In the past year, Anne Marie Slaughter and Marissa Meyer, two powerful public female personas, have rehashed one of the quintessential debates of the modern feminist movement: that of the work-family balance. Responding to Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can't Have it All" and Meyer’s comments that she does not consider herself a feminist (despite her status as Yahoo’s CEO), women all over the country spoke up, reassessed their personal opinions and took a stand. Personally, the topic now frames how I interact with feminist theory and is ever present as I plan my own future.
This quote, which sounds like it could have come from any Western women, is from an interview with a mother from the Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir. For Hafeeza, the question of the work-family balance is even more confounding with the combination of a crippled economy and a society based on strict gender roles. I was struck that the same issue plaguing American women in their daily lives also affects a poor, religiously traditional woman in the midst of one of the longest running armed conflict in the world.
In this moment of humanizing confusion and anguish, I am reminded that we are all connected; we are all alike. Despite religious, economic, social and cultural differences, I can relate to Hafeeza on a personal level: as people, we have more things that unite us than divide us. This principle guides the work of Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE), the first-ever female counterterrorism platform and a branch of Women without Borders. This group brings together women and mothers from different sides of a conflict as victims, perpetrators, academics and government officials for healing, forgiveness and a way forward. SAVE believes that connection through the shared human condition can overcome the religious and political causes of violence.
This is the nexus of the Mothers Schools curriculum, a program that aims to join women together for narrative-based communication that breaks down fear and hatred. It empowers women with the necessary self-confidence, knowledge and skills to combat violent extremism as mothers. In this role, women have what has long been unnoticed and untapped power to affect the socialization of the next generation for the explicit purpose of change. They can mold the young to renounce violence and champion peace!
Hafeeza reframes the work-family debate in a way that would not occur to many Western feminists. Not only does she struggle to balance her public and private lives, but she combines them. She shatters the lines between the public and private spheres by acknowledging their interrelated effects on one another in order to disarm conflict and advance peace. So today, remember that your world is not separate from the world of others; nor is yours so different. Do something in your private life to better the public world. Do something to improve the world in general. And remember that we are all connected as people, as human beings, no matter where in the world we live.
Emma Finkelstein interned with Women without Borders / SAVE in summer 2013.