Social Jogi
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Social Jogi

The Celebration of Masculinity on the day of Feminity

Me of all colors and customs (Photo Provided by the Author)

It’s early morning in Sri Lanka. This was just another usual day for me. I checked everything in my research kit once again for the 99th time. I made sure I am good to go, got in the car with my fiancé, and there I started my journey towards fun but an adventurous ride.

I am Ahalya. I am a Coastal Ecologist. This is my story I work with mangroves. Their ecology, dynamics, and carbon sequestration. I travel around mangrove forests to study them, report them, taken sediment samples and then analyze them. It may look a tad easier to say but it just an exhausting job to do in real life. With my love for one of the most beautiful environments in the world, I always try to put my sweat behind me. But I work in a community full of literate and illiterate people. This post is about an instance where I realized not everyone sees what is it for a woman to be in a challenging field!

My aim is to study mangroves on the Trincomalee coast ( East of Sri Lanka) and take sediment cores. Just a picture of the sampling strategy; we have to make transects, take augers to push it towards the soil 50 cm deep, and take out soil cores. A burdensome hands-on job for a single person but I am always accompanied by my fiancé. We have to take boats to reach the interiors of the mangrove forest. My man is always a socializer (total opposite of me) so in between trips he talks to people and the skipper just for safety issues mainly. Apart from that other conversations are just quotes that address human norms. The gist would be like this:

Skipper: What do you do with this soil?
Ahalya: We take to the lab, clean this, and test it
Skipper: Like testing for dirt
Ahalya: Yeah. Something like that
Skipper: You take sample only here
Ahalya: Yes. For the time I will take only this place.
Skipper: Ohh. A lot of people come to this place to study. This is a very famous place. But some people do fishing here too. Is it good for fish?
Ahalya: Yes. Fish juveniles live inside the mangrove roots. Well, practically crabs and shrimps too. They reproduce in here and the young ones live for a certain time beneath the mangrove roots. Like we stay at home before going to school.
Skipper: Ohh… That’s why!
Ahalya: Yeah.
Skipper: Where do you work? Are you from an NGO? or a government institute?
Ahalya: No. I am a lecturer at the Ocean University of Sri Lanka. I teach about hmm… coastal resources and how to protect them.
Skipper: Colombo?
Ahalya: Yes. In Colombo.
Skipper: How old are you?
Ahalya: Uhh twennnty nine
Skipper: Are you married?
Ahalya: Not yet
Skipper: Yeah these days ladies are not getting married at the right time. A lot of University students are marrying late and having problems. Marriage is important
Ahalya: That depends on their desire, right? Some girls want to study, some girls want to marry.
Skipper: No miss. If girls study a lot, they have to marry boys with better qualifications than them. It means more dowry and parents sometimes can’t afford it.
Ahalya: They are totally different topics, I guess
Skipper: Because of these problems girls who study keep on studying and they don't care about being single
Ahalya: That is not true for all the girls.
Skipper: Miss study a lot. Who will you marry? It is hard to find a guy for you
Ahalya: (pointing at my fiancé) He is the one I am going to marry. Like all the other girls I do want to marry, create a family, and have kids, and whatnot. I am too a normal girl
Skipper: Ohhh…!(awkward chuckle)I thought you make a good couple Miss. Nice

Sediment Core (Photo By the Author)
Sediment sampling in the Mangrove forests of Sri Lanka (Photo provided by the Author)

Dealing with folklores
The takeaway from the story was nothing but a personal imprint. I was always a career-oriented person. Most women are. But they don't sabotage their family or the societal norms. At least it is a choice for them to make when people drive through some misconceptions like the skipper I talked to.

I am a researcher, an academic, a conservationist in my field of science. Buy doesn't mean that my family life is at stake. I am engaged to someone who loves me and my work more than I do, and we will get married soon and have kids and build up a family. But it doesn't mean I have to give on my career once I am married. Still, my job title stays.

Compromises
I love what I do but I don't have to compromise my personal life to do be successful in my career. At least I’ve got a partner who doesn't expect me to do so. Well, in that case, I thought Women’s day is not only to put the women in the front line but also to the men behind them, supporting them, acknowledging them, prioritizing them. As a father, as a brother, as a boyfriend, as a husband, or as a friend. They deserve a special place too.

Men who are worthy
Don’t get me wrong here. It is very uncommon seeing that men are celebrated for such a thing. Women used to be kept inside bedrooms and kitchen not as a person but more like a doll. Today, we, women are landing on the moon and diving deep into the ocean. 100 years before such a thing would have been daunting. But today it is reality. All I am trying to bring up is that appreciation should be given to the person who made it possible (despite the gender) as much as we appreciate the one in the lead. One appreciation would open up portals for many opportunities around the world.

Warm wishes to me and my fellow women out there trying their best to bring a change in this society. Together we rise…!

Hope you find this article informative! Thank you for reading!

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