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I think one doesn’t need to find her or his voice. The voice is always there. I think during one’s youth something either suppresses it for good or explodes it in the most violent way, psychologically.

I experienced the latter.

My world didn’t prepare me to have my own voice. Asking a question meant disrespect and asking too many questions could lead to scolding or punishment or both. For someone like me, it was ok to have a voice as long as I did not speak.

A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult. - Melinda Gates
A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult. – Melinda Gates (Photo credit: PATRICK FARRELL / Miami Herald)

For some time I didn’t know that I had a voice. I would blurt out my opinions, sometimes unintentionally and uncontrollably, interrupting elders or teachers. I must confess that sometimes I knew the wrath was called for, but one thing I did not know was that I had a voice.

Sometimes I would talk to myself for hours; it was my coping mechanism. Sometimes I would talk to friends, who would disregard my monologues, declaring them as mere babbles.

For a long time, even to myself, my voice seemed nothing but ceaseless babbling with few intervals of understandable thoughts. But something kept it going. No matter how stupid and dejected I felt I couldn’t stop that train of thought.

As a woman you are expected not to voice your opinions, especially about decisions that may or may not impact your life. Even in cases where you are consulted, a male voice is always there to guide your thought process to make sure you do not disturb the status quo, or the equilibrium, of your male-dominated world.

At times you end up questioning your own faculties. You may even end up growing with a peculiar sense of inferiority. You always believe you are less than other people, that your thoughts are not good enough to be expressed. Your mind is in a perpetual state of turmoil and, no matter how much you detest, you end up consulting with men, always looking for approving nods and encouraging gestures.

And while you live in this state of being a lesser person it does not even cross your mind that if you could scoop an ounce of confidence, if you could push a little harder to assert yourself, if you for once could come to terms with the fact that it is OK to be wrong, even to be stupid once in a while, and if you believe that you are not a lesser person compared to other people it could change.

You could break yourself free.


Written by Hina Ali, Twitter: @uzaam

Edited by Tayllor Lillestol


  1. I sometimes forget how difficult it is for a woman to be independent and have her own voice outside the borders of this country. I can’t imagine what it must be like growing up in a society where gender roles are so rigidly defined and speaking out goes against all the rules. Reading your story about finding your voice puts it all into perspective for me. I’m glad that you were able to push past the expectations put in front of you to find the person you always wanted to be. That must have taken incredible strength!

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