What should've been done ages ago, still remains as a continuous process "under construction". Women Empowerment, a phrase pledged by many, kept by only a few.
Ancient India was a land of richness and equality. Women enjoyed equality, and it was not looked upon as a discrimination on the basis of gender. Women were treated with divinity and respect. Women with treated with love, women were treated just as any other human being.
But by around 500 BC or so, their status began to decline at the hands of men. Things started to change. The Mughal rule and the European invasion made things worse. Women went on to become social slaves. Women fell innocent preys to social stigmas, "sati", the worst of them. Men made rules for the women. Purdah system stepped in. Dowry came as a monetory value of compensation on marriage, as if men thought women are not worth their level, and the gap had to be compensated with money and other valuables. Women weren't allowed to see/enjoy the world beyond the walls of the house they were "kept" in. There were a few notable leaders who tried to educate the people on equality, Guru Nanak being one of the most famous of them. But there were too many people to be educated, and very less number of teachers!
The "british raj" made things even worse, when they portrayed the Indian women a lot darker. Leaders grew large in number against such treatment. Some brave women broke stigmas, made some name for themselves and encouraged women to break free. Chennamma of Kittur and Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi were both queens of large respected states and enjoyed comfort in their own places. But these were the women who took their rights to their hands and defeated the british army all by themselves.
And then on we have had so many other names... But in the 21st century, the finishing line with "Women Empowerment" is a very hazy far figure, yet to be neared.
Yes, we have political leaders, actors, players, businesswomen, technocrats and all. But, do you think they are representing the common women, with regards to mental peace? I mean to say, do you think a common woman enjoys the same amount of peace and security as these people? Go on a walk around your neighbour-hood. You will come across the general people, kids, teenagers, elders, shopkeepers, working janta and vehicle pliers. Do you not see, in some way or the other, the women still a storey below where they must be? Women walk out of their home with a confidence to achieve what they dream of, but so many of those are short lived because of social stigmas. And most, if not all, are because of men... The small percentage (not-men) is due to the women of yester-generation who are unwilling to give up unsocial beliefs.
With no direct offence meant to any individual, I proceed to cite some unanswered issues.
I love sports, probably most of you know that. So, I begin with the same. In the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, the cricket crazy Indian nation was introduced to some Haryaanvi girls. I do agree, I did not know most of them. But once they did come up in the news, I tracked their history. I'll give you just a couple of examples. Haryana is a land known for agriculture, and wrestling. We've seen many many wrestlers come from Haryanvi families, and India is proud of them. This time, the limelight was taken with authority by the girls from the state.
First example - sisters Geeta and Babita. Geeta won gold,and Babita won silver in their respective categories in wrestling. Their father is a wrestler and he taught them bravery. He sent them to training sessions with the coaches of the Wrestling Federation of India. He encouraged them, and instilled the fact that they have in them what it takes to win! And despite the fellow villagers objecting to sending "their girls" for sports, despite all the loathing, the girls went on with their hearts full of confidence and returned with their heads held high. And the fellow villagers? They now hail them as the "Lions of the Village". Babita recalls that she used to be teased when she rode her bike and sported short hair, being told "that is not what girls do. go back to your home and stay indoors". She is not afraid to tackle any man, and now the men do know what she is capable of.
The second example - India's Golden girl, Saina Nehwal. She hails from Haryana is proud of that, but grew up in Hyderabad. She shares the feelings of the other sportswomen from Haryana. Saina recollects that her grandmother was actually sad that it was a girl baby, she wanted a boy! She refused to look at Saina for more than a month! But when India's last gold medal was in sight, which would guarantee a second place on the final medals tally for India, the heart of over a million Idian was pounding for this girl, the prayers of them all directed towards her. And she had a superb comeback victory that scripted India's Silver medal place on the final charts.
Haryana's sex ratio is 847 women to 1000 men.
While Indian men's hockey team gets all the attention and service, the women team, for long periods were bunked in low class hostel and had to wash their own clothes and paid low fees. Utter discrimination? YES!
Do you think all the cine-stars are happy with the top-level status? Well, not many. Sometimes, stardom hurts. more so, for the ladies.
Pamela Anderson arrived in India a few weeks ago, and it took her just 2 minutes to start hating the Indian men. She never thought India was full of people who "wanted to touch her".
1. this showed that she never pictured it up before, meaning, the foreigners do assume Indians to be well behaved; 2. now she will always regret having that prejudice before coming to India, and with her number and level of contacts back at home, many more will share the same. Those "desperate" people have let the whole nation down, thanks to their attitude to women!
Gul Panag, once contested Miss Universe representing India (having won Miss India in 1999) was in New Delhi for the marathon last month. And when she had finished the race, she had just nothing but complaints, about the men. She complained that the men groped her during the marathon. This was an international marathon, and she was a woman of utmost respect, who knew how to handle the media, and the word spread like a wild fire across the country and beyond the international borders! She said that when she fell down, men took the chance to grope her instead of helping her back onto her feet! And added, if she had to complain, it had to be against all men of the city, which was improbable to do, and hence didn't make a complaint, else she was ready to complain. My friend who works in Delhi agreed about the indifferent attitude of Delhi men towards women.
New Delhi is the capital of India. Not setting a good example with that! The problem is not domestic any more.
Coming to advertisements on print or television media. If the ads for deodorants and shampoos and soaps and hair gel and cigarettes and liquor and casual wears all come to portray the thought of "women will be turned of if you use it", I am telling you, it is not helping the case, but making it worse! I don't think any women will, on a sane note, agree to sell a product after being exploited on any level.
Indian janta loves its actresses. They will queue in front of any theatre to watch a movie, just for the sake of the actress with shameless phrases on their lips (like "arrey, woh pakka maal hai" or, "sariyaana figure aval..paarthae aaganum"), why don't I see that many women as brand ambassadors for commodities. I just saw a list of Indians with highest endorsements. it had Amitabh, Dhoni, Sachin, Shah Rukh, Akshay Kumar and few other men... NOT a single woman! I bet hands down, Aishwarya Rai has done more than what most male actors have. I bet Saina Nehwal has achieved a fandom more than some male sportsmen. But no, Indian advertisers will have ads on TV with men. But when it comes to print media, there will be a skimpily clad girl on left side to catch your attention and the text on the right side for you to read. Typical advertising idea, which worked on men. Why, aren't women also potential customers?
There are a lot of examples which you can share too. People have to take this issue onto a whole new serious level. The current and next generation must live in a better atmosphere. It must be built on trust, and the trust must come from the current and older generation. For this, the older gen must be taught about the freedom the women folk deserve by right! And then, there will be more and more, if not all, willing to live and let live. I am pretty sure many have ideas that can be put into effect at some level. You can start it by changing the mentality of some men around you, help women stand on their own feet and feel that every one of them is worth the immense knowledge and intelligence and are not a puppet held by others!
India will then make a faster move towards the freedom described by the Father of out Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who said that true freedom will achieved only when our women can walk the streets of our nation in the night without any fear.