Strolling at AUB with my father during my university years on a sunny day in the early 1990s, at a time when mid-term exams were knocking at our doors, little did I know that some “marches” are eternal and never ending. It is true that some marches are physical, while other marches are virtual like Deloitte’s Women March; however both types of marches take us through unique journeys and meaningful individual experiences.
As for this walk, in the context of this blog I will sometimes call it a “march”, as it cannot be characterized as a random walk, it was more like a walk in a military manner towards the library, to catch up on as many readings as possible, with many students heading in the same direction.
For those of you who had the chance to walk down the lane from today’s College Hall to the faculty of engineering, you might recall the scenery of the Mediterranean sea, embraced by Marquand house on the left, the green field facing you, and the clear blue sky above, with feathered birds flying, and butterflies camouflaging their existence by flapping their wings and blending themselves in the colors of the plants’ leaves. In the middle of this scenic landscape, my girlish instinct decided to pop out to nag about the study load I had. Why did I have to go the extra mile if I am going to get married and raise a family anyway? I may probably not end up having a career at all!
The walk’s pace suddenly slowed down, when my father invited me to try the green bench facing this scenic view. He was looking at the far end of the sea, trying to recall his university years in the 50s, to compare the hardship he had as a man while pursuing his education, and the luxury I was offered as a woman while undertaking my university studies. His march was not an easy one, as he had to fight his way to realize his dreams. And that chat was a clear message that whether you are male or female, the road we both cross is the same one. It all depends on which side of the road we take, however, most of the times, a women’s road is bumpier.
“You know, life is a journey better crossed if well planned. Whether you are a woman or a man, you will be faced with the same obstacles and challenges of this part of the world,” he said. “I agree that being a woman, you will need to bear a heavier load compared to men, especially if you decide to fulfill yourself, have a career and raise a family.” He continued: “I want you to never underestimate what you as a woman can do. As much as I would like to see you raise a great family, I would like to see you have a successful career, just like men do,” he concluded.
It was time to rush back to the library, so the march continued again with my father’s words resonating throughout my journey. Yes, it was a decision to be made: to have a family or to focus on a career? Or can one have both? I wondered if it were possible to find balance in life. I wondered about many other concerns that preoccupy every woman, especially women in the Middle East, who exert a lot of effort to prove their worth in patriarchal societies; who march every day towards achieving their aspirations, securing their basic rights and demanding just and fair practices in the work place.
Since March is the month that bodes the beginning of Mother Nature’s spring, allowing people to celebrate international women’s day and Mothers’ day in the Middle East, it is surely an occasion to celebrate women’s achievements, and to drive the momentum to their professional advancements. It is a Women’s March par excellence.
The walk at AUB and the chat I had as well as those engraved words in my mind, and my personal march to find the perfect fit between my career and family life, make me one of the countless people who are marching endlessly, every day, every hour, every minute and every second in a virtual march to empower, invest in and advance women’s issues in the Middle East.
From where I stand today, I need to give credit in large part to great men I have been fortunate to have had throughout my life. My personal march reminds me of the engraved words at AUB’s entrance “May they have life and have it more abundantly”. Now it is my turn and yours to think of what you and me can do to give women a more abundant life?
Join me, and other women and men in Deloitte’s Women March, Deloitte’s initiative to empower, invest and accelerate women advancement in the firm and throughout the Middle East.
by: Elissar Hajj Zarwi, Regional Brand & Communications leader, Deloitte Middle East