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Education for all

Five bloggers, five countries, one dialogue

Squeezing women’s freedoms as they grow up

Universities are open to men and women, but the job market is a much different story

In my experience in Iraq, the opportunities open to the genders differ according to social setting, age, geographical area and religious believes. We have equality more or less during early childhood, but you still see some differences in how boys and girls are treated.

I think that the opportunities open to males are not limited. They have choices from childhood onward, and they are even allowed to bend the rules. But females are always limited in the chances they have, specifically starting around age 14. Women have to struggle to get their own rights and freedoms, and many of them have sacrificed themselves to provide the freedoms others have today.

Personally, I had no chance to go to kindergarten because of the war between Iraq and Iran. Instead, I had to flee my country with my family. But now I am a kindergarten teacher, and I believe in equality between the children. In general, the kids seem very happy, and I believe their freedom is very different from what we experienced in the past. In kindergarten, both of the genders are allowed to be placed together in the classrooms or during activities. They can play, sit next to each other, eat and sing together.

This may seem strange for you because this is a very basic right, but what do you do if you don’t have it? Sometimes you do still have to ask permission from their parents for certain things – even if you just want to let them take part in a very small activity or program.

Today's generation enjoys more freedom than mine did

When I was in primary school, I felt that both genders could be friends easily, but that it got harder to be friends once we got older. Starting in secondary school, I felt that lots of girls wanted to form friendships with the boys – but that was hard because being friends with males was viewed as an impossible right for them to have.

We have mixed primary schools, a lot of mixed secondary schools but very few mixed high schools. All of our colleges, institutes and universities are for both of the genders. I know so many women who graduated from school but are now unemployed because they haven’t had a chance to work. Some of them are able to freelance, but they may not get permission from their parents to do so.

In terms of jobs, men have completely different opportunities. Males can do whatever they want, but as I mentioned above, females always have to think about not breaking the rules they get from their parents or from the men in their lives. Women can apply for some specific government jobs in this country, but the situation they face explains why women can almost never earn more money than their husbands. In cases where that happens, they may have to share the money with men or they may be allowed to spend it only on necessities.


May 16, 2012 | 9:31 am