Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Teach English in the Middle East?

I'm a woman, and I want to look behind the veil, so to speak.

Here in the U.S. (don't know about other Western countries), I think there's a pretty black-and-white stereotype about women's rights and lives in the "middle east" - or let's just say, for this conversation, women's rights and lives in countries that are predominantly Muslim. The assumption that women's lives generally suck in some countries, every day and all day.

Not too long ago, the NYT wrote an intriguing article about Afghan girls playing the roles of sons in some families, at least for awhile: Afghan Boys are Prized, So Girls Live the Part.

Photo credit: Azita Rafaat
One of the most interesting statements in this article comes from Azita Rafaat, a member of the Afghan Parliament, who played the role of a boy when she was young, and who has a daughter who does the same today:

As a woman and as a politician, she said it worried her that despite great efforts and investments from the outside world to help Afghan women, she has seen very little change, and an unwillingness to focus on what matters.

“They think it’s all about the burqa,” she said. “I’m ready to wear two burqas if my government can provide security and a rule of law. That’s O.K. with me. If that’s the only freedom I have to give up, I’m ready.” 

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