By Zainab KhanZainab Khan with her two daughters Sehr and Mehr
New York, NY, April 15 (CINEWS): I have two daughters, Sehr Khan,19 and Mehr Khan,15. I got married at 18 and came to the U.S. My dad is a very liberal and a broad-minded person, and he enstilled in us sisters the importance of education. He always said that to him the education of his daughters was much more important than his sons because educating a daughter is like educating the future generation, her family. My mother had only an elementary education which is why she ensured that us girls made that a priority in our lives.
I knew exactly what I wanted, 3 boys and 1 girl, and if I didn’t get a girl, I was fine with that too. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I started thinking of boy names. When I went in for my ultrasound and my doctor revealed it was a girl I cried while laying on the exam table. My husband was very upset at me and couldn’t believe I thought that way. When we had our child and the doctor laid her tiny little body on my chest, I hugged her, cried and whispered sorry in her in her ear for not wanting her initially. We were instantly in love with this beautiful gift and named her ‘Sehr” which means “Dawn”. I treated her like a doll and noticed that with her birth my husband and I became much closer, almost like we shared this bond now. Although I was so happy that she was in our lives, some part of me wished that if it was a boy it would just be perfect. Growing up in our community, having a boy was a sense of achievement, a trophy. If you had a boy first then you are satisfied and its okay to have the next one a girl.
But if you had a girl as your first child, then you feared, “What if I have another girl? Or What if I never have a boy?”
As a child I didn’t even know why I wanted a boy, I only knew I had to have one because society expected it. Women in our community often said “ You have a boy for the world and a girl for yourself!”
The second time around when I was pregnant and I found out it was a second girl I was devastated and cried for days. My husband decided that ‘ that was it’!!! He couldn’t believe my reaction, and I am sure he wouldn’t have minded having a son but he wasn’t going to cry over it.
My grandma called me from Pakistan to console me and said that our Prophet, Mohammad (P.B.U.H), who was so dear to God, had all daughters and daughters are the doorway to heaven and a God’s gift to his people. It was hard to believe my grandma because I was always told that she cried each time a daughter (My sisters and I) were born to her son. And she herself had told us that my dad always said he loves his daughters and wished he had a dozen, but when after three sisters my brother was born and the nurse gave my dad the news, he picked her up in his arms and ran around in the entire hospital. My brother’s birth was celebrated with charity, food, parties and music for weeks.
Well, I have come a long way and realized some really important things that has shaped my thinking and changed my perspective completely. I did a lot of soul searching and thinking about why I felt that way and what has changed.
In the Pakistani and Indian community, generally a girl is considered a liability. Someone you have to educate, spend money on, raise her well and then give her away. She becomes another family’s asset. And if she gives back in any way, that’s up to her in-laws and you don’t benefit from that fruit. She is often called “ ParayaDhan,” which means “ Other’s property” or something that’s not yours.There’s also a big difference in standards/expectations of boys and girls or let me say there’s somewhat ‘Hypocrisy’ in raising the two genders in our communities. We can’t let our girls date but if our son has a girlfriend that’s ok, ‘it’s part of ‘being a boy’!
I have also seen some parents letting their boys sleepover at friends houses but not their girls, or having curfew times for girls but not so much for boys.
Anyway, I must say things have changed so much since then, thinking and attitudes have changed and education is most definitely a big part of that change. I love a quote from a great Pakistani Leader, Bacha Khan, “ If you want to know how civilised a culture is, look at how they treat its women.”
I can’t thank God enough for the beautiful gift it bestowed upon me, in the shape of my two daughters. They are my best friends, my companions, my soul mates, my confidants and my pride. They taught me humility, to love, to stand up and fight for my rights, to question, strive, so I can set an example for my daughters that if you are true to yourself and you work hard, you can shine and achieve anything in life!
I would not change ANYTHING in my life and if I had to do it all over again I would pray to God to give me daughters…again, because I would not be the person I am today and I would be totally lost without them.