Women empowerment no threat to men
Women empowerment no threat to men, women against farmer’s suicides, Chukka Ramaiah. Equality’, just like ‘freedom’ and ‘self-esteem’ is a concept....
On the 6th of this month, I attended a protest demonstration held by women against farmer’s suicides. Most of them were in one way or the other surviving victims of the tragedies, ignored or exploited and left out of the main stream after a paltry sum of ‘compensation’ was sprinkled on them. Is there nothing else these women and their families deserve? Isn’t there something more we can do for the dependents, who are like fish out of water? Is it human to wash off our hands by providing a mere compensation instead of providing rehabilitation? Just as we have rehabilitation programmes for victims of natural calamities like cyclones, tsunamis, quakes, etc., why don’t we think of the victims of these disasters too? When the sole bread winner of a family dies, leaving behind unpaid debts, humiliation and loss, it is the women whose lives become living hell. It does not count anymore whether they belong to a forward caste or a backward caste. Can’t we come forward to provide some vocational training to the widows, education for their children by admission to good hostels and financial support and security for their girls till marriage?
This week, after reading so many articles on women and their rights as well as needs and the way the international women’s day is being celebrated in our country, and after visiting this protest meet by women on March 6, my thoughts naturally got focused on this area. I know that the times and technology are highly in favour of the ideals like equality and empowerment we dream of and the only thing we need to reach them is a better understanding of the needs, proper planning and commitment.
‘Equality’, just like ‘freedom’ and ‘self-esteem’ is a concept. It is an abstract idea. None can define and state what exactly makes one feel empowered. If wealth, employment and education were to make women empowered, how is it that we still see domestic violence on the increase both among the rich as well as the middle income groups, the sense of insecurity on the rise both within and without their four walls? It reiterates the bitter truth that these ideals or concepts have not yet been transferred into our day to day reality. What the society and the nation must do is to provide equal opportunities in education, health, economy,governance etc. so that the hitherto marginalised or neglected may develop and become competent enough to merge in the main stream and contribute for the nation’s development willingly and happily.
By the way, just as there is an underlying synthetic approach which one should not ignore while thinking of all round progress, there is an irrefutable link between what one experiences in a mother’s womb; what one feels as a child at home; what kind of education one receives as a school goer; what choices one makes if one has the freedom to make as an aspiring teenager and later as an adult, regarding higher education, choosing a life partner, earning and spending ones earnings etc., and the proportion of the sense of freedom, equality and empowerment an individual experiences within. So, celebrating the girl child day, women’s day, mother’s day and all other days marked to remember and retrospect our contributions for the betterment of the disadvantaged in multiple aspects are all part of a chain which we need to be conscious of. Inequality engulfing the girl child is a vast problem which includes many areas like inequality in her birth, education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, protection, honour, child marriage and so many more. A healthy and happy mother bears a healthy child, a happy childhood in a congenial environment leads to proper development in all physical, mental and emotional areas resulting in a positive, self-confident woman for the future.
The reason why I say that changing times bring changes in opportunies is that the current ‘knowledge era’ has greatly enhanced the avenues for women’s participation in employment and contribution to economic progress. When our economy was primarily agriculture-based, as in the 19th century, importance was for muscular power in employment and in the industrial era that followed, it was semi-muscular power, but now, the service sector which gives importance to mind power has gradually wiped off the gender barriers and stressed only on intelligence, higher order thinking skills, etc. Now, we know that we do not yet have adequate number of women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research and technology sector and many of them are still confined to second and third level jobs only. While it is appreciable that we now have women in top positions in the banking sector, as CEOs of international companies, governance, and administration and even in space research, their percentage is truly insignificant and it is the rarity that makes them conspicuous! They are right now countable and what we need is that the numbers should grow into a stream and an invincible force, strengthening themselves, their families and the nation by contributing their unique styles of execution, problem solving, etc. Excellence of mind and excellence in performance have no gender discrimination and it is for us to shed the blinds and see the truth. As long as we see the movement for women empowerment as a competition between genders and as a threat to men, we miss the basic truth that the two genders have different abilities, that they can always complement each other and it is through this alone that equality and holistic progress is possible.
The SSA and RTE Act are tools that can empower the girl child. It starts with the moral responsibility on every parent/guardian to admit their children to school. To improve the results we need to implement the strong legislation outlawing child labor, gender-based violence, and harassment of girls, provide residential facilities, transport and other incentives to attract qualified female teachers to particularly rural and remote schools, address safety issues of girls, construct gender-friendly classrooms and separate toilets. Once these youngsters grow into college-going age, do we need special women’s universities if the courses offered there are no different from those in the other universities? Definitely not. If the focus could be on transformative learning and research, training and retraining women, develop special modules on sustainable development which reach out to our rural populace, there would be greater benefit from such special universities. By March 2015, by the time we look back on our achievements on women’s day, I wish that we would progress considerably at least in some of the areas and extend better support to the underprivileged.
(The writer is noted educationist and former MLC. He can be reached at [email protected])