Friday, February 22, 2013
Before we offer the job, can we meet with your parents?
The last two questions of the interview were hardest for me. Mariam was the second young woman we were interviewing for an opening at the APT office, and most of the questions were pretty standard. Work experience, life vision, why do you want to work at APT? But then came the questions that I have such a hard time with.
If we offer you this job, would one of your parents be able to meet with us?
What is your marital status? Can we meet with your husband or fiancee?
Most of the young people we interview answer these questions without hesitation. Mariam was the first to question it.
I've been working for six years, she said. I support myself. Why do you need to talk to my parents?
We think it's important for your parents to know us, and us to know them. We've had trouble in the past, when a young woman came on an exposure trip with us and was met at the airport by her enraged fiancee, who hadn't given permission; we don't want that to happen again. We meet with the parents of everyone we hire, both men and women.
She glanced at me. Did you meet with Rachel's parents?
After the interview, I was talking to the others on the hiring committee. I could see why we have to ask when we take students abroad, but adults? I can't imagine an employer at home asking that; I can't imagine my reaction if they did. I love my parents, but since I turned eighteen, I haven't always even consulted them when I took a new job, much less had their permission be a requisite of taking it. Doesn't Afghanistan have an age of majority?
Technically, they told me, eighteen is the age of majority. But in practice, it doesn't work that way. Young men live with their families until they are married; their parents have a say in where they work, how they spend their evenings, not to mention who they marry. A friend of mine is a young professional, several years out of college, but he told me that even his parents still like to control whether or not he goes out in the evenings. Young women are in the same place, except that after they marry, their husbands replace their parents. Even the most independent young people I know don't ever truly have the independence that I am so accustomed to.
There's a part of me that loves the family-oriented culture, the way that children stay so close to home and such a part of their families even when they are grown and have children of their own. You wouldn't know it from how far I live from my family, but that kind of atmosphere really matters to me.
But at the same time, I ache for the young people who are trying so hard to become independent, who can't get a passport without their parents' permission, who apply at awesome jobs like APT and still get asked those interview questions.
We are relying on them to be the future of this country, but they don't yet have the freedom to even be their own future.