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2014 Quantitative Fieldwork Reflection

2014 Quantitative Fieldwork Reflection

I would say, fortunately, in general, I turned out to be more empowered, more confident, and inspired after the fieldwork even though it wasn’t a smooth path and the experience was full of twists and turns. There were instances that reflected positively as well as negative changes in people’s perceptions about women, which affected me only positively because the positive changes inspired me and the negative ones taught me what I didn’t know earlier. An example for this is seeing some women who realize the potentials that they have got and who are aware of their rights, which makes me feel very strongly positive about my gender identity. I was so inspired by one of the primary respondents that I interviewed who worked as a kindergarten instructor in the place I worked as an intern. She came from a lower class family, whose husband was sick and lived as a refugee in Iran. She led a family that consisted of her children and a very weak mother-in-law. Her personality as a whole was an inspiration. The confidence with which she spoke about women’s rights, her knowledge and true perception of women’s rights in Islam, and the perfect example of a strong independent woman that she had set for the rest of women, motivated me and made me think that if a woman like her who had faced so many challenges can be so strong, why not me who has got so many opportunities and whose life isn’t as much challenging. It also made me hopeful towards a bright future for women by seeing strong independent women rising in Afghanistan.
However, there were also some instances that made me feel that we have a long way to go towards changing people’s perceptions, especially the very perception of women themselves about women. One of the interviews that I conducted was with a woman from a rural province in Badakhshan, who had come to Kabul for medication. She was around 20 years old and was married. It wasn’t easy telling what her actual thoughts were during the interview. At some point, I felt that she was pretending to say something she didn’t mean, which is why I asked her questions over and over to find out what exactly she thought. When asked what her thoughts were on women who are not allowed to study or work without male escorts, she believed it was fine. The contradictory part was that when I asked her about her opinion on women’s employment and she was positive and supported women’s employment. Only when I asked her whether women needed a male escort every time they went out for work did she respond that women should at least have permission from the family members.
What really troubled me was her justification of violence against women. She thought it was justified if it was women’s fault (if women went out without permission of the family). I really wanted to get into a discussion with her because it wasn’t acceptable to me in anyways. I had a hard time holding myself back and pretending to be indifferent to what she was saying because there was an urge in me telling that it’s my responsibility to make her understand and to make her aware given that I had the opportunity to do so, but I didn’t as I wasn’t supposed to. However, I wouldn’t say I was affected by this negatively in any way because there are different people with different perceptions, and from this particular experience, I learned that there still exists women who have such types of ideas about women.
The challenges that I faced were very much lesser than what I had predicted prior to getting into the fieldwork. The reasons for the challenges that I faced because of my gender are the very traditionally conservative ideas that are deeply embedded in the society. For instance, for one of the interviews, Zainab and I had fixed an interview with a family who resided quite far from our areas. We went there in the afternoon at the fixed time where we found the woman’s two sons were in the house busy doing construction. We told the guys that we had fixed an interview with their mother, and they told us she wasn’t at home and would be back after some 2-3 hours. Because we had come a long way and we couldn’t go back without doing the interview, we really needed a place to wait and we couldn’t even ask the guys to let us in because their expressions clearly showed that it wasn’t appropriate/proper to let us in given that there wasn’t any female in the house. The solution we chose was that we went to a beauty parlor (female’s beauty parlor) and asked the owner if we could stay there for a while. Fortunately, the owner of the parlor, a very nice woman, allowed us in and we waited there for 2- 3 hours, and went back to the house for the interview.
However, this does not imply that having a male partner at this point would solve things. Not only that I didn’t really feel the need for having
male
partner during the fieldwork but I also think that if I had one, it could have been more problematic and I would have a harder time convincing people to do the interview. For instance, once Zainab and I referred to a Tajik family whose female member asked us to come in the afternoon to take the permission of the male member for the interview. We came back in the afternoon and talked to the male member. Even though he was responding in a good manner, it was clear from his expressions that he was too angry over us asking for such thing from him. He rejected us politely, but I believe that instead of Zainab if I were with a male partner, things would’ve gotten quite serious. I don’t think though that our ethnicity affected this experience that we had in any way. However, I do believe that our education level and the place we studied in did shape what we experienced at this point because the man might have thought that we young ladies have studied in a foreign country and have come to misguide their female members. Hence, in general, I believe that I turned out to be stronger and more aware after the field work.
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