For me, making resolutions isn’t usually an important part of my new year. However, maybe this is why I end up wanting to finish a million things but not finishing anything.
So I’m trying this year. This year, my resolutions are as follows:
1. To be thankful for my supportive father
In a country such as Saudi Arabia, if you’re a woman you don’t have the right to be responsible to make decisions and choose the life you want no matter how old you are.
For example, that means you can’t be completely free to travel and pursue your education without male approval (from a father, brother or even a husband).
My father always believed in education as a means of improving one’s life on many levels, which is why he supported my choice to come to Canada and finish my education, regardless of the social restrictions he faced as a member of such a closed culture.
Many women are not lucky enough to have this simple human right, just because their guardians don’t think it’s important for women to travel and have a degree from abroad, despite the benefits of empowering women and help them be independent not only for themselves but also for their society.
My father’s stance on this issue is not something I can take for granted.
2. To express myself and say what I believe in - no matter what
In many countries people don’t have the right to express themselves freely. Many people in these countries don’t try to express their opinions when they’re too different in order to avoid the possible consequences. Instead, they continue to live in miserable conditions.
So I’ve decided to express my opinions even if there are some people who get mad at me; at least it might change something.
3. Talk to more people on the bus
When I first came to Canada, using public transportation was a completely new experience in my life. Being in a place with so many people was uncomfortable in itself, let alone starting conversations with people you don’t really know.
It can be something frightening if you’re not familiar with North American culture, because you don’t really know how the conversation will go. It could be short pleasant comments on any number of topics, or it could just be uncomfortable.
In any case I think it’s important to make the effort, because I’ve found that being silent or putting on that blasé face can be strange for some people.
Once you get used to conversing with strangers, it makes you feel good about yourself and adds spice to your day.
4. Educate Saudi women about their rights
Before women can be asked to fight for their rights, they must know what their rights are. I will start writing in Arabic to defend women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, making sure that I deliver the right message to every woman.
In this way, I wish to make each woman able to effect change in her community and her life.
5. Get behind the wheel
Since women in Saudi Arabia don’t yet have the right to drive a car, my final New Year’s resolution is to get behind the wheel. I want to use my chance as a student in Canada to get my driver’s licence.
As with my other resolutions, this one’s all about making the most of my time in this country.
Fatemah Al Helal is an international student currently majoring in sociology at the University of Winnipeg. Her blog can be found at http://daughterofarabia.blogspot.com.
Published in Volume 66, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 11, 2012)