriage as a solution, my older sister suggested a complete face veil to point out the lady’s good intentions and hide her identity… and I was wondering, of all the efforts that a woman has to go through here to avoid harassment, she couldn’t succeed in voicing out her rejection many times to that man, her opinion simply didn’t matter…is it safe to say that women can work with men when no clear understanding of their rights is granted? Are we in need of a national campaign to raise awareness of women rights esp. at work and strict laws to stop abuses? Is fear of reputation exceeds fear of own safety? Are we a harsh and judgmental society after all? and how can we turn a deeply-rooted culture that linked virtuous, humble, God-fearing women to segregation, guardianship and complete face and body covering into a woman-friendly culture…
We end with Eman, writing at Hatshepsut, who has a post entitled ‘Overheard in Cairo ‘:
Girl 1: Oh! So how long will you be studying abroad?
Girl 2: 5 years
Girl 1: Wow! FIVE YEARS! That’s too much
Girl 2: Well, it’s a PhD…you should apply too
Girl 1: Umm, I don’t know, I don’t think my dad will approve of me travelling abroad on my own for so long
Girl 2: Why?
Girl 1: You know, because of what people would say
Girl 2: What would people say?!!
Girl 1: You know, that “this is a girl who has been all on her own for so long”… “God knows what she has been doing out there”… you know stuff like that…
Girl 2 (offended): Well only narrow and dirty minded people would think that way and I don’t think any sensible person should listen to them
Girl 1: I agree, but rumors of the sort can really affect one’s chances of getting married and that is why my dad won’t agree
Girl 2: Well, you don’t want to get married to a backward narrow minded retard, do you?