Young women

Young Arabic women

The issues affecting young women and girls are primarily in the context of their bicultural identity and intergenerational tensions they may experience as they navigate across two cultures. Some issues identified by young women and girls of Arabic speaking backgrounds include:

  • Pursuit of education: The pursuit of education attainment and further/tertiary education has traditionally been subscribed to males in the Arabic speaking family, however, there are shifts in the perception of the value of education for young women in some Arabic speaking families in Australia.  You can discuss this with young women to determine their particular family circumstances and expectations around education attainment.

  • Carer duties: A highly valued duty of young women in the Arabic speaking family is in their role as carers for parents, elders and other dependent family members.  Stemming from the collectivist nature of Arab cultures is the obligation of younger family members, in particular young women, to undertake carer responsibilities in the family.  This is something that you will need to discuss with young women to whom you may be providing services and determine if this is part of their family life.

  • Sexuality and sex education: Parents of young women have expressed concerns for the sexually permissive nature of Australian society and have described sexual exploration of young women with reservation.  Young women and girls of Arabic speaking families are exposed to sex education at school and to mainstream Australian cultural expectations of their sexual exploration, which is in stark contrast to traditional cultural expectations that require sexual exploration be restricted within marital relationships.

  • Financial independence: With young women having access to welfare payments in Australia and with opportunities for employment, they may have greater opportunities for a degree of financial independence and are therefore less reliant on family for financial support.  However, this may cause tensions in family dynamics, which are frequently framed by interdependence that could require shared finances.  This is an area you will need to explore with your client and determine if this is an area of conflict or concern in her home.

  • Role models for younger siblings: Where a daughter is the eldest in the Arabic speaking family, she is expected to behave in ways that present her as a role model for her younger siblings, in particular for her younger sisters.  In this way she has a duty to be exemplary in her behaviour and to demonstrate to her younger siblings, especially her sisters, how to behave appropriately and with respect to her parents and elders in the family and the broader community. Her capacity as a role model can be instrumental in parental guidance and rearing of younger children, but presents the eldest daughter with additional pressure to meet parental expectations.

  • Expectations of marriage: Traditionally, females in Arabic speaking families are expected to marry at a younger age than in mainstream Australian culture and often marriages are arranged by older family members.  It is important to be aware that there is a distinct difference between arranged marriages and early/forced marriages – arranged marriages offer young women and men the opportunity to meet the prospective partner and to consent to the marriage. Family expectations for young women to marry is something that your client may be facing at home and may in fact be content with, but it is one of the areas that you need to explore with your client.

  • Identity as an individual: This is a broad area that encompasses many questions around identity for young people of Arabic speaking backgrounds and, in particular, for young women as their gender identity in traditional terms varies greatly to that for young women of the broader mainstream Australian culture.  Young women of Arabic speaking backgrounds have, by and large, been raised to define their identity as part of the family or the group, with prescribed duties and obligations that are part and parcel of their identity as young women. This sense of identity may shift and take on attributes of the Western individualist identity but this will vary from one young woman to another, depending on her family relationships, education, social interactions and her individual personality attributes.