This story happened really long time back, but it is still very relevant, its powerful story about women empowerment.
Girls were taught to cook, to take care of the family, and then married off. Studying was off-limits to girls. In those times, there lived a girl. She was a little different. She always had lots of questions in her mind.
When she was little, her mother wanted her to learn cooking. The girl asked her mother, “Why should I learn to cook?”
Mother said, “So that you can feed yourself when required.”
The girl said “Fair enough”, and learned to cook.
After some time, her mother wanted to teach her household work.
The girl again asked, “Why?”
Mother said “So that you can be self-dependent.”
The girl said “Fair enough!”, and she learned the household chores.
Then one day, her parents told her that they will be marrying her off soon.
She asked, “Why?”
“Because all girls get married at this age.” Said the parents. “Everyone does, and so should I? That’s not a good reason. I am not going to get married.”
The girl’s determination surprised her parents. Other parents could have forced the girl into marriage, but her parents didn’t. So, now the girl had enough time in hands. As her father was a teacher, she joined her father’s academy. There she learned several hymns and their meanings. She asked her questions and learned even more. Soon, she surpassed her father in knowledge.
One day, an invitation arrived.
It was from the king. The invitation was for the brightest scholar in the academy. As it happened, the king wanted to compile all the knowledge in the universe into books. To get the inputs, he had invited scholars and philosophers from all over the world.
There was a discussion in the academy about who to send for this conference. After a lot of thought, they all agreed that the girl is the brightest scholar in the academy. So, the girl was sent to the conference.
When the girl reached the conference venue, she was taken aback by the grandeur. She noticed a large number of men, but hardly any women among the delegates.
She climbed the Dias to take her seat. Suddenly, there was huge uproar — people in the audience were staring at her.
“A woman, who thinks she can sit on the scholars’ panel? The King
“Preposterous!” Screamed someone.
“Look at her clothes, so provoking. I don’t think she is female of good reputation.” declared another.
“Stop her! It’s a sin against god.”
Everybody looked at the king for a solution.
The king pondered for a moment.
“Girl, there is some misunderstanding. A woman can’t sit on the scholars’ panel, unless she is accompanied by a man.”
“Pardon me, Your Grace! But I was invited to join the discussion.” Said the Girl.
“I don’t remember inviting you.” said the King.
“You sent the invitation for the brightest scholar in my academy. I am the brightest in my academy. On the invite there was nothing about only male scholars being allowed.” Answered the girl.
The king gave little chuckle.
“You have made a good point. I have no objection.” Said the king.
“But I don’t think a woman can join the discussion.” Murmured one of the women in the audience.
“Why?” Asked the girl.
“You will not feel comfortable around so many men” answered another woman.
“I have no problem — my focus is on my work, not men”.
“You don’t have to do this. You are not bad looking, you can marry some wealthy gentleman.” advised one elderly.
The girl ignored him.
“Let us have a discussion. If the scholars have objections, they can debate with her. If she wins, she can join the panel.” Said the king. Several liked the solution. They were sure that the girl will be humiliated by scholars. The scholars on the Dias discussed among themselves, and selected an elderly scholar as their representative.
“So, by joining the discussion, what you want to prove? That women are better than men?” Asked the elderly scholar.
“No, sir. I don’t want to prove anything. I am here to join the discussion, to quench my thirst for the knowledge. Like all of you.” Said the girl, fearlessly.
“But greater knowledge is not for women.” Said the elderly scholar.
“I beg your pardon, sir, but why?” Asked the girl.
“Because female intellect is weaker than men.” Said the elderly scholar.
“Says who, sir?”
“It is written in the hymns.”
“May I ask, who wrote those hymns?”Asked the girl.
“The hymns were written by our forefathers.” Said the elderly scholar.
“By forefathers you mean, our male ancestors?” Asked the girl, again.
“Yes, of course. By our male ancestors.” Said the elderly scholar.
“How did our forefathers know that women have weaker intellect?”
“They noticed” said the elderly scholar, irritated.
“But how, my lord? Give me an example, how did they notice?” asked the girl again.
“I don’t remember.” Said the elderly scholar.
“Doesn’t matter. Why don’t any of you scholars ask me questions to prove my weaker intellect.”
Many scholars thought of asking her questions, but feared seeing her immense confidence.
“You ask too many questions, girl!” shouted the elderly scholar. He was furious.
The atmosphere was tense.
“Sir, answer her. Why is a female’s intellect weaker than a male’s?” said the king.
“I need to study, Your Grace, to come up with an example.” Said the elderly scholar.
“Then I can’t stop her from joining the scholars’ panel. She has come here on her own merit. I will allow her to sit on the panel until you come up with a convincing example” said the king.
People were still doubtful about girl’s worthiness. But as the discussion progressed, all doubts vanished.
Days passed. The girl took part in several discussions, asked many questions and answered many others. Other scholars were astonished by her brilliance.
When the final draft of the book was compiled, many hymns which were composed by the girl were included.
Nobody knows for sure what happened to the girl thereafter.
Some say, she constructed a book of her own hymns. Some say, she opened an academy for girls. Different people, different stories. But everybody agrees that the girl “who asked why” became the first female scholar.