Shujaat Ali Quadri
Amidst the rampant discrimination against women there are women who break the glass ceiling set by her community and become a role model for others. Saba Irfan is one such woman.
Hailing from a conservative Muslim family, Irfan faced many hurdles, but she always dreamed of a life beyond the four walls of household and marriage. When she saw her sister getting married at the age of 15, Irfan imagined things differently for her life.
Despite securing a higher percentage than her brother, young Irrfan had to convince her father to allow her to join the college. And her troubles did not end with the college admission.
Shared on the Facebook page of Humans of Bombay, Irrfan's story of fighting against the norms that bind her is nothing short of inspirational. “My father used to get threats everyday because he allowed me to study further. During family functions, even if I spilled a little coffee while serving, they would say 'aur bhejo isko college', excerpts from the post read.
“I grew up in a conservative Muslim family where women weren’t allowed to study. My sister was 12 when she was engaged and by 15, she was married. There’s even a saying in our community, ‘if you look for a girl older than 17, you won’t find a good one.’
Obviously, college wasn’t an option for me -- marriage is the only agenda for us girls.
“But I was a good student; the first in my family to get a ‘first class’ with 62%, while my brother only got 50% -- still, he was allowed to apply to college and I wasn’t. But I was the ‘rebel’ who wanted to study. So everyday, I convinced my father to give me the chance and finally he agreed to send me to a girl’s college… I ran to Sophia -- I couldn’t believe it!
“But then the taunts began. My father got threats everyday because he had allowed me to study further. During family get togethers, if I even spilled a little bit of coffee while serving, they would say ‘aur bhejo isko college.’ These snide remarks happened everyday. My friends used to go out and meet boys-- I didn’t even think about it, all I wanted to do was learn.
"Still, by the time I was 18 I was married.
“Even though my husband and his amazing family encouraged me to complete my education, after the 12th, I refused to go -- my parents had suffered enough. But I was still happy -- going to college for that little time had opened up my horizons -- there was a whole world beyond my community and I decided to keep learning in my own way.
“I first taught myself how to blog -- there was a lot I’d gone through that I wanted to talk about. I started writing about my Hijab and the issues a woman faces. I began to write about books, poetry and travel. I took up French classes and I’m currently studying Russian!
“I even faced judgment for wearing my pardha -- people would stare, pass remarks and keep their distance but it never stopped me. It pushed me to do more -- believe it or not, I just became an author!
'None of this means that I don’t respect my religion -- it just means that wearing a Hijab shouldn’t define who I am first -- an independent woman with dreams. Because I’ve been condemned by the community for putting it on and going to college, and then judged by others for wearing it publicly -- in both cases, only a woman suffered.”