I have a Pakistani friend who is an outdoor junkie. He used to love playing hockey. He spends hours working out under the sun. From the last thirty years, there hasn’t been a single day on which he did not go for a run. I must say that he is kind of proud of it because of his discipline, activeness, and energy. But one day, he realized something.
One morning, he was running in this quietest area. It was so quiet that one could hardly see people walking or running on the track. It felt like liberty having a track by himself. But after a while, he heard a runner behind him. He realized that the runner is slowly getting closer. He began to realize that probably the runner would pass him soon. When the runner almost came next to him, he notices that she is a woman. She was so fast that she passed by him and ran ahead of him. Soon he lost sight of her. After this, he got a moment, where he compared his level of strength with that woman. He was impressed and recognized that she is stronger than him and she can beat many men in Pakistan.
It was interesting to me because when I see my friend, I see a strong man who can probably help me carrying heavy things. At least, that is how I grew up seeing men in my country. In Sweden, I have a female boss and many female colleagues who seemed to be very independent and active. Yeah, most of the times I got help from them like opening a bottle of jam, fixing the light bulbs and even shooing the bad guys.
Women are trained to manage themselves in Sweden. They do not seek dependency on their partners and parents. They are expected to leave the parent house after their teenage life so they can learn to stand up for themselves. Sweden is the most gender-neutral country. Boys and girls are raised on an equal level. Sweden is trying to deconstruct gender roles in culture. In pre-school, boys are encouraged to cook and girls are encouraged to play football.
I remember a couple of times looking at my relatives who have both boy and girl as children. Whenever their mom was putting food on their plates, the boy was getting extra than his sister. while in Sweden, both boy and girl are raised on equal terms by parents and schools.
The Swedish system provides equal opportunities in everyone regardless of what gender one has. Women are working as CEOs, boss, political party leaders, gym trainers, and train/taxi/bus drivers. Yes, they get pregnant and take care of babies too. They do their chores just like men.
In the 90s, Pakistan had their first female prime minister ‘Benazir Bhutto’ who broke the norms of being a woman in politics in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. When I was in school, one of our teachers gave us a lecture on how women can be unfit to be in politics. She argued that they could be pregnant which is inappropriate as representatives. This came to my mind when I saw a woman dressed up as a professional, breastfeeding her child on a train full of people. That was neither seen as obscene nor inappropriate but natural.
Sweden has a history where people stood up for their rights and brought a revolution in terms of equality in all forms. All I know is that we are behind from a country like Sweden in many forms. There is a long way to go to change the system.