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A 56% decline

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Girls Can: Self Belief Overcomes All Stereotypes

Print version
11 October 2017

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Lola Jabbarova, a lawyer and researcher in the field of regulatory risks and corporate governance. A graduate of the International Westminster University, the first girl from Uzbekistan to get the prestigious master's degree MPP (Master of Public Policy) of Oxford University. In the past, the UN youth activist, the youth ambassador from Uzbekistan to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the World Youth Summit at the Millennium Summit. She was nominated for the honor of Zulfiya award in Tashkent city.

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Specific rules “for girls only”

Childhood and adolescence in the traditional Uzbek makhalla, undoubtedly, has its own characteristics and is willy-nilly reflected in family norms. I was 7 years old when we moved to a new environment for me and it seemed terribly unfair to me that there were special rules only ‘for girls’ - you cannot walk after sunset, before you go for a walk, you have to sweep and water the yard ... I must say that I resisted these new rules as far as I could and repeatedly argued with my parents about the importance of these practices.

But at home, my parents, especially Dad, did not distinguish between the sexes - he taught me and my younger sister to swim, ride a horse, ride a bike, ski, and drive a car. He even used to take us to the Telman Park to the shooting range. Thus, Dad gave us the opportunity to learn skills that did not drive us into the traditional gender framework.

Understanding and acceptance

I took part in most cases when decisions about me were to be taken, but parents had the final word. At the same time, all vital decisions were taken by the family council, with the participation of grandparents.

For me, it always serves as an example that parents make decisions jointly - consulting, listening to each other's opinion, acting as a united front - there was no one-sided authority, as it happened in the families of many of my friends - "Mom allows me to go but my Dad does not." It’s like a dissonance of authorities.

I am very grateful that I was given a free choice of profession and university, despite the fact that my mother very much wanted to see me as a doctor, as the fourth generation in the family of doctors. But my choice was accepted, albeit not immediately.

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My interests have always been treated with understanding. Despite the fact that the bar was raised high from early childhood, I was taught to prioritize and balance - the family and the house should always be the priority. This is true in my life even now.

Parents as role models

I would like to be able to learn and pass on much from the way I was nurtured to my children in the future. Particularly the following:

Reading more. Loudly and eloquently, if necessary, provoking interest. I remember that my mother could use "Shakherezada's approach", stopping a fairy tale at the most interesting point, so that we would want to read the book ourselves in the morning, without waiting for the next night. However, later I had to take a flashlight, because not always I and my brother had enough patience until the morning.

Talking. Talking with grandparents "as friends", perhaps, was the best time for reflection and self-knowledge, while absorbing their colossal life experience.

Investing in education. Parents saved on everything, but we were sent to the best schools. Dad used to give us daily pocket money, which would just be enough for a lunch or a snack, and if we wanted to get something more than this amount, we had to "make a case" - to explain how important it was. I perfectly remember how incredibly difficult it was to argue if you wanted something like new dresses or a trip to a café just like our friends. But for books and additional classes, money was given immediately. Now I understand why it was so.

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Traveling. As a child of parents from the Soviet era, who did not have the opportunity to travel abroad, the overarching priority for our family was to travel. For this reason, money could be saved from fashionable and beautiful clothes, from electronics and other small pleasures without which one can do, as it turned out, and instead can travel around his/her country and the world. This from the early years provided the opportunity to look at the world differently, value the opportunities in our homeland, and be free from the stereotypes. As Steinbeck said, "travel creates people," and I can say with certainty that travel has created me.

Being the one who you want to be

There are many parting words, from every corner everyone seems to shout "Forward! Dare!" Or they say with a slight condemnation "What are you waiting for?" But there are few who are sincere about how difficult it is, sometimes, going against yourself, against the system, even against the values. Often we need a reminder that it is normal not to want what society or the environment imposes. I wish to remember that everyone has their own yardstick of success, and one does not necessarily have to look up to the next door neighbor girl, classmate, and colleague - be whoever you want to be. Together, we are power.

Author: UNICEF

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UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

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