March 8th was International Women’s Day and women from all over the world would be reviewing their status as home makers, income generators and child bearers. Meetings will be held and the rights of women will be emphasized. I am sure Women Organizations all over the world are doing their best to educate women to fight oppression and to stand up for themselves. I do not have to add to what has already been stressed so many times. I wish to direct your attention to something entirely different - the mental block a woman suffers from, that in turn makes her willingly accept a sub-ordinate role in society.
We have women who have been earning member’s of their families but take pride in saying that they never go to the bank to draw money. Their pass books are updated by their husbands and they wouldn’t know their increment date. They cannot/will not fill out a railway reservation slip, let alone income tax return forms. It suits them to remain so. We have college teachers who pay Rs.100/- to clerks who are much less educated to fill out these forms and submit them at the appropriate counter. I wonder if all this talk of WOMEN EMPOWERMENT has any meaning in their lives. “All this is so complicated. I’d rather pay money to get it done” is what they say. These decked up dolls claim that they are being exploited.
I attended a program that marked the International women’s day and came back disillusioned and dejected. The central theme was female feticide. Survey in East Singhbhum district where I live, showed that the decline in female population was sharper in urban rather than rural areas. Earlier only the upper class could afford these tests but now even middle class families availed the services of clinics that offered sex determination test facilities registered or otherwise. Education/literacy and empowerment of women were not correlative. Having a job did not automatically ensure empowerment. They still yielded to pressure from their families. Or did they also perhaps believe that a girl child was a liability?
I shall discuss the issue of female feticide later. Let me put down a few points that come to my mind regarding women empowerment.
1) Women must learn to respect and love themselves. Self esteem alone can empower them.
2) Women must learn to take responsibility. Rights and duty go hand in hand.
3) Mothers have to teach their sons to respect women.
4) Disparity among men and women is man made and not god given. It needs to be overcome.
5) The girl child needs to be told by her that she is not ‘paraya dhan’ but an important permanent member of her maternal home, entitled to their love and affection as much as her brother. This will go a long way in making her aware of her duties to her parents. A woman who has the affection and support of her parents will be respected better by her husband and his family.