Women Empowerment & Safety-By: Parimala Hariprasad

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Everyone perceives everyone else in a certain way. This perception is governed by their character, upbringing, environment, their experiences and their reactions to the ecosystem they are in. Let’s take a look at some perceptions we encounter in our daily lives.

Real Stories Hardwired Perception Ambition

Man: My dream is to build a billion dollar company

[Wow, he is such a passionate and confident man. Damn sure, he’ll do as he dreams!]

Woman: My dream is to build a billion dollar company

[What a joke, man! Two years down the lane, she’ll be married to a guy with dollar dreams, re-locate to another country, bear two children and post recipes online. She’ll build a billion dollar company. ROFL!]

The Greedy Woman

Man: I want to make a lot of money so I can play golf everyday by the time I am 40

[This guy seems to have a great plan and strategy in place]

Woman: I want to buy a flat, drive my own car and be financially independent

[She is such a greedy woman. I pity the guy who is going to marry her]

The Matrimony

Man: I need a life partner who’ll understand me, take good care of my parents and be happy with me

[He is such a wonderful son]

Woman: I need a life partner who’ll let me pursue my ambition of becoming the best in my profession, share household chores with me and accepts me as I am [What a selfish and greedy woman? Thank God, I didn’t marry her]

Women Empowerment and Safety

For centuries, many societies have been male dominated. Some continue that way even today. Yet, we are a nation where Maitreyi and Gargi became priestesses at a time when women were forbidden to take that position. We are a nation where Rani Laxmibai took on the mantle when she had to. In first case, the women chose what they loved, all by themselves. In the second case, the opportunity came to them in the form of a necessity which they took up with grace.

Circa 2015, we are talking about neighbours raping little girls, rapists directing what clothes girls should wear or what they should do and communist groups saying all women who step out of their homes are prostitutes. Like it or not, this is the society we live in. How do we empower ourselves?

Fight Your Battles Gracefully

Women can neither be empowered nor safe guarded unless we think that Prince Charming will come on a white horse, punish the offenders and save us. Women can be empowered only if they empower themselves, by being physically and mentally strong. Women can be empowered only if they stop crying in the corner of their room and fight their own battles, with grit, courage and faith. Learning self-defense techniques is a savior when it comes to women empowerment which not just boosts physical strength, but also feeds our mental selves.

We all have to fight our own battles. It’s the only way out. Raise kids, the right way The system in which kids live has a deep influence on them. If you look at how boys and girls are brought up, the upbringing of a boy is mostly with the dad who takes him to different places, shows cool stuff, made him meet people, allows him to help at work and sow seeds for great dreams.

On the contrary, girl’s upbringing surrounds around her mother’s life. She goes around, plays girlie games, and helps her mom in household work while her mom lectures to her about humanity, kindness, compassion, love, patience and tolerance. The moment she hits puberty, things change. She is restricted from going alone or in the dark, she is excluded from playing some games, she is no longer a child, she is a young woman and she has to behave like a woman – a well behaved woman at that!

Someone once rightly said, “There are two gifts we should to our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” It’s important to give kids the same childhood values irrespective of their gender. Boys and girls do different things and differently. It is important we recognize the complimentary nature of each one’s skills and see how well both genders can work together towards creating a better world. Now, don’t force a girl to own race cars and hand over a Barbie to a boy.

The best life we can ever give to our children is to let them choose a life of their choice! Get Over Meaningless Judgments

I once worked with a colleague who was very pretty and good natured. Since she was pretty, majority of colleagues were looking excuses to talk to her. For the soft toned girl she was, she politely declined coffee meet-ups, dinner catch-ups and handled this with utmost sensitivity and professionalism. Few guys who didn’t like her response ended up calling her a slut. When did “being pretty” mean putting up a sign board, “I am available for everyone to talk to”. She is entitled to live the life she wants, but people around her get judgmental. People are making judgments about women all the time. If a guy looks sad because India lost a cricket match, it’s completely believable. If a girl looks sad, she must have had a fight with her mother-in-law.

Why judge women? Why throw pre-conceived notions about women in the air with callous insensitivity? We as a society must stop becoming judgmental about people in general, if we are willing to lead the way to a better society.

 Avoid Framing

People need to be treated fairly irrespective of what’s between their legs.  Every time someone makes noise about women being unequal, I told myself, “Oh No, Not Again”. Maura Pennington sums it up well in this Forbes article, “Women need the support of other women in the way that all humans need the support of peers.  What they do not need is condescension.  Obsessing over inequality eventually convinces both sides that we are somehow unequal.  It opens up discussion of all the ways we are different, all the ways women cannot be like men and vice versa.  The end result of such talk of segregation is that women are made to look weaker.  We are made to seem in need of assistance, that we cannot survive without federal laws or university regulations mandating our parity with men.”

Victoria Pynchon, once received an email in response to one of her articles on Gender Bias which read, “I have never seen a dead woman on a battlefield”. To this, she responds, “Quite correct. When we frame the war dead and wounded as only those engaged in armed conflict on the battlefield, women and children are eliminated entirely, not only from the photographs and news reporting, but also from history and, more importantly, from peace conferences. The frame erases the experience of the people who aren’t seen by the reporters because they’ve framed “war” as an activity in which only soldiers fight and are injured.” Framing about women without quoting the exact context has played another key role in downplaying women’s contributions for ages. If the ecosystem we live in doesn’t help us with changing wrong perceptions and become conscious of our biases, we’ll end up becoming the animals our ancestors once were!

Education

There is an old saying, “If you educate a girl, she educates the entire family”. Educating girls is paramount to letting them know that they can demand what is rightfully theirs. For that, they must know what is rightfully theirs. Education changes the way we think, perceive, feel and behave. Education is surely the most powerful weapon available to women empowerment and safety.

 Hey Girl, It’s Hard. But, Keep the spirit going anyway

  1. Don’t wear a special badge on your shoulder and expect fair treatment because you are a woman.
  1. Pick the battles which are worth fighting for
  1. If you choose to fight, choose to win
  1. Challenge the system, not the people– it doesn’t work that way
  1. Don’t lean in at all times. Sometimes, step back. Other times, take a leap of faith. Whatever the situation, believe in yourself
  1. Become the benchmark of professionalism irrespective of where you work or how people treat you
  1. Don’t allow your tolerance to be mistaken for cowardice or playing safe
  1. Have a Mentor who’s been there, done that – Start from your mom, perhaps
  1. Be Your Own Boss
  1. Have Big Heady Audacious Goals
  1. Make sure people take you seriously
  1. Hierarchy has nothing to do with skill. Keep Upskilling yourself
  1. Don’t focus on competition, focus on solving meaningful problems
  1. Ask yourself, “Why do I work? For brownie points? To fulfill my passion?”

People have to get rid of the disability of the mind, of having pre-conceived notions about the world- Lakshmi Pratury

Author: Parimala Hariprasad