A positive change has come
Source : Google photo of a working woman
Synopsis : A great change has come to India that is empowering women by making education and job opportunities available for them so that they can be independent. They are being encouraged to be self employed with loan assistance and vocational training and are being encouraged to take the leadership roles in their communities.
I was watching the Independence Day celebration in Delhi yesterday and was very happy to see that for the first time an all-female SWAT team was deployed to protect the crowd and the dignitaries who had assembled in front of the Red Fort. The Prime Minister Mr. Modi praised the deployment of all- female swat team and said that the women in India are more than equal to men in all fields and have gained equal rights in an unprecedented manner in the male dominated society. An all-female crew recently circumnavigated the globe giving all women in India a hope that they too can shine.
This is very welcome news in a patriarchal society where the boys are favored over girls so it is very hard for the men to change their mentality. They at first denigrate any effort by women to be self-reliant and discourage their daughters or sisters to take steps that make them independent. The mentality is still in place that says that women are good for housekeeping, breeding and a life of domesticity even if they are educated and find good jobs. The men are supposed to take care of women and protect them and be their guardians so they oppose women to be independent.
Source : Google photo of women in the armed forces in India
The government of India promotes women’s welfare and gives them opportunities to shine so now we see the all-female SWAT team for the first time but they are making very good progress in the army, in the air force and in the navy as well where the female officers are now given permanent commission that was denied them previously.
You see many women who are fighter pilots in the armed forces and are taking part in dangerous missions in the front fighting along with men shoulder to shoulder and giving a very good account of themselves earning praises from their commanders. You see this sort of integration lately in the Israeli army and air force but it is still rare in other male dominated societies where women are required to play a subservient role.
Just now a woman who had opened a beauty parlor in India was talking about the opposition she had in the beginning from her folks who tried to discourage her to do it because it was not the proper thing to do for a woman but she opened a parlor just the same and now is the owner of a thriving business that has helped put her daughters through college and made her a successful business woman.
She also trains poor girls in the beauty parlor and employs them so she is a social worker who helps poor women by giving them an opportunity to earn and be independent so that someday they may open their own parlors somewhere.
The Indian government actively encourages women to be self-employed and gives them the necessary training and the financial assistance to open a business like a beauty parlor or a tailoring shop or in fact any other enterprise where women can make a living and train other women.
India is changing fast in many ways which can be seen in the smartly dressed female officers giving orders to the men in uniform , lead the all-female SWAT teams, join the police force and the air force but they are also becoming very successful entrepreneurs in their own right overcoming the barriers the male dominated society puts in their way.
This is a far cry from the previous generation when women were relegated to the hearth and domesticity, when education for women was not considered essential and women were so dependent on their brothers, fathers and uncles. The men decided when the women should get married and to whom through the arranged marriage system and it is by and large still the norm but now we are beginning to see the women come out of the shadows and take their rightful place in the society.
We are starting to see a greater role women are playing in the workforce assimilation and are going to school and college in record numbers. The girls from the poorer section of the society as well as the boys are given free lunch up to high school in many states by the government so it has become the largest school feeding program in the world feeding nearly 170 million children every day.
In some states the government provides free bicycle to every child to go to school and free text books and other necessities that is a very big improvement from the time when I was a child. What is so interesting in India is the way the government has empowered women to get education, get jobs and training but also helping those who want to set up their own business to feed their families.
Source : Google photo of women working in the garment industry in India
I had written about the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh where women can borrow a small amount of money to set up their own business and become self-reliant. The program has become so successful that many countries are trying to emulate them. Similarly in India, the banks are now encouraged to loan small amounts to women who want to open up a business because as the record shows, women are honest and always repay the loan with interest as their business prospers and even expands. The loan without collateral was a revolutionary concept based on the assumption that woman are honest and will repay the loan. They have not let the banks down in India or in Bangladesh.
When I was in college, a female student was admitted to study agriculture for the first time so she was the lone girl in the class of boys. The poor girl did not last long and left the campus because the boys were uneasy due to the male mentality. Now the girls are taking up studies in all fields of science and humanities and often outnumber boys in their class.
The women’s education in India has brought a sea change in the mentality of people who now grudgingly accept that women have to be treated equally at home or outside. The days of domesticity and hearth and breeding is over for many although this is happening mostly in cities and not so much in the rural areas where the male traditions are still strong.
The only proven way to ensure equality for women is to empower them through education and job opportunities. They in turn prove that they are second to none and can do almost any job men are trained to do. They enrich their family through their earnings and push for the education of girls .They do not tolerate domestic abuse and will file for divorce if their husbands mistreat them because now they have education that empowers them and provides them with jobs to make them independent.
It is hard for a male dominated society like India to accept the changes that have been brought about but the educated males are starting to accept the changes because they see that women are an asset and not a liability. They bring in income by working in full time jobs so the standard of living is increasing for the educated couples but women are also supporting their families through self employment as mentioned above.
They are still far from attaining total equality in business so they open beauty salons for women only or cut the hair of women only. There are now women’s restaurants in Mumbai where all female staff serve only women so they feel safe in their company and enjoy decent meals free from male gawking. So this is definitely a step in the right direction.
In Bangladesh, thousands of poor women now are self-employed and make clothes and uniforms for school children. They earn enough to support their family and send their children to school for a better future. This was made possible through bank loans from the Grameen Bank that gave the loans without any collateral.
A saintly person in Kolkata opened up a workshop where young women and widows who were very poor could learn how to make clothes or baskets or joss sticks etc. that the center then sold for them. But these are the efforts of some NGOs that is limited in scope. What the women need is the national support from the government that can enact laws to protect their rights and open up education and job opportunities for them.
The Prime Minister also mentioned the cause of Muslim women who still suffer from the Triple Talaq laws that make them destitute. This is a sharia law that gives all the power to the males who can divorce a woman just by saying I divorce you three times so the government is now enacting laws to ban this practice forever.
It has been a long uphill battle for women in India and elsewhere but women in some countries have gained a measure of equality as compared to a generation or two ago but they continue to suffer in many traditional societies where their tribal laws prevent women to get full equality and recognition.
In Afghan capital of Kabul, women were prevented from working even if they were highly qualified as doctors, dentists or teachers thus reducing them to begging in the streets during the rule of Taliban. They are still fighting for their rights but the danger of Taliban resurgence has not totally vanished so women live in fear. Many schools in rural areas for girls have been bombed by the terrorists who continue in their mistaken belief that girls should not be educated.
In other countries where a democracy has taken root, we can see great improvement in women’s lives as in India but this improvement has been gradual, slow and patchy because the rural uneducated people still resist any move to empower women. This will change when more rural boys go to school and grow up with a healthy respect for girls who are also going to school now.
It is always easier to make laws but hard to implement them because it is much harder to change the mentality of men everywhere. As long as the tribal culture of male dominance exists, women will have to struggle to get education and employment so the government must work harder at the village level to educate people to make sure that people do not discriminate against women in any way and support the female empowerment through education and jobs.
Women in India still suffer from the stigma of menstruation in many parts because they are considered unclean and are prevented to enter a temple or other holy places so a beauty queen has made it her effort to make women more aware of female hygiene and provides free sanitary napkins to them. She also talks to men to educate them that menstruation is a natural process that does not make a woman impure so they should provide them with sanitary napkins that are now available in many stores.
Still there are other battles to fight. The fact that the government now supports them in their effort to gain equality goes a long way to make lives better for the women everywhere but the awareness also has to come from the men who still control their tribal society and are reluctant to let go their control. That is the curse of the patriarchal society that I wrote about in my previous blog.
The rape of women, mistreatment by verbal abuse called eve teasing and domestic violence , trafficking of women to sell them to brothels, the women as bonded laborers who are forced to work in the brick kilns , garment factories or in road construction happen but the culprits are being punished by long jail sentences and in rape cases with the death penalty as mentioned by the Prime Minister in his speech from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in Delhi a few days ago so there is hope that women of tomorrow will have greater freedom and opportunities than the previous generation. India is moving in the right direction and taking definite steps to answer the issues all women face.
I wish them all the success.
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