Women Empowerment is the buzz word nowadays. It’s been used to signify a number of things like uplifting women spirits, acknowledging their hard work, the progress women have made and the appreciation of the contribution of women towards the betterment of the society. Modern women are the torch bearers of this notion that other women have to be empowered and rightly so to a certain extent.
That said, the entire discussion about women empowerment circles around broadly on how women have made a difference in a male-dominated society. According to me, it is just a small part of a larger pie. A larger part of it is how we as women, are helping and empowering each other to progress ahead in life. Also, another piece of this puzzle is that whenever you see these discussions, most of them are geared towards a corporate world or in middle to higher levels of income households. There is hardly any mention of the lower strata of society. That level is neglected to a large extent.
The challenges of women at each of these levels would be very different and the meaning of empowerment for each of them would vary greatly. Each of these need to be addressed separately. We, as women, have to help each other to get empowered first, because if we are not able to do so, how can we blame the other section i.e. the males to not do so.
We are not only looking at wrong answers but also asking the wrong questions, when it comes to women being empowered. According to me the 3 burning questions that we need to answer are:
Let’s look at each of them and discuss these in a bit more detail.
1. Breaking stereotypes – how to explain this to others?
In a predominantly male-dominated society that we were living in some years back, women going out to work was an example of breaking a stereotype. Some would do it out of compulsion, some out of financial needs and some for the passion. It is also the responsibility of these women achievers to inspire and empower other women to take up this journey. They should try their best to help other women to be independent, confident and motivate them to be the best in whichever field they choose to. The onus largely lies on us as women, who have been there done that.
Another, thing that the so called “women empowerment” brigade focuses on is that we have the freedom to do whatever we want to do or whatever we want to wear etc. Yes, there should not be any restrictions per se, that said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Many women, misuse this and do not understand the repercussions it has on those women who are looking up to them as role models. More often than not, the debate on women empowerment gets restricted on smaller things like these. The major issues like being financially independent, being confident about facing the world and right to education are often neglected.
2. Skills v/s degree – do we have any scope?
A lot of importance in our system is given on studies and degrees. I believe that for a woman to empowered, her education in life experiences is most important. Yes, unfortunately, you might not get a job without the relevant degree, because it is a degree which is being looked at as a parameter for the job and not the skills. Although, this is true for men as well, but is more so for woman since that it is only in the last 20-30 years that things have started looking better from a woman education point of view. So, women in a generation before that, may have the skill sets but might not be considered employable as per the current criterion.
They also have the right to be empowered. More often than not even this section of slightly older women gets neglected. What are we as women, doing to change this situation for the other women? Can we not consider giving them the opportunities, given they have the necessary skills sets, to prove themselves? We as women, should also address this issue and find practical and feasible alternatives for these women as well.
Empowerment of women across different sections of the society and different age brackets and various other parameters will have different challenges and let’s address it head on that it’s not a cakewalk. We are trying to change centuries of tradition, societal norms, and mindsets. A woman with no financial resources, no privileged upbringing and from a rural area has an equal right to get empowered. A woman in a corporate office is as much empowered as the rural woman entrepreneur who is wearing a “ghoonghat”, but still is the backbone of the entire family. She handles her small shop and also has to go back home and do the daily chores and may have a tougher set of challenges to face. But if she is able to do so and set an example, she too is an excellent role model as an empowered woman.
Things may be difficult but you as a woman will have to be tougher. That said, a woman can be a housewife, manage her household responsibilities well and be the support system her man requires, so that he can go and conquer the world outside is also an example of an empowered woman, considering that she is doing it with all her heart and is not forced to do so against her will.
We should make sure that we do not leave behind any women from any part of the country. A point that I am trying to make is that we as women, have a collective responsibility to look after each other and help each other. If we as women cannot do it for our own selves, we should not be complaining that men are not playing their part. For any change to happen, it first has to happen from within and only then we can expect the outer world to change.
Do let me know your thoughts regarding it and if you have some inspiring and encouraging stories about women helping other women, I would love to hear them. Also, please share this blog among other women so that they can also start working towards helping each other if they are already not doing so.