In Afghanistan we have a prevailing family system in which multiple generations live together under one roof. It has its pros and cons. With the March 8 International Women’s Day approaching, three of my friends and I got together to brainstorm about the causes of violence to women in our families.

We are all daughters-in-law and we promised to be honest. We were all new brides at one time, so we tried to view the problem fairly through the lens of a bride, a daughter, and a mother-in-law.

We know that any bride who enters into a new family with its own lifestyle, behaviors, and understanding, needs time to become accustomed to the new environment. We decided a probationary period of at least six months is required for her to get acquainted with the new environment.

In most families, a bride is strictly observed by her new in-laws regarding the way she talks, sleeps, eats, walks, and many other things from day one, especially by the mother-in-law. Usually what happens is if any family member notices something amiss, it is relayed in a mocking way to taunt the bride. The mother-in-law remembers it and will remind the bride of it as often as possible if the topic comes up again. There are good natured mothers-in-law who will stop the other family members and tell them to be more understanding.  And there are terrible mothers-in-law who are furiously possessive of their sons and who try to create unhappiness between a son and his wife.

Joint family systems can be good if ruled with discipline and respect. A new bride normally picks up the family traditions from her new mother-in-law and father-in-law. A bride can learn things from her new family that will help her overcome shortcomings in her nature or things she learned from her father’s family. Joint family systems are supposed to operate with respect for the different relationships.

Everyone has his or her own style of addressing a problem. Sharing them is one way. After all, a family is a unit of society where we learn the beginning of good networking and social skills. Everyone in a family does not share the same mentality so one member might be a better friend than another. Good friends within a family can help a new bride avoid conflict and win over the hearts of others.

When it comes to raising the children, the joint family system is heaven because the other family members take good care of the grandchildren, no matter how poorly they may treat the mothers. Working mothers often have the benefit of family members who will take care of the children, overseeing everything—feeding, clothing, health, and hygiene. Taking children to and from school is a favorite duty for many in-laws.

And we all know that life does not stay the same forever. Whether it takes one year or five years or a decade, respect comes to those who are patient in the early years.

After our brainstorming, my friends and I made a commitment to advocate a kind-natured approach between the women in our own families.  We need to provide women with the life skills they need, as well as an awareness of the rights Islam gives to every family member, male or female. 

We decided that communication and respect are most important. But we also need to teach other things such as home decoration, personal appearance, how to deal with children, overseeing the health and hygiene of family members, taking care of the house and one’s self.  These are all important for creating positive thinking and happiness.

My friends and I have already seen some positive changes in our own families. Although we have a long way to go, we are committed to it.

A wise person once said that there comes a time in life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it.  You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good.  So love the people who treat you right, and pray for the ones who don’t.  Life is too short to be anything but happy.  Falling down is a part of life; getting back up is living.

By Saifora