Urge for Women Empowerment

India, right now, is an ocean of opportunities. After power changed hands at the Centre, bringing an end to a decade-long dynasty politics, hope and possibilities is what the Indian citizens are full of – at least a majority of them. Today every one of us have the right to dream of a new India – a better India – an India where growth is inclusive in all respects. I, too, imagine my own India and in doing so, I realize that I cannot surge ahead until I see something imperative taking shape in society – and that is, the empowerment of Indian women.

I cannot seem to think beyond egalitarianism in society – an egalitarian India where our beloved women feel needed, respected, and above all, empowered. Before I continue any further, I feel obligated to explain what empowerment means, for the benefit of all. In the simplest of words, ‘empowerment’ is the creation of an environment where women can make independent decisions on their personal development as well as shine as equals in society. Unfortunately, the current environment prevailing is exactly the opposite of what it should be. Decision-making rights of the fairer sex are being gradually consumed by society and the heinous and atrocious crimes that we commit against them directly strike at the foundation of achieving gender equality in the country.

Have we ever wondered where did all this come from? Where did it all begin? We were happy revering our Sitas and Draupadis and were unanimous in concluding that what Dushyashan did in Dhritarashtra’s court and what Ravana did during Rama’s exile, were both disrespectful as well as despicable. Then what happened suddenly? Why this untoward paradigm shift? When did we learn to treat the fairer sex as mere objects? I have tried over and over again, but this lacuna in my understanding remains. Some blame it on religion, while others point at upbringing – but neither is greater than humanity.

Procter & Gamble had recently come out with an ad campaign which emphasized on, “When did the phrase ‘to run like a girl’ become an insult in society?” Such stereotypes are plenty in number and their use is increasing day by day. Kudos to the company for having come out with such a brilliant rhetoric! It puts us male chauvinists to shame and that is indeed the need of the hour. We have become too judgmental when it comes to women in society. Who gives us the right to decide that the number of partners we date can be the basis for concluding whether a man is macho while a lady a slut? When she musters up the courage to question this bias, society labels her as ‘arrogant’, ‘prudent’, and ‘too Western for her own good’. Does not the real problem lie in us me that we somehow cannot fathom a lady having a mind and a voice of her own?

I have a younger sister who is just about to finish high school. She has a plethora of dreams about what she would like to become, and looks up to me to seek encouragement, motivation, and guidance for the same. But since I have seen the world a little more than her, my concerns for her safety and security overshadow my willingness to fulfill her desires. This is not the India that I want to be a part of, and this is not the India that I bequeath to my progeny. I want a country where everybody can meaningfully quote Rabindranath Tagore’s, “Where the mind is without fear, where the head is held high.” There is no point showing solidarity as a country only on the 26th of January or on the 15th of August. The entire purpose of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ stands defeated when we repeatedly abuse the tri-colour on the remaining 363 days of the year.

Let me assure you that I have not wielded the pen today just to voice my complaints. I have also put a lot of thought into how women empowerment can be realized and have come to the conclusion that the change has to come from within. Women have to get more involved in policy-making, legislation, and even judicial responsibilities – because no one, absolutely no one, understands their situations better than they do themselves. Being a realist, I understand that the transformation will neither be easy nor be well-accepted. But it is high time that women show everyone that the hand that rocks the cradle can indeed rule the world. Unfortunately, we have already sacrificed one Jessica Lal, one Nirbhaya – we do not want any more bloodshed on our hands. Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla, Indra Nooyi, and the likes are not meant to be treated as merely role models and exceptions. We must believe that they are what the mainstream is. For a long time, this great country has neglected its women and have only called upon them when hungry politicians needed votes or when horny men needed sex. Not any more please. As responsible citizens, let us put back the ‘Mother’ in Mother India.