Today, the International Women’s Day is being celebrated all around the globe. Since morning, I have seen various status updates on Facebook by women wishing the day to other women, as well as men appreciating women in their lives. Through a colleague, I also found out that there’s special discount offer on some clothing brands for women as it’s their day. Some women are given a day off at work and some are appreciated for their efforts at work through gifts and hand written notes. And here I am, sitting and thinking if this is all this day is meant for. I can bet that there are a large number of women for whom this day is no different than any other day. And no one really cares about what importance this day holds – including many women.
As you may be aware, this day is celebrated globally to acknowledge the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women and is about celebration, reflection, advocacy and action, both locally and at a global level. But do you know what the theme of this day in 2016 is? Pledge for Parity! Why? That’s because the progress towards gender equality has slowed down in the last few years. Sigh! I wonder how long it would take for women to be accepted as individuals who have different capabilities and dreams. Not all of them are meant to follow same pattern in life as it has been set by society since ages. While many would argue that things have changed for women in today’s era, it is disheartening to see that the 2014 prediction of World Economic Forum about achieving global gender parity till 2095 has been proven wrong just a year after.
So what is expected of everyone to do to put this progress on fast pace again? Promise yourself to make at least one woman’s life easier by either helping her achieve her life goals or by supporting her while she faces any societal hurdles. If nothing else, the max you can do is to respect the differences. It’s not too hard- is it? Well, my personal experience tells me that in our society, while many women are working towards building up a strong support system for fellow women, in order to be able to empower the female community, a large number of women play a very important role in building barriers for other women, forcing them to follow the same life patterns as were followed by women in the past. Therefore, before we address this issue at a global level, I feel there’s a dire need to address this issue locally. There’s a need to educate women to empower fellow women and help them as and when needed. If you couldn’t achieve something in life and feel unfulfilled then help another woman achieve her goals, and the inner satisfaction that you’ll feel is going to be beyond your imagination.
Look inside your own house. Is there a woman you see around who could have achieved so much in life and yet is unable to do so just because you bound her to the chains of societal norms and what you felt was the right thing to do as this is how it has always been? Is there a woman who comes to clean your house every day and brings her daughter along who wishes to study and be someone as empowered as you are? Have you ever tried to help her study? Is there a woman in your house who wanted to be a pilot but you told her to be a doctor because that is a profession more relevant to her gender? And oh, it will also help her find good ‘rishta’? Have you ever considered that it’s for her to decide what she wants to do with her life? Is there a woman in your house who is being labelled as ‘shameless’ because she decided to part ways with her spouse as she couldn’t stand the domestic violence in the name of honour of her family and her in-laws? Did you tell her that she took a bold step and you are proud of her? Is there a woman in your house who is being taught or told to do all household chores by herself while your son is being taught to just chill and have rest? Have you ever tried to teach her and your son that they should share these responsibilities and none should be dependent on the other for doing their tasks? Have you taught your daughter that marriage is not the ultimate goal of a woman’s life and she can be anything else that she wants to be instead of just being someone’s wife? Is there a woman in your house who is always being told about what are her responsibilities towards her husband and her in-laws but is never told about her own rights? Is there a woman in your house who is facing trouble at her workplace by a male colleague and is being told to quit her job? Is there a woman in your house who holds a degree and wants to work but you told her she doesn’t need to earn for living as your salary is good enough to run the house, without even asking if she ever wanted a career? Or, is there a qualified woman in your house who is extremely talented and wants to pursue a career and you wouldn’t simply let her because women in your ‘khaandaan’ do not go out to work?
The list of questions may never end but if you are reading this article and you do have one such woman in your own house who needs to be empowered then please let her be. The definition of empowerment is not to have power to control things – it’s the capability of making a choice for self without being under anyone’s influence or pressure. Let women have that freedom of making choices instead of defining paths for them. Stop labeling them, instead, respect them for who they are! Let them define life in their own way – let them explore the world. Let the empowerment begin at home…