WOMEN EMPOWERMENT-A NOVEL PERSPECTIVE
On the eve of International Women’s Day, we are once again reminded of the need to celebrate womanhood with full fervour. Various organizations and communities organize events to mark this day. Women achievers are invited and honoured for their achievements. The guests speak about their journey and on various issues affecting women, the most common being women empowerment. Primarily so because empowerment of women is considered as the most appropriate solution to the various gender inequalities prevalent in society. To have a better perspective of the whole thing, we need to first know a little about the origins of this day. In the year 1908, around 15,000 women marched through New York demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote. So what started as a labour movement in America, slowly spread to other countries of the world and culminated into the United Nations officially recognizing women’s day in 1977.
Conventionally women’s day themes have revolved around creating awareness about women’s issues – be it related to education, health, family planning, economic, political and the like. However we need to understand what exactly we mean by empowerment. In a way talking about the lack of empowerment among most women is akin to conceding to the fact that women are lesser than men. Why should we talk of women empowerment? Why don’t men ever talk of male empowerment? Why are men not made a part of most women’s day events? The precise reason is that we have come to believe that men are part of the problem rather than thinking of them as part of the solution. We are running a mad race to become equal to men - when actually women are superior to men. Women are creators – God has given women the power to create life, to give birth to a child, which men don’t have. So why do women have to consider themselves as inferior. We are made to feel ashamed of menstruation, which is a normal bodily function. Why at all we have to think so. I feel more than men making women feel ashamed of menses, it is other women who do so for example an elderly female in the family imposing her menstrual notions on the younger generation.
We need to understand that we are born with such a power from God that there is no reason to first feel inferior and then run a race to become equal to men. The whole idea seems distorted. Women are unique in more ways than men. Women can wear male clothing while the other way is not true. Women can play most roles that men can while that is not true the other way round. At workplace and at home too, women can multitask better than men. So why this feeling of insecurity? This partly has its roots in history where in kingdoms often went to war with each other to assert their supremacy and while men fought wars, women had to be protected against the aggressor. This slowly transformed into male dominance and insecurity among the women. Times have changed and women are taking up leadership roles. Insecurity should rather be replaced with pride and self esteem. This in turn would come from self-awareness of one’s true potential. It is often seen that at home as well at the work place, most men are more supportive of women rather of women being supportive of each other. Why is the notion that women don’t get along well with each other prevalent and that women experience jealousy and insecurity among themselves – though exceptions are always there -? Why is the same not said about men? We need to seriously ponder over it and introspect that are women also to some extent part of the problem? Men and women are like two scales of a balance. That is how God has created the genders, given each a set of common abilities and certain peculiar abilities. Why don’t we take pride in the peculiar abilities that women possess? For example, women are generally more emotional and sensitive and thus referred to as the weaker sex. Why not consider sensitivity as a virtue, a sign of courage rather than fragility. It is about changing perspectives.
Times have changed and we need to acknowledge the fact that women are making great strides in all fields, without ignoring the gender inequalities still prevalent in many parts of the world. The focus needs to shift from negatives to the positives. Girls and women are coming out of the closet. We hear of teenagers like Greta Thunberg taking a stand on climate change and making the world leaders listen. Kamala Harris created history by becoming the first female Vice President of the United States of America. Recently Estonia- a small European nation has become the only country in the world to be led by elected women. Here the President and the Prime Minister, both are women and both are elected by the people. The COVID-19 pandemic experience has also shown that countries with female heads of government were more effective in controlling the pandemic and these countries took more stringent measures.
Research has shown that when women are involved in leadership roles in peace agreements, these tend to last longer and are more acceptable. Closer home, India is witnessing farmers protests. Women have played their part in these protests both on the ground at the protest sites, as well as back home by taking on the roles of their male members who are away to the protest sites. Can men be protesting at the Delhi borders if their better halves would not be there to look after the fields?
Punjab has recently held the elections to urban local bodies in which there was 50% reservation for women. This is a welcome step that enables many deserving and interested women to participate in the political process. However at certain times it is seen that just to fulfill the condition of 50%, female members of the household who have little interest in politics are made to stand for elections in place of their male counterparts and in case they win, it is the male who de facto runs the office. Clearly, just providing electoral quotas does not serve the whole purpose of truly empowering women, though it does provide a platform initially.
What is more important is to focus on creating skills among women. It is about providing the right kind of education, recognizing the area of interest, acquiring the requisite skill base in that field and then there would be no looking back. True empowerment would be achieved if quotas were complimented with the required skill base to do justice to the concerned filed. And while doing so, a gender-neutral approach has to be followed, without attributing certain skills to a certain gender. It is often observed that while inside homes, it is usually the women who cook while some of the world’s best chefs are male; though now women are excelling in the hospitality sector also. This clearly shows that no particular skill can be exclusively considered to be the domain of one gender only. It is more about training the brain to perform.
So to conclude if women are worshipped, women are creators, then certainly they cannot be the weaker sex. In fact women are the better halves to men. They are better than men in more ways than one. Feminity is a virtue, which should be carried gracefully, with poise rather than becoming part of the mad race without applying one’s mind on what exactly is desired.
State Tax Officer, Punjab and Author of the book “Covid-19:A Pandemic”
(The views expressed are personal)
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