In my perception, I like to refer a woman as ‘Wo’ Man for multiple reasons. ‘Wo’ represents the one who can do wonders around her and is the best expression of God. From the evolution of earth since BC when Adam and Eve were created for each other, both woman and man have been better halves to each other.
Till now we have believed that behind every successful man, there is a woman, but today, it is other way round. Behind every successful woman too, there is a man who supports her and never leaves her side when things get rough. Feminism and women empowerment go hand-in-hand but that would stay incomplete if we don’t acknowledge what notions men have for women and their idea of empowering them.
In this article, Dr. Pragya Kaushik has sought views of men from the defence, medical, education, political and media backgrounds and tried to get their insights.
WITHOUT WOMEN THERE IS NO PROGRESS IN THE SOCIETY
Since ancient times, our nation has been a cultural heritage of civilization, culture and traditions. In Indian culture, we address our nation by the name of Bharat Mata - a symbol of how best the position of a woman is placed in our society.
Nari today is not ‘abla’ but actually ‘sabla’. With the onset of 21st century, we have seen a considerable growth in the literacy rate of girls which has surpassed boys.
In case of literacy between both the sexes, there must be a parallel arrangement. The Central Government’s “Beti bachao, beti padhao yojana” (Save daughter, educate daughter scheme) is proving to be very meaningful. Fruitful results are being received from this plan. There has been a huge increase in both female sex ratio and female education.
Women’s Economic Partnerships are constantly trying to improve the situation of women through higher education and good health. A woman belongs to two families and to do welfare for both her families, she needs to be fully able. The misconception that India is a patriarchal society also needs to be broken down completely. This has now been a talk of the past era. Women these days are well aware and are leaving no stones unturned to be at par with men.
All this is not possible without women empowerment. We have to change our perspective and give the women in our country a fair chance.
DECISIVENESS IS EMPOWERMENT
From womb to tomb, females have to suffer discrimination. The hurdles to availability of primary education, unavailability of proper transport, unequal opportunities, despite being equally good at studies and skills, are just tip of the iceberg of numerous difficulties which the girl children have to face. Thus the journey from cradle to boardroom is no cake walk. Yet a good number of them, by their persistent efforts reach at the top, in a variety of professional fields.
This journey can be made less stressful, if society lends a helping hand and provides the desired milieu of safety on roads and at workplaces. While upbringing the male children, they need to be taught, not only to give regards to their sisters but to the sisters of others as well. The shift in the discriminative attitude towards females in society is the need of the hour and shall pave the way to women empowerment. ‘Re-conditioning of Mind-set’, as I often say, requires efforts by all and one.
I feel, ‘The true empowerment of women would be reflected in their ability to take economic decisions for themselves, being able to look after their well-being, realize their dreams, educate the GenNext, thus empowering the families. And also help build a strong nation of men and women with equal rights and opportunities.’
IN THE PROGRESS OF THE SOCIETY, THE CONTRIBUTION OF WOMEN CAN’T BE IGNORED
Women almost comprise of half the world’s population. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that women also enjoy equal opportunities in all walks of life and have the freedom to make their own decisions.
In rural India, involvement of women in animal and agriculture husbandry practices is deeply appreciated at all levels but these women are not given the right of decision making and financial independence. Unless they are deeply involved in decision making at all levels, they cannot achieve the desired empowerment.
To become empowered, first and foremost is financial independence. Secondly, women should be bold enough to stand up and resist male dominance. In many cases, even if women are financially independent, they do not feel free to manage their own finances. In rural areas, because of the close society, she gets to face more struggles. Take the example of women Sarpanch: men in the family take decisions and they merely execute them. In the same manner, the women counsellors in urban areas have the same story.
It is the woman herself who needs to break the shackles and set herself free. Women have immense potential and have proved themselves to be great leaders like Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir and Mrs. Thatcher.
WE NEED TO ACCEPT WOMEN LEADERSHIP FIRST
Media generally reflects the prevailing public mood. As it seems, the present public discourse on the subject is more around women safety than empowerment. A crime against women is seen more as failure of criminal justice system than skewed social system where woman is perceived as an easy prey and often held responsible for her victimization. The root cause is biased parenting where sons are pampered as family inheritors and daughters are barely tolerated till they are married off.
Today I ask, is the country ready for women leadership? India has a long history of women scholars, rulers, leaders and even Goddesses. Does the corporate world see women in the same light?
Corporate world is evolving as skilled women in large numbers enter the job market every year. Laws are changing rules of engagements but corporate sector has to go a long way in giving women equal wages, safe workplaces and responsive work environment.
Education and job opportunities in urban areas make it easier for women here to be indendent and self-reliant. Women in rural areas, however, remain by and large homebound or bogged in ill-physical state.
However, it is a good thing in the direction of women’s empowerment that the rate of female literacy has increased rapidly.
WOMEN'S ABILITY TO QUESTION/REASON AND TO GIVE CONSENT/DISSENT MAKES THEM EMPOWERED
In his famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens described his epoch as, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I believe the same for women empowerment - it is the best of times and the worst of times for women. The good times are indicated by various factors like financial autonomy, freedom of movement, political participation, and exposure to media and access to education etc. which shows that women in India are in a better position. They are more empowered today since they have the right to express themselves.
Today women are empowered with the freedom to question and reason and in turn, freedom to consent and dissent. The sense of empowerment comes when a person is allowed to rationally reason out issues. The spiritual grounding and incredible heritage of India is such that women are able to swim against the grain. Indian culture has always been open to debate and discussions and has answered all the curious souls whether it is Draupadi, Shakuntala, Sita, Gargi, Maitreyi, Kalpana Chawla, Indira Nooyi and Chhavi Rajawat. As part of this rich cultural heritage, our ancestors have always encouraged to question and rationalize all the issues that bother us.
The way forward for women empowerment actually lies in our past and thus, it is my firm belief that the best of times are yet to be achieved by womankind.
THE STATE OF WOMEN REPRESENTS AN EMPOWERED COUNTRY
Women are the most wonderful blessings of GOD. We need to look at them beyond periods and pregnancy. They are often side-lined from the main stream due to their biological compulsions, especially in the field of Media. But today's Hima Das, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, Deepa Karmaka and many from army have out shadowed male stars of popular sports. This is being women! We need to believe in them. They have the capabilities to do better multitasking than most of the males. Society needs to change its outlook towards them and understand that their biological existence is mere extension of man’s evolution but their will is an unexplored universe where man is just a small star.
EMPOWERMENT MEANS FREEDOM, FREEDOM MEANS POWER
Women Empowerment means absolute freedom. In any given society, women are treated as object of control. History has witnessed that in a war torn region, atrocities on women and children are the first war crimes. Empowering women is easy at all. They have to climb the ladders of patriarchal mind-sets, societal security, educational challenges, religious confinement and symbolism to be here.
But the battle is not over yet. There are grey shades of society that still control their freedom. Dowry, witch hunting, stereotypes roles, honour killing, poor education are some of the roadblocks to women empowerment.
Empowerment means freedom and freedom is power. Sharing powers of democracy politically is the real freedom.
Unless we welcome and respect women in political setup, all the meanings of empowerment are just a lip service.
I hope everyone in our society will accept and contribute towards this transformation.