A simple demand, universal in nature, from a woman for women.
Aparna Kumar, senior vice president with a leading private sector bank and an alumnus of the PGPMAX programme at the Indian School of Business, longs for a world that lets women be.
What got imbibed as part of growing up years was to be financially independent. At that point in time, the best career or profession for women was teaching, considering it as safe and secured. This concept was very well adopted at home. I was first to break the law by joining a corporate office.
Does it mean there were no challenges or problems or issues faced? There were restrictions: like to come home as soon as the office hours are closed, the social pressure. But those were quite futile challenges as compared to wider problems or issue women face in general.
Challenges or problems or issues mean the same in context with the Indian women.
It is a pessimistic point of view, an urban educated women may say so.
Is that the reality? May be.
The issues are multi-fold and they become more complicated when we tend to segregate Indian women in multiple categories like urban, semi-urban, literate, educated, rural women.
The list of challenges for an urban women would be very different like work life balance, career, feeling of guilt of not spending enough time at home, managing home and many more, whereas issues or problems for a rural women would be basic hygiene, daily chores like getting water from a far off place, dealing with traditional vows, no right to speak, devoid of financial independence, overworked etc.
There are still many common factors amongst all the women like vulnerability, discrimination, exploitation, a right to live fearlessly, societal pressures, to live and have an identity either as a father's daughter or subsequently as husband's wife. These are the problems which are externally visible but there are serious issues which are unspoken about, like treatment meted out to a girl child vis-a-vis a male child.
An Indian woman has to struggle and fight a bit more than other woman in developed countries, more so because of lack of civic sense and the large illiterate population in India which still follows the old traditions, values and norms even though they are irrelevant in today's world.
In the name of tradition, dowry is still prevalent. Women go through physical and mental torture at home either at the hands of their husband's or in-laws or in the work place by colleagues/boss or during travel. We are at an inflection point where a few of women have achieved what they wanted to by their sheer determination, but a vast majority of women still lack the courage and strength to take the first step forward towards their freedom, which rightfully belongs to them.
Like the famous poet Rabindranath Tagore said:
O Lord Why have you not given woman the right to conquer her destiny?
Why does she have to wait head bowed,
by the roadside, waiting with tired patience,
Hoping for a miracle in the morrow?
In the journey embarked 20 years ago, there are lot of events which took place including pregnancy. I was a bit lucky in the organisation I was part of. The moment the news travelled I am expecting twins, I was moved to a project which required no travel.
Post pregnancy I was given the work which didn't command long hours, absolutely no travel. But I had to forgo some part of my ambition of climbing the ladder faster. In hindsight I don't regret it as I am a mother of 14-year-old twins and am still working with the same passion and rigour and striving to achieve more. It is sheer determination , attitude to not succumb to pressures and make some adjustments in life, and you are good to go.
Who is responsible for all these and whose responsibility is it to eliminate these challenges? After 60 years of independence, it's a pity that the society has not facilitated the Indian women to make any progress. In fact in most aspects it has detoriated. The treatment meted out in the form of sexual harassment, the awareness in the society with respect to the acceptance of the sexually harassed women, dowry deaths, lack of basic education and the liberty to move around freely, has it changed? It has, but for the worse. We as a society should start the process of transformation by changing the mindset and outlook towards women, at home, in schools, colleges, on road, at work.
Considering theses aspects, I would like to pen down some lines on what we want as women:
I am nature's beautiful creation like you
I want to live, enjoy and flourish
I give lots of love, I want lots of love
Please don't give me pain
I am creator's beautiful creation
Come live along with me.
It is the collective and collaborative efforts of the society, the government and last but not the least, women themselves must demand and ensure a world to live fearlessly, with dignity and respect and freedom to live life on their own terms. Women who are respected equally would help the world to flourish and make it a beautiful place to live.