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Gender Equality at Home

Grandma San can hear all the words clearly from inside her room. The little fight has been going on for quite a while. Her daughter, a lecturer in the University and her granddaughter Shwe Wah, a teenager, are still at the breakfast table after her son-in law has already left for his job half-an-hour ago.

At the beginning, the two were just talking normal. But very soon they got into ‘heated discussion’. That’s what her lecturer-daughter always refers to. She hates the word ‘quarrel’ and Grandma San realized in no time what would be followed after such heated discussion: raised voices, shoutings and sometimes one or both parties would burst into tears, running into the bedroom and jammed the door.

“Mummy, you said you want equality in the home. But actually you are the one allowing it to happen!” 

“No, I am not. Your dad’s never done the dishes in his life. So how could I ask him to do it inequality.”

“Ok, Ok, let’s leave that one as it is. Yet there are so many things. You always let Dad have the last word. You said I can go for sleep-over at Thuzar’s house yesterday. This morning Dad said I can’t go. You didn’t say anything. You just went along with Dad. You went back on your word!”

“Yesterday I thought it’d be okay. But your Dad is worried to let you sleep elsewhere other than the home.”

 “You told me just last week that you want to write an article to complain about men and their patriarchy. It’s really you who let Dad to behave that way. He can’t do so if you don’t let him. But you do and it’s your fault”.

Grandma San didn’t want to listen any longer. So she came out from her bedroom and walked into the yard in front. But her mind has been occupied by the words uttered out by her teenager grand daughter. In her days, when the husband is the sole bread winner in the family, the household burden of looking after the house as well as the children would be placed entirely on the wife who stays at home without any outside job.

Time has tremendously changed the world and its people. Women are entering offices in great numbers, with their rate of participation in labor force gradually growing. Her daughter has been writing some articles on equal rights, equal opportunity for women. As a woman playing a dual role herself, gender equality has been her special focus.

Grandma San talked to herself. “Actually Myanmar Women have a unique social status in our society, compared to other Asian Countries, with a certain degree of freedom and equality to men in our public life. Still, we tend to give precedence to our men. Hymm-we just do it willingly-we put ourselves in a subservient position and let them have the last word. My God, so what Shwe Wah said is true. How come, how come!”

Grandma San got a shock from this realization. Is is really our fault behind gender inequality? She asked herself. It’s not always the case that letting men have the last word is a sign of weakness. Many times it is an effort to keep the peace, in order to prevent a petty conflict from growing into a terrible fight. Like my daughter often said, to prevent heated discussion escalating into “a full-fledged war”. Because of that we, women in families, frequently allow our men to have the last word. 

After all, the real battle ground for us to know is how to keep peace in the family “without losing our self-respect”. In fact culture and tradition too has a large role to play, putting the demand on us, womenfolk, to endure for the sake of our families. Grandma San’s face has become all smiles now. “I need to talk to Shwe Wah so that she understands why her mom has been doing and acting in such a way. She does want ‘peace’ in the family. That’s the long and short of it!