What do Muslim women want you to know about them? What are the biggest needs of Middle Eastern women? They are often seen in the media as needing to be "liberated" from the burqa or chadar (head covering).
However, when talking to the average women in Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries, their main concern is not to be able to take off the chadar (head covering), or even to be able to "date." For many, arranged marriages are simply the way things are done.
Some of their most pressing concerns are to not be forced into marriage at a young age (think 8yrs.!) and to be able to study and get education and job skills. Middle Eastern women are smart, ambitious, and desire to have the freedom to grow as individuals and contribute to their own families and countries. They want peace and the ability to take care of their own children and give them a better life.
Meet one woman who is an "overcomer"...a woman who has continued to "fight" using her education and wits to survive insurmountable odds.
Fatima - Overcoming the Taliban
I am a Pashtun widow with 6 children. I was born in Kandahar to a wonderful family. I married at age 15 to a nice man who never beat me. I’m used to war. We have had war for more than 25 years in my country. Even when the Russians came in the '80's, life was good. My husband had good work for the Russian-controlled Afghan government and we had food and money.
Not long after he died in the Mujahadeen war in the '90's, the Taliban came and took over much of our country. Kandahar became a different city than the one I knew as a little girl. It was cold and heartless, broken and forgotten.
Even though women were not supposed to go out in public, I had to be the one to go out and get food for my children – we were hungry. It's the Afghan women who have to hear the cries of their starving children. A Talib saw me in the bazaar buying rice, and he began to beat me with his club.
At first I cowered, enduring the blows, but rage filled my heart. Empowered by fury, I stood and lifted up my burqa, stared at him, and coldly asked him if he had a mother. He stopped in surprise, and I walked away with my rice.
I determined then to stand up to the Taliban. I began to secretly teach 50 students in my home, even though Talibs lived four doors down from our two rented rooms.
Now, I continue to teach at school, to help my children finish their education and to help others learn.