So here in Kyrgyzstan my host family has five children total, but only one of them currently lives at home. It’s the youngest daughter and she is twelve years old. However, she is unlike any 12 year that I’ve met. For instance she is 100% capable of running the entire household. She can clean it from top to bottom, fix all meals, wash, iron, sew, etc… all at 12! Now granted she’s had three older sisters around while she was growing up but it’s also a representation of the gender roles found here. This country is considered a patriarchal society which means the male is considered the head of the house. That’s definitely seen here… with the man doing the outside work and the woman doing all the household chores… yet, when one really looks at the family dynamics it’s the woman that runs the house. Therefore, if the mother is not happy then no one is. It’s a very interesting and illuminating site to see. In America we consider it rude if the man doesn’t help and we no longer expect women to do all the house work… here it’s not considered rude and almost considered taboo if the man does try to help. Now that’s not to say the women are only stuck in the house… on the contrary many of them have jobs too, and many of them have really good jobs… doctors, teachers, etc. Yet, they are still expected to come home and care for the kids, prepare meals, do laundry, etc and more, importantly, to pass that knowledge onto their daughters.
The girls here marry young… sometimes as early as 17. I can understand why. There are few resources for them and their entire lives, from a very early age, is one where they are taught how to care for a household.. So why not marry young? It’s a challenging question and one we as volunteers often face about why as 20 something’s, and sometimes older, we are not married and taking care of a household. I’ve never really been exposed to this type of culture before but do know that only until recently (the 20th century) America had similar views. Maybe one day too a similar revolution may happen here. The women seem happy, I am no judge, and my host sister amazes me by how much she is capable of doing, while at the same time I wonder if she misses out on other parts of life.
While she was learning how to sew, cook and clean, I had the chance to try sports, learn new things, and explore new places. So I wonder if she’ll have the same chance and what she’ll think of her life when she gets older. There’s so much more to life and I hope I’m able to show a small part of that.
No matter what happens, she will forever remain amazing to me and all the women here are truly the hardest working women I’ve ever seen. Props to them!
Until next time…