Women and men. Even as I am typing it, reading it sounds incorrect. Women before men? Hasn’t it always been said men and women? Why is that? It isn’t a big deal, it’s just the way it’s always been done. That’s what I’ve always been told, it’s just the way it’s always been. I’m wrong for speaking up, I am told, trying to change something that’s been deep-rooted in our society for so long it’s normal now. Well, not for me. Staying silent isn’t an option. I have a voice and I will use it.
My name is Perla Kobeissy, I am 15 years old and I have one mission: Change the world. Or at least what I can of it.
Silence is submission. Submission to the patriarchal stereotypes in our society, submission to the expectation that women are viewed as less and should never utter a word opposing that. I was told by my own family that I was ridiculous, and that I should “set the table” and “help my mom cook” more than my brother was ever told, because that’s what our culture is. I was ridiculed when I was asked why we abide by such a culture.
I found refuge in Model United Nations programs. It was the first time I could freely speak my mind regarding the unjust treatment of females in our culture without being seen as a “ridiculous little girl”. I went on to represent Lebanon in the International MUN and winning it, and what fuelled was my fire was the negativity I’ve endured my whole life whenever I opened up about the misogyny we live in. I am grateful for every comment and all the scrutiny I got, for without them I wouldn’t know how much my voice mattered. I’m getting negative feedback from people afraid of change, which means my voice was being heard, it was making an impact. Refuse silence because of other’s people’s opinions, because if you can’t support a cause publicly, what exactly are you supporting?
I am working towards elevating women using social media, from campaigns to advocacy . I am in the process of founding the LebAid organization, which strives towards supporting women and human rights issues through fundraisers.
It’s been difficult to keep supporting causes I’m passionate about, especially while hearing the opinions of others and sometimes just wanting to stay silent and be accepted. But that pushes me to keep on going, because the one thing they can’t do is change me to fit their expectation of what a girl should be. I am not only going to defy that expectation, I am going to change it.