I know, I am a day late to write this blog but it is never too late to appreciate that deserves an applause. I have been lucky enough to see the women in all roles i.e. mother, sisters and wife. And they all share something unique. This uniqueness is about their constant quest to perform their roles while at the same time asserting their rights to be treated equally. There is a larger awareness in women as a gender class and there is a clear undercurrent that a women can do all what a man can do and biological differences cannot be a criteria to deprive them of their economic , political and social rights. Today, women are not only excelling in economic sphere but are also more vocal about their rights at home. Thus, the empowerment of women is not only limited to economic sphere but is also churning the cultural environment of the society.
Woman’s day also deserves a mention of feminist movement which has swept across the world. Any kind of discrimination can only be ended when there are concerted efforts to remove such discrimination. Feminism has played an instrumental role in highlighting the concerns of women. If not for them, the change would have have been slow and un-concerted yet surely change would still be taking place because women’s movement is not only driven by women but also by men who share their concerns. A sanguine man always understands that an empowered women is in his interest. And empowerment is not about ‘power’ but about ‘respect’. Unfortunately, in certain extremes, feminists feel that gender inequality is a ‘Political’ issue whereas it is actually a ‘mindset’ issue. A good education can definitely do more to gender empowerment than a 33 per cent reservation in legislature.
But the women’s quest to get her rights is not very smooth. It can be said that it still takes a lot of effort on the part of women to ensure that her role in home remains that of a partner rather than a housekeeper. The role of housekeeping is also undergoing de-stigmatization with men also contributing to the area of housekeeping rather than associating it with the other gender. On the other hand, the women have been successful in grabbing a pie of economic opportunities and make a cut into the ‘traditional breadwinner’ role of males. The dilution of roles associated with gender has been biggest contributor to empowerment of women and women have been smart enough to understand the importance of economic success in strengthening their position in the society.
While the mindset and value system of modern societies are changing, a lot of credit should also be given to government who have been without fail advancing the idea of women empowerment. The leaders of Indian struggle were very clear that India can only rise if its Women rise and they reposed full faith in the ladies of the house when they adopted the idea of universal adult franchise. Women were given equal rights to vote and select their government. At the same time, the laws against social evils like sati, dowry, domestic violence and sexual harassment at workplace have been instrumental in giving the Women right tools to defend herself. These laws may look draconian to a few sections of society but their value is better understood only by women who is at receiving end of harassment.
The corporations have also fully supported the cause of women empowerment by adopting values of diversity, strict anti-harassment policies and maternity leave to ensure that women are able to sustain their economic identity while continue to perform their biological functions. Shulasmith firestone, a firebrand feminist, had quite appropriately pointed out that reproduction is the sole cause of gender inequality because it leads to loss of economic identity of women and confines her to the role of child rearing. The evolution of creches, play school and maternity leave is filling that gap. A lot has been done in this area and a lot must be done. Workplaces should strive to create a better and congenial support system to ensure that there is continuity in economic life of women.
The rise of women is one of the fascinating story we all are witnessing. It is a story that is so subtle yet so influential that it is changing all the social institutions like family, government and workplaces. Whether it is role of a sarpanch or a CEO, women are fighting it hard and making their mark. This is a golden era for women and they must not let it go. They must not only strive for their equality cutting across the classes but also create a society whose foundations are not based on power struggle between genders but on the humane values of love, dignity and respect. Women’s day not only reminds us how far we have have come but also to how far we still need to go to create a world where gender is a difference that makes no difference.