I was glad to be a part of Ford project and especially the summer field work. Being a part of this project let me have the advantage of doing research in my own country and learn about the challenges and people’s perspective from a researcher’s point of view. Being a female researcher had advantages for me to have a greater chance of interacting with people especially women. I had less difficulty in convincing women to give an interview and in some cases, they were more comfortable after few questions. I realized that a friendly communication is very important to make the interviewee conformable and willing to talk and sometimes even it took more time it led to having an in-depth understanding of their views and thoughts. For example, I was talking with a primary respondent of a family who has quit her education. She had difficulties in expressing her view about the social constructions and norms that affected her negatively. However, after few questions and responses, she said that how relatives and neighbors thoughts about female education disappointed her not to go back to her studies and took her motivation even though she wanted to continue her education.
I was a little surprised also to see that many of the women were determinedly agree with what Shari’a and so-called religious leaders have defined as women’s rights. Most of the women, even educated girls, believed that Islam gives them equal rights as men and Shai’a defined their rights and freedom very well. For example, a primary respondent who was a daughter-in-law and a university student had a strong view based on religion and she thought that religion is not against women. However, she believed that there are some positions women cannot handle since they are emotionally weak such as being a judge. This made me realize that many of the women have tried to bring a harmony and adjustment between socio-cultural and religious norms with their lives in the society. It means that although many of the religious and cultural norms did not make sense for them they tried to have a slow and peaceful transformation in order to cope with them. Therefore, many of the women did not see religion and culture as a boundary, but as a norm, they should respect. One of the specific issues which were interesting for me was the question of people’s perception about women who did not have a husband. I was surprised by the responses I received for female participants in the case of divorced women. Almost all of them had negative responses about them since divorced women perceived as not good women in the society. I personally could relate it with the social understanding of the concept of divorce in society and how it has been accepted in the society. In this case, I realized how my educational background was different from most of female back in my home country and in many cases I could see that living in a culture and society can effect on one’s perception of gender role. For me, personally many of the cultural aspects of my society were problematic and patriotic, but for a female in my age whom I have interviewed it was not that much problematic since they have lived with. Moreover, I found that how people’s perspective of what women’s rights and freedom mean is different from what researchers and other people see from outside. Many of the educated women believed in changes and transformation, but they were not in favor of radical changes. Their household responsibilities had priority in working in society and their job or outside home activities and they believed that before anything else they are mother and housewife and their responsibilities are doubled by working outside the family. This point was obvious when they were answering the question of male and female’s responsibilities at home.
Another important point was women’s awareness and grassroots changes. Many of the women, even with primary education, had an understanding of their rights and their empowerment was visible for themselves. For example, there was a primary respondent who was a mother and she was a tailor and she had joined some workshops for learning how to sew before. Aside from the skills, she learned she knew a lot about the constitution law and women’s rights and healthcare too. Just like her, there were women who either directly through the workshops and training programs or indirectly through media and television had information about their own rights and changes that took place in their societies.
The next issue was the responses I have received from male participants regarding women and their rights. Most of the men seemed very open minded in their responses, and this was something different from what I have read and expected from them. They believed that violence against women is not acceptable in any case. At the same time, many of them believed that women should respect their men and listen to what they say and not destroy the family’s honor. One of them said, “Woman has more important role in keeping the honor. If a woman is mentally weak or disrespect her husband she will destroy her honor. A woman should respect her man and think her family’s honor. She should trust and raise her children.” For him, family honor was very much dependent on women’s role and responsibility. I have assumed that many of these male members wanted to look open minded since their thoughts were different from what their women and daughters expressed in their interviews. For example, in one family the father said that he is the main supporter of his daughters going to school, but his answer contradicted with what his daughter said. His daughter told that her father said: “what is the point of you going to school at this age and disappointed her from going to school”. In another case, the father stated that he supported his daughters always for their education and works, however, the mother mentioned that their father was always against girls education and if it was not her effort they would end up being uneducated and leaving school in 10 grades. These sorts of contradictions made me think that most of the men do not really believe in what they say.
My ethnic identity has affected in some cases, but I am not 100% sure about it. Since I am from Hazara ethnicity I had a tough time finding families from other ethnicities. I have heard that Pushton families are not welcomed to be interviewed especially their women, but I think a part of this challenge was that I was a Hazara and they did not want to be interviewed by me. I have gone in several places and asked educated people whom I knew from my relatives or friends, but after introducing the project and the questions they seemed to be unwilling and in many cases, they said their husband or male members did not like being interviewed. Also, going to other’s community was a little strange for me too, since I truly did not know how they might react. I can say that finding families from other ethnicities specially Pushton were a little difficult for me since my Pushton partner has left the project and I was replied to him in terms of finding Pushton families for an interview.
Overall, this summer field work helped me to know my society and its people more deeply. Being a female researcher was an advantage in many cases to be able to reach women and talk with them and go to the families several times, which I think it would not be as easy for a male researcher. It also had its own challenges such as security and not knowing how to react to conservative men and their questions regarding my background. However, I have a more positive view regarding this experience since I learned how to communicate and socialize with them.