I met her while she was sitting outside the birthing unit at the MSF facility in Chaman while her daughter in law was getting a check up. We started chatting and I asked her about her life. Samina Bibi is a mother of 7 sons and 6 daughters. She has 3 daughter in laws and 9 grandchildren between them. She tells me she has her hopes set high for a new grandson but judging by her daughter in laws complexion, she knows that they will be taking a baby girl home. I asked her if that mattered? She giggled and so did a bunch of women around her, “that’s like asking if I prefer lentil over meat for lunch!” Of course I knew she wanted a boy, but I wanted to set my assumptions aside and have her tell me why.
And she did.
“I grew up with brothers who went to school but I was denied education because it was more important for them to go. Women are treated like mazdoors so why would I want a baby girl who will have to live like this? We cook, clean and attend to sick people in the house then get married and have children and do the same thing our whole lives. We get very little respect. It’s better if it’s a boy, at least people will value his existence.”
To anyone who has ever thought that the reason the boy child is preferred only because he can eventually be the provider for the family, think again. In many parts of the society, women don’t want to bear baby girls in order to save them from lives of oppression. Education is our only savior, unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle when only the boys are sent to school and the teachers teach only one narrative.
Some facts: In 2013, 64% of rural female population in Balochistan never went to school. 75% of girls are out of school between the age of 5 to 16. The overall female literacy rate in the province is 26% and male is 37%. Consequently, 25% females have ever been to school compared to 60% males. Child marriage is common and most girls are married by the age of 14. Let’s let this sink in.