I was at my friend’s place working on a project with him on the computer one day. While we were working, my friend’s sister came into the room. She had some school work to do, so she asked to use the computer.
“Come back tomorrow,” my friend replied.
“But my practical is tomorrow,” she said.
“So what were you doing the whole year?” he yelled back.
I intervened and asked my friend to let her use the computer.
My friend and his sister were both in the same boat. Both had waited till the last day to do their school work. But, instead of looking at himself, he scolded her.
That is the kind of mentality educated people have in India towards women. Now, one can only imagine what kind of a mindset the poor, the uneducated people must have towards women.
It reminds me of the saying, “man is a social animal.”
Let us understand what the term ‘women empowerment’ means.
Women empowerment means to treat a woman equal to a man in terms of wages and opportunities, so that their efforts are equally rewarded and valued.
To make this happen, everyone has to play a part. This includes the government, society, individuals, NGOs. Their roles can be understood by analogy of an ‘AND GATE.’ A concept borrowed from the discipline of electronic circuitry. For a ‘HIGH’ output, everyone has to work in a ‘HIGH’ mode.
Now let’s examine each component of the circuit individually.
Government: Government at its level should try its hardest in quickly making and implementing policies that empower women. The government has done well for women by giving them reservation in the third tier of government called the panchayti system, but it would be much better to create an environment that would not require reservations for women.
Society: Society is a combination of people, willing as well as unwilling, to work for improvement. By ‘Pareto principle,’ 20 per cent of people work for 80 per cent of improvement, while 80 per cent of the people hide in crowds and constitute just 20 per cent of the improvement.
Society has a variety of people having many different mindsets. They must accept equality of man and woman. Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) must make rules for the welfare of women.
Individual: The individual is you and I, who are reading this article. Individuals generally have a mindset that thinks of him or herself as incapable of change, a zero-valued person, having nil effect on society. And this is not true. As the saying goes, “A single spark can burn the whole world.”
An individual is usually busy in making his living and fulfilling his family duties. An individual may have an old fashioned way of thinking which might be against the idea of gender equality.
A daughter of a college professor once told me, that she was forbidden to wear jeans and short sleeves shirts, while her father, the professor, and her brothers could freely wear jeans whenever they wanted.
If highly educated people can do this, then what can we expect from the uneducated ones?
I recently got a text message from an unknown number. Being an interactive person, I started a conversation with the person on the other side. It turned out that the text message was from someone in a remote village. Through it, I came to learn of some horrible facts related to women in villages.
First, women in this village weren’t allowed to purchase sanitary pads; for which they used sand instead. On the other hand, the men in the village spent heavily on tobacco and alcohol.
Second, I was shocked to hear that several women in the same household, who were on different menstruating cycles, were using the same sanitary pad. This was disturbing their health, making them prone to deadly infectious diseases like cervical cancer.
Referring to the Internet, I came to find out: Man himself cannot use condoms; neither can they be asked to do so. This has resulted in high abortion rate leading to a downfall in women’s health. Further, women have to consume pills for the whole month in order to get protected, and even those women were not fully safe. Even the elder women who had faced such difficulties in their life, never stood up for others.
These two issues disturbed me and thus I changed ‘gears,’ so to speak, and decided to work for woman empowerment on a personal level. But what hurts me the most is that even a girl is not there to help another girl.
Lively examples can be seen in class. A girl in class who lacks make-up or does not look attractive, is even teased by other girls; leaving aside the guys.
Whenever a girl comes out wearing something of her choice, her own family members are the first one to pass comment on her; whether they be her uncles, aunts or cousins.
We have to remind ourselves that all of us have been helped a lot by women in our lives. Remember when you had exams and you would wake up early in the morning at 3 or 4 a.m. to study, and your mother or sister would also get up along with you so she could serve you a cup of tea?
And later in life, as time passes by and you grow up, you get married and have a wife who cares for you and always tries to keep you happy.
Itne pyaar milne k baad to pathar ko bhi insaan ban jana chaiye, phir hum kyu haiwaan reh jate hain?
[Pankaj Sharma is a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He is also the Chairperson for the Indian Society of Technical Education, Students Chapter at JMI (ISTE-JMI). He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.]