‘Do not go to the park as your brother would not like it, this is not America’, my mother scolded me when I insisted on visiting a nearby park. ‘Your elder sisters have never been stubborn like you. They’ve always done whatever their brothers or husbands asked them to do’, my mother was very angry. ‘I want to go there’, I murmured but my mother’s reaction was so annoying that I had to follow her instructions immediately.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Asma and I have recently come back from the U.S. after completing my one and a half year long fellowship program with a Washington-based non-profit, Atlas Corps.

My mother’s reaction unintentionally dragged me towards my days spent in the United States during the fellowship program. There, I was living in an apartment in Washington D.C. near the Water Front area while the Potomac River was just in front of my house.

When my mother stopped me from going out, all of the sudden I felt as I am in a prison where I have to seek the permission of the male members of my family whenever I need to go out of the house. 'What is so bad about going to the public park?' I questioned my mother. But instead of my mother, my brother said quickly, ‘I think you forgot that you are in Pakistan now, where the girls have to bear insulting comments, attitude and harassment when they go out. Being a brother, I cannot tolerate that my sister is being victimized by the dirty vulgar comments when she goes out’, my brother almost yelled at me.

Now it has been two months in Pakistan for me. and during these 60 days, every day I question myself, why I am here and why I came back to a place where I am not being treated as a human being made of flesh and bones... Am I just a symbol of honor and respect for the male members of my family while they do not care whether I am happy with this discriminatory behavior or not? Frankly speaking, I have become almost a mental patient now.

Those one and a half years spent in the U.S. showed me that the women are also human beings who have the rights to study, work, and make their own plans of life. I travelled alone to Niagara Falls, California, Hawaii, Richmond, New York and other states of the U.S. but I never felt insecure or apprehensive. Safe Way, America’s famous grocery store was located very close to my house and I still remember that sometimes even after 10 pm at night, I went alone to the store to buy my stuff. 7-Eleven, a popular chain of convenience stores was located at 25 minutes walking distance from my house and I used to go there for my favorite coffee sometimes after 11 pm. I am even ready to swear that during my stay in the U.S, I never heard cheap comments. Nobody chased me or offered a lift in his car.

Two days back, my aunt visited me and inquired, ‘how was your overall stay in U.S? You must be thankful now that you are back to Pakistan among your own people. You are a first class citizen here’. I just looked straight into her eyes and said these words, 'I am not a human being now. I am just a puppet. May be Asma is no more alive'…