“The kind of equality, independence and liberty women in the US have is incomparable to the limited amount of opportunities in Bangladesh,” Erum Hamid said.
Erum Hamid worked hard to get into Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she’s studying finance and economics. Born in India and raised in Bangladesh, the 21-year-old grew up in a part of the world where women are routinely placed in arranged marriages and working outside the home is discouraged.
“I grew up in a community where a woman’s worth is determined through her degree and qualifications, but if she puts efforts into pursuing her dreams she is considered a fast woman for the patriarchal society,” Hamid said. And, when a woman stays home to have a family, “no one acknowledges the efforts it takes to raise the next generation of leaders and innovators.”
Despite that culture, a strong and independent Hamid said she was encouraged to follow her dreams by her mother, who worked at Citi Bank in the 1990s, and, after marrying and having children, earned a master’s degree.
“My mother has given me the same opportunity to fulfill my dreams and wishes. Anything she was unable to accomplish in life, she encourages me to pursue it,” Hamid said. “Whether it was art school, self-defense classes or coaching, I was raised to be a confident young woman who would have the courage to pursue her dreams when she was ready.”
There were a mere 36 people in Hamid’s high school graduating class. She knew then she was destined for something beyond what Bangladesh could offer.
“When I chose to come to Drexel, I was the only girl traveling across the world to fulfill her dreams,” she said.
In November, Hamid will vote in her first presidential election. She was a US citizen at birth because her father gained his citizenship after he worked in America for many years.
She’s looking forward to voting in such an important election.
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“He always put in my mind that America was a land of opportunities for someone who was seeking them,” Hamid said of her father, now a successful businessman in Bangladesh.
While Bangladesh is a developing nation and opportunities for women are improving, Hamid said, “the kind of equality, independence and liberty women in the US have is incomparable to the limited amount of opportunities in Bangladesh.”
Hamid makes no secret of who she intends to vote for. It won’t be the incumbent.
Hamid found President Donald Trump’s comments about Philadelphia during his first debate with former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden very hurtful. Trump said, “very bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
“That’s my home and to hear the leader of our country say something so outrageously ridiculous without a cause or reason makes me upset,” Hamid said.
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The university student said she’s never experienced anything but acceptance. “I have never faced any form of unjust remarks or comment in the city of Philadelphia, ‘the city of brotherly love,’” she said.
More concerned about her education, Hamid said she’s never paid a lot of attention to politics—until now.
“I’ve started looking at politics in a different light…there is so much I have learned through conversations and watching interviews, reading, etc.,” said Hamid. Among her strongest objections to Trump are his views on immigrants.
“Doanld Trump has said multiple times in his speeches that the immigrants are stealing jobs away from US citizens and some US citizens have come to believe it,” said Hamid, a Muslim. Expressing her “strong disagreement,” Hamid said she’s worked hard to attend Drexel and “do well for the US economy. I only hope that I am returned an opportunity to live a comfortable life in the US.”
While she’s deeply appreciative of the freedoms the US affords her, Hamid said, her view of the country has changed.
“We who come from smaller patriarchal societies and conservative cultures are those who viewed the opportunities given to women in the US as a ‘beacon of hope,’” she said.
But today, she said, she sees “the deep-rooted issues of this country and the kind of social injustice American communities have been dealing with makes me upset that the USA can no longer be viewed as a land of opportunities.”