Women empowerment is about improving how women contribute to the society. If you are raised a majority of your years in Brunei, whether we like it or not, at some point we need to acknowledge that we are raised in a rather conservative society. Although my parents took a rather gender-neutral and equal partnership approach in the management of the family, but lets face it, I will not pretend like I am oblivious to how the society that we live in still treat women, the culture in which we have socialised into always has this unwritten rule for how women should act and carry herself, what women should be, emphasis on femininity, the unquestioned acceptance of disparity in the household roles, where women are expected to know how to cook, how to clean, and expected to sacrifice everything else for her children and her family.
Sacrifices may include your career, your needs, your physical, emotional and mental health and your dreams. Do we need to ignore and neutralize such gender-biased expectations? Yes, perhaps, but won’t you agree that realizing your value as a person regardless of your gender, and respecting your needs above societal expectations are far more fulfilling than living down to the expectations of whoever we think is judging us? Sometimes, it is the limits that we set in our minds that really limits us, limits resulting from our cultural upbringing. I do believe that we need to help each other to realise this.
I have had friends who puts her health and fitness at the top of her priorities being scrutinized and judged for her role as a mother and parental skills. For what? For spending an hour at the gym and leaving her child at home with her husband, plus maid? Unsurprising those people who judged here were also women.
Another friend of mine has also told me that she was expected to attend to her crying baby every night for 2 years because he husband told her it was her “job as the woman in the household” to tend to the child. But the most terrifying aspect about this was that she was agreeable to this. This is the kind of ignorance we pass on to everybody else, because we don’t see anything wrong with it. This very thing is what confines empowerment and brings us down, because we, if not, a majority of us still believe that we have a specific role to play and to fit into the gender mold.
This needs to be broken.