She is 20 years old and the first friend I made in Zanzibar. Her English is impeccable, but it was her sassy attitude and whit that quickly made us friends.
I asked her about what it is like living as a woman in a rural Muslim village. Many around us would speak quietly in fear of the local men overhearing, but she would confidently proclaim her frustrations.
She doesn’t want to marry a man who has other wives. She doesn’t want to be married young because she longs to continue her education, and she dreams of a better education for her children.
As we sat together and chatted, she continuously mentioned how she wanted my long blonde hair and my white skin and live in America. In that moment, I recognized her dreams were slightly skewed by the white ideal and assimilating success to a skin color or nationality.
I wanted to empower her to feel comfortable and confident in her own skin. I wanted to show her that despite our looks, we are the same on the inside- two girls in their 20’s with big dreams that may seem a bit unconventional. Although our barriers and circumstances differ, we can fight against the norms with great tenacity together.
So, I decided to cover up as she does so that for the rest of our time together we could focus on each other’s insides. At the end of my 9 days in Zanzibar, we referred to each other as sisters. For her and all the women that feel silenced by male dominance or feel trapped in their circumstance because of their gender, religion, socioeconomic status, or any other factor, you are seen and you are heard. You have an army of strong women and brave men behind, beside, and in front of you paving the way for a better future. And to all the awesome women of Kairo village, THE FUTURE IS FEMALE!!