Friday, August 11, 2006

"I just want to escape"

The other day one of my students, we'll call her Maha, asked to talk to me after class. I was dreading this, as Maha is just one of those students who drives the teacher a bit mad. She's always sitting in the front row and talking without raising her hand, as if she must comment on every last thing the teacher, or anyone else says. Half the time I don't understand due to the level of English, and the other half she is asking questions about things clearly explained ten minutes prior.

Maha's about my age, early twenties, and currently unemployed. I thought she wanted to talk to me about English and ask for some advice or special help, but she actually wanted to talk about immigration. She told me that she wanted to talk to me privately, so we waited until all the other students had left.

Maha told me that she has a problem living in Pakistani society because she is a widow. She got married in her teens, most likely 15 or 16, in an arranged marriage. She has a son who is now seven years old and her husband has passed away. After her husband's death she moved back in with her family,but due to the social stigma she is unable to remarry or get a good job. She told me that she is looking for a way out of the country, "because my life is over here." She had heard that in the West people didn't look down on widows and that she might be able to study, pursue a career or even remarry.

I was shocked and tried to remain supportive and encouraging by giving her some phone numbers of offices who could advise her on immigration. Then I went back to my room and thought, wow she's my age and she's already been married, widowed and has a seven year old son. Not only that, but there's just no opportunities for her here unless her family were to have loads of money, which they don't. Society has hardened her even in her youth, and she now has the burden of trying to make a way for her family as a single mom in a country where single moms aren't supposed to exist.

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