I love weddings, the opportunity to catch up with old friends, put on something that is not your hiking boots and hoodie and swap the backpack for something slightly sleeker. Yet the more weddings I go to, the more I notice how stuck in the stone age we are. How unable and unwilling we are to challenge the status quo and question the tradition a little. You know, to shake it up.
I have just returned from Afghanistan which is simply heaving with the weight of expectation that was placed on it and the subsequent disappointment felt by the international community that not a huge amount has changed there. In ten years, yes, ten years, the international community wanted to see an entire overhaul of the cultures and traditions that have kept the country one of the poorest and least equal in the world. Unsurprisingly however, culture and tradition which is very deeply rooted and a part of everyone’s daily lives has, in most part, trumped intervention and development efforts.
Yet, why do we expect Afghanistan to throw off the shackles of tradition and culture when we do not do it ourselves? Some of you might not think it’s comparable because a woman abiding by tradition by taking her husband’s name or there not being a single woman given a voice during the speeches or indeed there being one man handing his daughter onto another man, is not immediately and directly hurtful, whilst keeping a woman from school is. Yet, both in the UK and in Afghanistan, the explanations for this behaviour would make some reference to honour and the fact that if everyone else is doing it, it would be foolish to do it differently, as it’s tradition, don’t you know.
For many Afghan women, to question and challenge tradition can endanger their lives. Whilst, if women here were to question and challenge tradition and actually speak at the speeches instead of being spoken on behalf of, and would suggest their husband take their surname to symbolise their new life together, the repercussions would not be quite as severe. At the very worst it would mean making some guests a little uncomfortable, but more likely, it would help us to start addressing the insidious parts of our traditions that tell us to stay quiet, lose our identity and just look pretty.