Sevara Karamatullakhodjaeva has witnessed many changes in Uzbekistan during her 81 years, she tells her granddaughter Layli Mutalova.
The roles of women have changed vastly, she says: When she was growing up, many women wore a paranji, or veil, and felt pressured to keep hidden. She longed to be a dancer but couldn't pursue her dream because of societal pressures on what the proper role for girls was thought to be. “It is not a problem if women work now, no problem if women are open now,” she says.
Sevara fondly recalls one thing that has remained, even as it has changed: The commemoration of International Women's Day, celebrated each March 8. She recites two poems she learned in her childhood, including an English one: “Dear, dear Mummy, I love you very much/I want you to be happy, on the 8th of March” — and remembers when the holiday had a more political tone.
“Many young people did not feel the essence of this holiday; it is hard to remember how difficult it was before,” she says.
Layli recounts how the day became a holiday and is now a daylong celebration of women. “Now after independence, the holiday still exists, and this day is considered to be a holiday for women,” Layli says. “Young people, young boys should congratulate their girlfriends; a husband should congratulate his wife. This is the holiday once a year. It is a pleasure to feel that women have a women's holiday.”
Layli, a successful lawyer and mother of two children, asks her grandmother if she believes men and women are equal in society — and if they can be.
“They of course are equal; they are equal at work,” Sevara says. “Today, some women are not equal in their families because women work, then they come home to do housework at home. There are husbands who help their wives with family issues, but still, many women in Uzbek families are not equal.”
Sevara, who remembers when women first were able to vote in Uzbekistan, asks Layli about her dreams for her own children.
“As any mother, I hope that my daughter lives a better life than we have now,” Layli says. “If we consider the attitude of men toward women in society, of course, we now have legal equality at work and society, but I also wish that my daughter has equality in her family and in the social sphere. The role of women and men in the family, the attitude toward children is important. I hope that my daughter's husband will take care of their children as well, that they will be equal in family life.”