Women empowered!?

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The International Women’s Day was celebrated on 8th March. I learnt about it through the morning newspaper. No celebrations were held at home. My mother was busy performing her regular chores as usual. I wondered then for whose sake this day is observed? I thought about conducting a quick survey. I sent text messages to some 30 women from my contact list wishing “Happy Women’s Day. Let women become more powerful”. I received only three replies! I wondered! What about others!? Aren’t they celebrating Women’s Day? Don’t they think that celebrating Women’s Day is necessary!? Or is it that they find it insignificant since the celebration of women’s day never changes their lot. In fact, all the women whom I had sent messages are well educated. Still, there is no happiness in celebrating Women’s Day! Then what is the status of uneducated, illiterate women existing in our society?

It is rightly said that “If you educate a woman it is like making the whole family educated!” In fact, some results have shown that education of women has improved their health conditions, has improved their child care practices, it has enhanced their social mingling. The concept of Self Help Group has worked wonderfully and one of the best examples is SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association). We do see many women working in different fields, some of which were traditionally male dominated!

But the question remains that “whether education has changed the attitude of men towards women!?” The results seem to be dismal. The treatment of women in households has not really changed. The culinary works still remain the domain of women in the houses. Even in nuclear families where both husband and wife are employed, women have to perform domestic chores and then head towards office. Husbands still continue to pick up the newspaper in the morning and sit on a chair waiting for tea to arrive at their place. Sipping of tea and newspaper reading continues until it is the time to get ready to go for office! By then breakfast is expected. The shoes have to be polished and they do not know where is their pant or shirt, leave alone belt, socks, watch and purse! The laptop should be kept inside the bag and tiffin should be ready (if lunch is unavailable in the office)! If these tasks are not performed efficiently, husbands start grumbling about their wives inefficiency to get the things done on time!
They will again start blaming their wives if they miss the bus or get stuck in the traffic. There is no consideration at all for their wives who also have to get ready to go for office! On returning home in the evening, a cup of tea is expected to be ready! If wife is late to return from the office, she will notice that the kitchen is in a bad shape where so many vessels are being misplaced, unlided sugar and tea powder bottles, milk kept in the vessel without lid, some biscuit packets opened lying here and there and some powder on the floor with no hint from where it fell! Generally, she doesn’t dare to question this adventurous act. If she does, then the readymade reply will be “I didn’t find the vessel to prepare tea. I had to search for a long time to find it. Why don’t you keep those in such a place where it can be easily traceable!” She will think it would be wise to remain quiet as these arguments are never ending!

The most expected quality for women still remains “her ability to cook”. Many educated men do consider it as one of the ‘most important’ thing to be asked while choosing a bride for them! I wonder how cooking has become so important criteria undermining a woman’s educational qualification, work profile and so on, even though they are well educated! Glass ceiling effect is not a new phenomenon. Very few women have been able to break the glass ceiling! Recently Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, told the assembled global elite at World Economic Forum that she had been opposed to quotas until a moment early in her career. During that period, Christine was informed that she would not achieve progress as she was a woman. “I soon realised that unless we had targets, if not quotas, there was no way” to make headway, she said. This is a clear sign of educated men still considering women to be less capable of performing their tasks!

It has become very common to read reports about rape incidents in newspapers. Many of us have become more desensitized to such reports. If we analyse these reports, we realise that intimate partners are involved in many rapes! Many well educated men who hold prominent positions are involved in such cases.

Right from Supreme Court judges to journalists, professors, doctors have been alleged of indulging in sexual assault! Uneducated, illiterate men add to these numbers! That means education has failed to bring attitudinal change in men. The overpowering nature of men still continues even though the structure of society is changing! Unless there is attitudinal change, real women empowerment will not happen even if successive governments bring more and more legislations!

Akshara Damle