Friday, March 11, 2011

Women Empowerment??

I somehow feel disillusioned by the image of an empowered woman. It seems to be a myth. We have several women who are bread winners of their family but are they empowered in the real sense of the word? Education seems to sometimes act as an impediment rather than a tool that ensures the empowerment of women. Let me explain-

Sandhya was brought up to believe that it was wrong to be vocal. Her parents never encouraged discussions let alone arguments. She never ever learnt that one did not have to be aggressive to be heard. Raising one’s voice beyond a permissible level amounted to quarrel. Decent people did not argue. It was no wonder that when she got married she was at a loss not knowing how and when to be assertive. She had a job alright but it was her husband who’d decide if she needed to buy an umbrella or a raincoat during monsoon. He would ‘permit’ her to draw money from her salary account and assert to anyone who cared to listen that he was the provider in the family and that he never touched his wife’s money. If one were to believe him Sandhya’s bank balance had to be in lacs if not millions. But it was not so. What then happen to all the money she earned? She did not own jewelry or property, did not invest in stocks and shares. She could not bring herself to admit even to herself that while her husband was repaying their house loan and educating their children it was her salary that helped in running the house. It somehow seemed sin to say these things. The house as well as the husband and children were her own. She was not supporting someone else’s family, was she? But there were times when she felt that her contribution be recognized. Okay, if recognizing a woman’s contribution punctured her husband’s male ego, could he not refrain from claiming that he did not use her money? Was it too much to ask? But girls from decent families did not say such things. They simply swallowed the insult being directly or indirectly heaped upon them.

Rani on the other hand worked as a housemaid and earned around Rs.2000/- per month. Her husband was a vegetable vendor. It was her decision that her earnings would be spent or saved for her children’s future. Their education, school books, tuition fees etc were her responsibility. She puts aside a tidy sum for her daughter’s marriage. But food and provisions were to be taken care of by her husband. When he worked the family had enough to eat. However, there were days when he would get drunk and refuse to do business and there would be no food to eat. Rani would then take a stand. She would not cook food when the husband was around. She’d cook for her children, feed them, wash the vessels taking care not to leave any trace of having cooked a meal. She herself would make do with food given by her employers. This policy of ‘no work, no food’ would go on for sometime. The husband would finally have no option but to start selling vegetables once more. She would give him some money as capital, through someone else without letting on that the money came from her.

“I feel bad doing this didi,” she says. “But I want him to take some responsibility instead of squandering all his money.”

When I think of these two women I wonder which of them should be called empowered. Lack of education has not been detrimental to Rani’s feeling empowered. She has been able to take a stand that does not fit into the projected image of soft feminine energy but she, like Sandhya, has the family’s welfare in mind and asserts herself in a manner that seems appropriate to her.

Sandhya, on the other hand, though financially empowered, perhaps allows herself to be emotionally and psychologically exploited and is therefore not empowered in the real sense. I had suggested that education was perhaps instrumental in making women subscribe to a certain expected behavior. I feel that I am not absolutely right. Education or the lack of it cannot be detrimental to women empowerment. Being/feeling empowered is actually the result of a good deal of mental training and conditioning. If one is able to play an active role in decision making processes in her family and society and is able to express her opinion with confidence she has the right to call herself empowered.


Anonymous said...

Dear Maam

Just loved your post. Yes, unfortunately as educated women we assume a sense of superiority, over those who have not had the means.

Guess, education has a lot more to it, than textbook formulas, equations, and dates.

Please do keep writing. Your words bring a wealth of wisdom, which I deeply treasure.

Ending with warm regards


starry eyed said...

Yes, yes,'ve hit the nail on the head. The ability to recognise her rights and demand respect, take a stand, define boundaries...all that is empowerment...not education in itself, not money in itself, not financial independence. It's a state of mind. And an attitude.

Just loved how you brought it out!

Arundhati said...

Echo starry

shail said...

Rani is of course the more empowered one. I have been noticing the same in those around me. You brought out the point extremely well.

Congrats on the Blogadda pick.

dr.antony said...

I enjoyed reading this post.
I know some working women who are my good friends.Some of them earn really huge amounts,but cant use even small amounts from their earnings.There are husbands who transfer the whole earnings in to their own accounts on every salary day.I know a husband who has given his wife a credit card,so that he can monitor all the expenses.

Working or earning doesn't guarantee any kind of power to these is a sad state.Freedom is power.

Jill said...

I am new to your blog and following you.

I have recently visited India from Australia and loved the country and people.

Your post is really interesting and has such strength. Girl power!

We have a family friendly blog with educational games for kids. Please drop by when you have a chance.

R's Mom said...

Awesome post have brought out the constrast so well..empowerment in India doesnt seem to have much to do with education na

WhatsInAName said...

Indeed indeed. Education does make a woman empowered to earn better but I have often wondered whether it alone can change the lifestyle.
Somethings like guts, managing capabilities are in born I feel. While manytimes, these are curbed as in the first case. Unless a woman realises to fight for herself, we will keep having Nidhi Gupta committing suicide inspite of being a chartered accountant :((

Hip Grandma said...

anu;Thanks for your complimentary has been my observation that very often women without education or income are more empowered than thos that work and have a decent salary/income.Empowerment has to be acquired by standing up for what one feels is right. Perhaps money and education help one to stand up and face the world but lack of it certainly does not stop one from doing so.

starry eyed;Empowerment of women is equated to aggressiveness by those who choose to misinterpret the word. My mother was one person who did not even have to raise her voice to be heard. Her silence was often more than sufficient for us to understand her point. She has always been my role model even though I could never successfully emulate her.And she did study beyond the primary level.


Shail:First time here? But no your name seems familiar somehow. May be I've read your comments elsewhere. I know of another housemaid who threw a gold chain at her husband's face when he bragged about having given her gold.She insisted that the servant's quarter that they lived in with water and electricity provided was given in lieu of the work she did for the flat owners. Were it not for her her family including the husband would be living on the pavement.I find her an empowered woman too.

dr.antony:Unfortunately many men do not like to openly admit that their wive's contribution in running the family is equally important whether she brings in a salary or not. It is perhaps their misplaced ego or some kind of insecurity that makes them act like that. however the current bunch of youngsters may not have such ego issues.

Jill:Thanks for choosing to follow me.I must follow yours too to get a glimpse into life in Australia.

R's mom:As I said education is a tool but empowerment is more to do with one's mind.

WhatsinAName:Earning money and not being able to spend it is like not earning money at all. i agree that wastefulness need to be checked but constant monitoring and unnecessary control can be quite suffocating.

Hip Grandma said...

Sail:I see that your post was also a blogadda pick this saturday. Congrats to you too. the post has set me thinking.

shail said...

Thank you, it is in the Tangy Tuesday pick.
Perhaps my name is familiar because you have noticed my comments elsewhere or perhaps you have met the other Shail (Raghuvanshi)?? :)

girlsguidetosurvival said...

Education, Employment and Empowerment all three are part of an equation. It was assumed education would lead to employment (financial independence) thus empowering women. But research has shown this equation did not fruitify as desired. Highly educated women are more prone to violence and so are employed women because they present a challenge to traditional concept of masculinity- in control and provider.

It was assumed increase in economic stability of families will empower women but Punjab and Haryana proved it all wrong as high GDP did not curb female feticide but only aggrevated it and other crimes against women.

In order to actualize women's empowerment the concept of masculinity that needs a reinterpretation

From times immemorial women from lower strata of Indian society had more freedom than their upper caste upper class counterparts. The so called upper strata women had the burden of keeping up with the jones and family repectability. Where as for women from lower strata it was always an issue of survival.

I have seen parents who want their daughters to be working and living in nuclear families but at the same time they want their daughters-in-law to be subservient to them and follow their commands. This double standard also bites women's empowerment.

Desi Girl

Hip Grandma said...

girlsguidetosurvival:You have analyzed the subject very well. true many Indians have different rules when it comes to the treatment of their daughters in law.This partly stems out of the insecurity they feel when a new girl enters their son's life and their hesitation in giving her the freedom that they want their daughters to have. It is also true that when a MIL decides to treat a daughter in law at par with her own daughter, the daughter in law does not reciprocate the way she should. It is usually seen that when the MIl tries to accomadate the DIl she is considered a weakling and when the daughter in law arrives with the intention of being good to her acquired family, the MIL adopts an aggressive stand. Only rarely is a healthy balance seen.

BTW welcome here. Your link to the article in Hindu could not be accessed. i would like to read it all the same.

girlsguidetosurvival said...


In the interpersonal relationship the core melts down to two thiings:
1) how do you value yourself/what you consider is your self worth and

2) how you want to live your life.

All desi family dynamics rests on codependency. Parents controlling their adult children further infringing on their children's parental rights by interfering with grandkids disciplining. Neighbours poking nose in otehrs business, people trying to please other people. People placing their self worth on other people's approval; Gods controling people and people manipulating Gods and on and on...

Follow DG's other postson GGTS.

If we consider the two points said earlier and do them with kindness and compassion guess will solve all problems. BUT it takes courage,time and effort to findout who I am and How I want to live my life. It is easier to follow the preset path and then do as predesors did and complaint things are not changing.

Please copy paste that URL on google or your address bar it will open the article.

Desi Girl

Hip Grandma said...

GGTS:Thanks for the link. I found the article informative.