8TH March is an important day for women across the globe. It is a day where everyone officially acknowledges and recognises the importance of gender parity and all the issues women are still facing in this day and age.
I thought the best way to celebrate this day was to share a bit about my heritage, how I perceive this day and what does it mean to me.
I am proud to come from a generation of strong women. My grand-parents immigrated from Algeria to France in 1965, taking with them their first three kids, including my mum who was five years old at the time. My grand-dad decided to move to France because there was a high demand of workers in the building industry. After the Second World War, there has been a big wave of immigrants from North Africa and Italy coming to France to help reconstruct the country. Since life in Algeria was not the best, my grand-dad thought his family could live a better life if they moved to France. I don’t think he expected to indefinitely live in France and leave Algeria behind but that’s what happens. They did not move back, instead they made a life in a small town in the Alps and brought up 8 kids. They do go back every year to visit family but their life is now in France, where they have their kids and grandkids.
I really admire my grand-mother; she is a super woman who left her country, her culture, her family and moved to a new country with different traditions. She had to adapt to an environment which was totally unknown to her. She did not even speak the language but somehow she managed to adapt and integrate. And let me tell you, this is not easy. Without sounding too negative, North African people never had a great reputation in France and it is an endless battle for us, immigrants and immigrants’ kids to be accepted as real French citizens. Nevertheless, she managed to raise my amazing mum, my uncles and aunties and allowed them to become great people with beautiful values and principles.
My nan was a housewife, no education so sadly she cannot read or write, no driving license so she had to rely on my grand-dad’s small wage to feed the whole family. Many times she told me how life was at the time and it is hard to believe and writing this actually brings tears to my eyes. It has happened that on occasions she was not eating as much as she should have as she would rather let the kids eat. It was tough at the time and not only immigrants were struggling. My mum always reminds me that they did not have all the choice we have for food today. My grand-dad would only buy one kind of biscuits, the cheapest ones so every time my mum sees them in a store, she mentions it. With no hard feeling though as it does not mean she and her siblings didn’t enjoy their childhood. They learned the value of money and how important it is to work hard. My grand-dad did not buy the best brands because he did not want to; it was because he couldn’t at the time. We now live in a society of opulence and consumption with so much choice for food and wastage; so it is difficult to imagine how it really was at the time. I have been lucky that my parents who had a better situation that my grand-parents but still quite modest, always made sure we had the latest toys, games and food brands.
For a long time, my nan did not have a washing machine so all the clothes were washed by hands; I mean with 8 kids can you imagine the hard work. How many of us are put off when they see “wash by hand” on the clothes’ tag?
Nonetheless, she made a life for her family in very hard conditions, she learned French through her kids at home and honestly her French is great for someone who has never taken any lessons, or worked with French people. Funnily enough, her French is actually better than my granddad who did work with French people. She learned on the spot, she made friends in our town and everyone loves her. She is a well-respected, discreet and humble woman.
My grand –parents are Muslim and so am I. This is another ‘difference’ she also had to deal with. My grand-parents have always been private about their religion and tolerant of other religions, but today more than ever there is such a bad stigma about Islam. I know this scares her as she wears the scarf so she could be victim of islamophobia. I let you imagine how she felt when we found out Marine Le Pen votes came up number one in the suffrage in our hometown.
This does not stop her to practice her religion in peace though; she is such a role model. I admire how my grandparents believe in our god, how they practice fully and still are so respectful and tolerant. That’s what our religion is about, respect and humility.
I could go on for ages on how great my nan and my mum are. They are an example and proof that women are super heros. That’s why; I do get frustrated that although, legally, women and men are equal in rights, in practice this does not always apply. Gender parity is a big issue in our society and for some reason, it feels we have to fight harder, we need to prove ourselves even more . No disrespect to men, but when you think about what women cope with in life, it is actually hard to believe we still need to prove ourselves. Women have the most precious gift, they bring life, they hold a family together through their mother instinct and caring penchant. They manage several jobs, from being a mum, a wife, a daughter, a sister, to their day to day job. I know some may say that men do this as well which is true but the implication is different and this due to nature. The fact that women carry the baby for 9 months and may breastfeed, it does create a strong bond between the baby and the mother during the early stages. Although I am not a mum yet, I can imagine the involvement from a mother is different but I can only tell from my mum’s perception. When I was younger and up to now, if I need something or I am not well, I call my mum. My dad is always there for me too and he is my world but in a different way, mother’s care is different. It is hard to explain and the last thing I want is for you to think that father’s love is not worthy and that I underestimate it. That’s the complete opposite, we need both our mum and dad and they both provide, fill different needs. I just want to emphasise the “woman” role in our society and how she has no reasons to be treated in an inferior way.
So with everything going on at the moment, these are the questions I have are:
- Why some women who do a similar job than men do with same background, can earn less?
- Why is it more difficult for women to access high profile roles?
- Why some think it is normal to ask women if they are planning on having kids soon during an interview?
- Why there is this vicious power trip some men feel they need to have to degrade women?
- Why women can sometimes be seen as “pretty things” instead of an actual asset and recognised for their professional skills?
So many questions are yet to be answered and although there has been some progress and acknowledgement from many people following the Weinstein affair, there is still so much more that can be done.
In the meantime, I think it is so important that us women stick together, reassure and protect each other. We should never doubt that we are strong and capable of anything. We need to fight and ensure the next generations do not have to deal with these issues as much. Look at our mothers and grand-mothers to remind us how far we have gone thanks to them. Thanks to my nan’s courage and strength and my mum, I have been able to grow up in a beautiful part of France, keep my heritage and culture that I love, get an education and now I live in England. I am an independent woman, I drive, I speak different languages and I know my nan is really proud of me. My mum has always pushed me and supported me to become a strong woman, to study and explore the world, I am so grateful for that. I will never forget my heritage and what it took for me to be where I am today. This is thanks to strong women such as my nan and my mum so I dedicate this special day to them along to all those brave women who still fight to keep their family together in the worse conditions. Whether it is in Africa where I am from or in Syria where so much is happening at the moment, my thoughts go to all our strong women across the globe.
Happy International Woman day and happy mother’s day in advance to all entire amazing mum around the world!
Chiccie Chérie x