Forge ahead, my dear
November 3, 2022
Oumayma, a young Arab woman who relentlessly sought to escape her family’s oppression, remained oblivious to the fact that life had choreographed a splendid spectacle for her, with the future eagerly awaiting her arrival, ready to fling open its doors.
All she had to do was prepare herself for it. As the saying goes, “Success is born when opportunity meets preparedness,” and unbeknownst to her, her cherished pastime was the window through which the sun would finally shine after years of enveloping darkness within her familial confines.
Deprived of a life merely because she was born a girl, Oumayma was coerced into donning garments she loathed, while her mother extinguished any glimmer of hope for her pursuit of higher education. Fate seemed poised to mold her into a replica of her sister, who had succumbed to early matrimony before even completing her high school education. Still, Oumayma yearned for more. Each night, she gazed upon her weary sister, who hadn’t yet reached her twenties, and silently vowed, “I refuse to embrace the same fate.”
Whenever she dared to challenge her family’s rules, she was met with merciless beatings and confinement. On one occasion, she attempted an escape, only to retreat when she realized that no one within her extended family would take her in her without promptly sending her back to her oppressive family. Even the police, whom she implored for aid from a friend’s house, connived with her family, promptly returning her after a policewoman lectured Oumayma about respecting and appreciating her parents.
In a fleeting moment, she found herself trapped within a labyrinth, where escape was an illusionary notion. A captive with no hope of ever escaping. Yet, the extended periods of introspection and contemplation about her life and the lives of those around her illuminated a novel means of liberation. Her body may have remained confined, but her mind was free, capable of roaming wherever it pleased—traversing the farthest reaches of the universe and back, harboring doubt, engrossed in contemplation, and perpetually learning.
Only her mind possessed the capacity to free her from the prison of her body, and she resolved to unleash it. The journey of the mind is long and demanding, demanding boundless effort, preparedness, and meticulous planning. Above all, it necessitates an element Oumayma possessed in abundance—time.
Oumayma had been captivated by Japanese culture since her early years. She would immerse herself in Arabic-dubbed Japanese children’s shows, meticulously comparing them to the original versions until she comprehended every nuance. Determined to embark on this path of exploration and broaden her knowledge, Oumayma delved into the realm of study, while her sister became engrossed in watching Turkish series dubbed in Arabic, escaping momentarily into the realms of fictional love that offered respite from the quagmire of their lives.
Oumayma delved into language learning programs and applications, gradually progressing to forums and online communities managed by Japanese individuals. Upon completing high school, one of her teachers helped her secure a scholarship to study the Japanese language in Tokyo. Thus, Oumayma embarked on a new journey that had seemed unfathomable during those nights of tears in her dimly lit room.
The story of Oumayma is just one among many captivating narratives that exist in life. It serves as a beacon of hope for millions of girls and women who find themselves oppressed, unable to perceive the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Yet, the light is indeed present, and for each silenced woman, a radiant future eagerly awaits. The key to unlocking that future lies solely in her hands. Only she, the woman herself, truly comprehends her unique talents and the passions she must nurture. When a woman asks me, “What should I do?” my earnest response is always, “The solution lies in forging ahead.”
An oppressed woman unjustly robs herself when she allows idle time to consume her existence instead of utilizing it purposefully. You might find her standing for hours by the window, mindlessly cleaning and gazing into the distance, repeatedly scrubbing until the glass appears invisible. Alternatively, she may while away extended periods in the kitchen, devoid of purpose. Perhaps she wastes her time engrossed in a 200-episode Turkish series, coincidentally designed to captivate a predominantly female audience. Subsequently, she transitions to Lebanese, Syrian, and Egyptian series.
In between episodes, she listens to the charismatic young preacher, who administers temporary sedatives to ease her worries and dangle the promise of paradise before her. Then, she prepares for the women’s gathering at the week’s end, where each woman vies to showcase her culinary skills through the creation of sweets and pastries. In the compliments and praise she receives, she finds fleeting validation, which may covertly transform into veiled criticism once the gathering is over.
If only women truly comprehended their worth and responsibilities, they would not waste even a single precious moment in purposeless gatherings or fixated upon television screens. Even the life of a contented woman can be upended in an instant, finding herself responsible for her own well-being and the welfare of her children, navigating a world where the path ahead is uncertain.
Time is a resource to be harnessed, not discarded. Those who allow their time to wither away are slowly eroding their own existence. Escaping is not inherently wrong if it propels us toward a brighter future.
Harnessing time and embracing every available opportunity is a process of preparation and self-development, positioning oneself to seize upcoming possibilities. Opportunities will inevitably manifest, but only those who are prepared can seize them. So my advice to every young woman who implores, “Help me, what should I do?” is this: “Forge ahead, my dear.”