I am a 17-year-old girl studying in A-levels and desperately need your help. I feel suffocated in my house and there are a lot of reasons behind this. Over the course of time, my brother has become very controlling of many things, some of which I respect but others are just lame. An example of this behaviour is him cutting off the internet connection. He is my eldest brother so my mom supports him because of my father’s illness. We are six siblings and all are educated. He believes that educating women is useless, even though he is a well-educated person himself. I don’t think I can live like this. He has a problem with everything and there is no one to stop him. Please tell me how to deal with him so he doesn’t disrupt my life in the future. Please, this is really serious and I am extremely depressed and cannot focus on my studies.
While it may be tempting to challenge your brother’s beliefs, it would be better to think about the issues with a cool mind and have a strategy about how to deal with him. For starters, try to keep lines of communication with your brother open. For this you need to understand where he is coming from — and it is not a bad place.
‘My brother believes educating women is useless’
If your father is unwell, your brother has probably taken on a lot of responsibilities towards the family. He is still young and is probably trying to do his best to be the responsible one. What he is doing, is out of love. Even though he is going about it the wrong way. How,ever you decide to approach this issue, please keep this in mind that your brother’s intentions are good; don’t doubt him. For starters, get your siblings on-board and let your brother know that you appreciate all that he is doing for the family. Show him in small ways, by saying ‘thank you’ frequently for all the things that he is doing which you said you 'respect' in your letter.
It sounds like your family is educated. Could it be that your brother is feeling the pinch financially, now that your father is unwell? Perhaps that is where these radical ideas are coming from. In any case, broach the things that bother you about him such as the subject of women’s education. Avoid attacking him regarding his views. Look for opportunities to draw his attention to situations that you can talk about. For instance, if you come across the story of a woman who took on her family’s responsibilities, mention that it would have been extremely difficult if she were not educated and how no one knows what is in store for them in life. You can also draw his attention to how an educated woman is better able to take care of her family. Educated women are more likely to encourage their children to get educated, more likely to get them immunised, more likely to follow any instructions a doctor gives them, less likely to be abused and this is just the beginning of a long list. It may feel outrageous to have to explain to anyone why women’s education is important, however, breathe and avoid arguing and challenging his beliefs head on.
At the same time keep talking to your mother about how you are worried about your brother’s beliefs and ask her to also support you.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, January 12th, 2020