For the beginning years of my life, I have been raised in a house where gender-equality is a solid and unbreakable pillar. In fact, even when my parents planned the structure of our household, they wished to have an equal number of girls and boys. To their surprise, my brother and I were born. They named me Salam (the Arabic translation of Peace) and his name is Yaman.
A few years later, I started to notice society’s fabric outside of our house’s boundaries. Later in my teenage years, my peers pointed out my relationship to both my father and brother as being “different.” I have a strong relationship with both, where fear is replaced with openness and respect.
Although being the oldest child is a huge responsibility, it is also a plus. Yet, being the “girl” oldest child doesn’t often come with the same advantages in many communities. Girls aren’t often taught to grow strong and independent. Instead, they are taught to become fragile and reliant regardless of their position in the family.
They are taught to be scared and naive because it is cuter to ask for the assistance of a man than do things alone. They are taught to follow more and lead less because it is sexier to take orders than give them when you are a woman.
During my childhood, my father supported every courageous initiative I took. He taught me how to ride a bike and, moreover, we used to climb high hills together. He always told me that if I don’t learn to do things alone and be good and bold at them, someone else will. My father wanted to see me as a woman who was not afraid to make heroic success. So he taught me that leadership and advocacy is the other sexy.
I always wondered why my father wanted me to be different and never wanted me to follow the current. I recently asked him why he did all that and never listened to the surrounding and suppressing sounds in our community. He said that when I grow up, the world will do enough to break me down and ruin my leadership character. “I want to be the hero in your life, so you can be a hero in other’s lives. They will need a woman like you,” he told me.