Giving a voice to womanhood – It’s Time to Change

A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.  Henrik Ibsen, From Ibsen’s Workshop

What is womanhood? I sometimes wonder. Is it all about nurturing the society and taking nothing in return ? A woman gives birth to princes, kings and leaders then why is she regarded as inferior to man? Have we not been too judgemental and biased towards women? Yes and it is time to change!

Mother nature provides us with all that we need to survive on this planet, yet when she takes a violent and ravaging form like in earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones – we are all aware about the destruction she can bring about. Are we not pushing womanhood too much and should begin to expect its wrath as well?

Child marriage and Sati have been two evils of the Indian society. While the latter has been abolished, the former continues to be rampant even today. 10-12 year old girls are married off by families to men almost 3 times their age and most of these girls end up being victims of human trafficking finally. There are laws that prohibit child marriage, yet it continues unperturbed. You are aware of it, I am aware of it- Is it not time to change?

Countries where Child marriage is practised. Source: UNICEF

To make matters worse, female foeticide is even more rampant in our country. There are special clinics that operate just for this purpose. If we look at states in Northern India, the sex ratio is heavily skewed- Why are we doing it? Why is she so inferior that she can’t even see the light of the day?

Left: An estimate of dowry rates in Indian state of Andhra Pradesh; Right: A dowry victim. Source: Google

The lucky few who are able to see the light of the day face another major challenge: The challenge is dowry. In order to compensate that she is inferior to man, her parents must pay her groom  and this amount just has no limits ! In case her parents are unable to pay, she has to face domestic violence and may even have to die for it.

And what about those who decide to defy the odds and take up a career oriented role –  They are the ones who are facing the threat of harassment at workplace. In case they work till late hours, one just needs to see the increasing number of gang rapes happening across India (especially NCR) to just understand the challenges facing modern career oriented woman today.

Source:The Hindu

I think its more than enough for things to change.

Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla, Indra Nooyi, the list can go on. Each of these extraordinary women achieved what many of their counterpart men could only aspire to achieve. The only difference between them and millions of others is that they got the opportunity to make the difference. So should the girl child not get the right opportunities? 

Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, Pepsico is one of the few women to have broken the corporate glass ceiling

Even in organisations , there is an unsaid glass ceiling that prevent women from reaching the very top of the organisation hierarchy and there are very few who actually manage to break that ceiling. I conducted an online survey to find out the views of people in this regard in the age group of 18-30 and received 452 responses. 85% of the respondents felt that they would prefer having a woman co-worker in the team while 15% felt otherwise. 35% of the respondents felt women do not have equal opportunity to men and 50% of respondents felt that gender bias towards women was the major cause of women not reaching the top. The respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of girl child education with 93% voting in favour of it. Interestingly 27% of the respondents felt that housewife is most suited role for women (40% among male respondents). The survey had almost equal number of male and female respondents with 53% male and 47% female respondents.

 While it was positive to note that 85% of respondents would prefer to have a woman co-worker , the gender bias seems to continue with 40% of male respondents preferring women as housewife and not career oriented.

Stayfree recently launched a campaign that talks about this change. If we look at the advertisement campaign of Stayfree-Time to Change campaign- it highlights two important things:

1. If society has to change , we must ourselves act

2. The spirit of modern woman and her desire to create change.Perhaps we should all recognize this spirit and give the woman an equal chance to grow.

The almighty created men and women as equal custodians of the human society and it is about time that we restore the balance.

The question is :How to achieve it ? I would suggest the following steps-

1. The need for the hour is to create public awareness and bring about the change in the mindset of the people. 
2. Educating the girl child should be made a national priority.
3. Those perpetrating violence (Physical or Mental) should be brought to justice and trials should be conducted using fast track courts.
4. Raising the minimum age for marriage to 21 for girls
5. Parents of girl child who pursues higher studies would get economic benefits like subsidized food prices, cooking oil or guaranteed employment for the child if they belong to below poverty line.
6. Adopting a representation policy of at least 25% for girls in the education system
7. Violence against women should be treated at par with murder and abatement to suicide.

More and more women are pursuing higher education and taking up career oriented roles in urban areas and the numbers are rising at a good rate. Even higher education institutes like IIMs are increasingly looking to intake more women in their MBA programs. Is the gender bias finally coming to a halt? Perhaps it is too early to tell, but nevertheless it offers a glimmer of hope. The onus is on us to create a just and equal society for generations to come. The goal therefore is to Be a human and become a voice of change !

Food for thought: I wrote this article as a human and intend to become a voice of change. Are you joining me in my endeavour ? 

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Giving a voice to womanhood – It’s Time to Change

by Abhirup Bhattacharya time to read: 5 min
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