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“Be a woman!”

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By Humeira Ahmed

Sunday family breakfasts are a tradition when it comes to my family. In our Muslim Memon community, breakfast is a blend of palette-tingling curries, savoury eggs, rotis and sides of pickled vegetables. 

One morning, my mother’s legendary savoury eggs were being devoured, when suddenly Papa let out a shriek. I turned to see him furiously blowing on his fingers. He took a seat at the table and refused to take out the bread stuck in the toaster as his fingers got burnt in the attempt. 

I was about to go to his assistance, when a thought struck me. I sat back down and said, “Be a woman, Papa.” My nine-year-old brother, looking bewildered, said, “Isn’t it ‘be a man’?” 

If women can do simple tasks such as taking out the toast from the scorching hot toaster without complaining of burnt fingers, why identify strength as a masculine trait? 

In this socio-political climate, where women’s rights are upheld as being of paramount importance and #metoo is trending, this was my very own stance vis-à-vis the men in my family. 

In our family of four, ‘Be a woman, Papa,” a throwaway line said on an ordinary Sunday morning, is now an anthem of equal strength and weakness. It is not just about empowering women by highlighting our strengths, but also an acknowledgment that men being sensitive or fearful is not unnatural. It articulates what is truly important to me. Everyone should be respected and accepted for who they truly are. 

(The writer, 18, is a student of Colombo International School.)

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