Is Woman Empowerment, a Reality or a Hype?

TheLittle Oxford English Dictionary’ definesEmpowerment’

as the process of giving authority, power, strength, and

confidence.How far the statement corresponds to women, in

reality, is controversial in all aspects. Let’s initiate and

approach the topic with some authenticity.

Grandma’s  Tale

Jagomaya Devi, my late grandmother, was a perfect

embodiment of motherhood and so, a symbol of

womanhood. Her social quotient with her husband was mostly

bitter. But their physical equation could be referred to as a

need of that age and time, where having children

mattered the most. It had nothing to do with her physicality,

hormones, mood swings, abdominal cramps and a host of

other unspecified complexities hidden in a woman’s body.

Everything was destined, dictated and guided by the laws of

the society and the miserable minds at work.

Of course, it flickered and touched my tiny soul, back then.

Yet, many a time, I wondered, how it felt to give birth to 5 sons and 4

daughters,  successfully in a row. Were they conceived

as something essential or merely ejected out of a relationship

that had to yield to the existing norms and guidelines, remains

unanswered and a mystery to me. On profound speculation

and research, I failed to understand the outflow of love they

shared, in contrast to their high-end disputes which never

sought an outlet. My fully round shaped grandmother was

supposedly very content with her personal achievements…..

5 towering sons and 4 docile daughters who would be taught

similar lessons. Off and on, I was in awe of my grandmother,

this incredible woman, who produced life in her womb, year

after year, without any grievance.Her cotton saree of 6 yards,

flowing at the corners, a huge line of sindoor adorning her

curly parted hair and that glistening round bindi, almost

guarding her identity. She moved like a tired creature, at

times, sagging and lagging.  Perhaps, with the weight of her own

body or a mind fatigued and weary within. No one could guess!

I never managed to explore and dig out some stories from her

life.

Was she empowered???

Annapoorna Devi’s Saga

Annapoorna Devi, a renowned sitarist, was well ahead of

PanditRavishankar, her husband of limited years in

Togetherness. She amused several guests of honor and high

profile dignitaries with her stellar performances, unfortunately,

stifling and suffocating their marriage. The musically aligned

couple soon fell prey to conflict, jealousy and drifted away with

much displeasure. She was educated, empowered and

enigmatic enough to take things in her own stride. Then what

made her stumble and fall with different tales surrounding her

much-designed life to agony and gloom?? Was she less

empowered?

 

Maria’s Story 

Maria, an ayah, in a popular school has been around for

the past 19 years, offering her services in aid of the toddlers

who have found new lap of comfort and happiness, tumbling

out of their mother’s naturally protected domains. She

grumbled and muttered to herself, as she religiously performed

her regular chores, apart from handling her family all by

herself. She had to strike a balance between her work and

responsibilities back home. It actually tired her. Sometimes,

she had to work beyond her specific abilities, that were not

documented and agreed upon solely because of the

circumstances she lived with. Why? She isthe

mother of two daughters and was struggling sufficiently, to

give them a life of dignity and substance. Her legally

wedded husband of many years occupied himself, drinking

away happily and swindling her hard-earned money.  After all,

he certainly had empowered himself to bleach her life

colorless. In spite of all the obstacles, she never learned to

write her name in English or sign with confidence. I rebuked

her more than often and felt bad about it later. She was

educating her daughters in the hope of seeking alliances in the

big glittery market of marriage. Wasn’t aware of the bleak

bad world that drowned many a living hope? Yet, she silently

worked in that fatal direction of uncertainty. From where

would the seed of empowerment germinate?

The Myth and Reality debate

Woman empowerment is never a working reality.  Why? The

Social infrastructure is not supportive of this development to

happen as it would violate the very existence of women and

the cause of their survival. Women are domesticated and

tamed beings who are overworked and surprisingly neglected

too with low receipt in terms of recognition, fame, reward,

wages, and acceptance for higher things in life. In fact, her

identity is strikingly alarming. Her surname and being is

contributed by either her father or husband.Her home is her

Father’s house or her Husband’s…..choose anyone!Fewer

choices for a fair deal…Isn’t it? I’m SURE I would be branded a

notorious FEMINIST even before the end. Ever imagined the

warring hormones as your body prepares to bring life on Earth,

the kicks and the inconveniences, and the dismal rude shock of

the gazing eyes-“ you are a woman and you were made to give

birth? What’s the drama about it? Are you doing something

different? Come on…..no need for this “ NAUTANKI”.

 

PHEW!! Basic life ON this planet is facilitated and continuously

Nurtured by a woman , irrespective of her social status, ego and

caste. Taken for granted, yes. A poor woman would deliver by a

roadside while her fragrant counterpart delicately nursed in the

luxury of a scented room or cottage beaming with eagerness.

Both are at risk of meeting  the expectations of what is

expected of them. No one is aware of their respective fate.

 

Education , the only active weapon that could work against

these dormant thought processes, has , been unable to filter

opportunities and avenues, due to its unavailability to many a

willing mind. In rural and semi- rural areas women are

accountable  for their actions and pathway of life and are

subject to dire consequences , if found , contributing to the

society as a whole or in self-structuring. Incredibly rigid and

baseless  ways are maliciously transmitted generation after

generation, and anyone daring to traverse beyond this line of

control are social out castes and can be thoroughly rejected and

isolated at any  given period  of time. As if, The women residing

in towns and cities have it easy! Definitely, comes with a price.

The Sibling saga

Early in my career, in one of the group discussion session, a

young and confident girl shared her distressing story  of how

her father favoured her brother and secured his life by enrolling

him in a prestigious engineering college in the city. When she

expressed her desire to study Management, the fatherly figure

ruled out any possibilities, defending his view, that “funds were

limited. Besides, she would get married someday. How would

the degree and certificate help?” The brother, undoubtedly ,

Was over the edge and was politically empowered, which

would continue lifelong  in all his ventures. One wrong move

left the girl in a crisis of verifying and establishing herself and

her worth. The picture in reality is painted with shades of grey.

The doors and windows to the right kind of knowledge and

wisdom do not reach out  to all the descending angels  and

that’s a failure by itself. By any chance, if good weather prevails

and a woman rises like a Phoenix, it is attributed to her close

association with her boss, or that in the process of reaching the

pinnacle of success, she has degraded her standards of being a

good wife, daughter- in -law and a mother to her children. Too

many risk factors to play with.

 

To this, I am gently reminded of IndraNooyi’s mother’s remark

about her very successful daughter-“ You might be the CEO of

PepsiCo but when you enter your house  you are a dutiful wife,

mother and a daughter.” Of what value are the professional

achievements they are not perceived in an unbiased way?

It does not justify  her laurels. Many a woman whined at the

appalling comment coming from an otherwise proud mother.

In an exclusive interview, Indra Nooyi, blatantly and

unapologetically commented, “Women can have it all with

support and sacrifices.” The message is crystal clear. To be

successful you must walk over fire and burn many a want. Not

everyone can afford to be a Kalpana Chawla, Mary Kom or

Naina Lal Kidwai. These are a select few who have marched

ahead in glory. Ironically, there are lakhs of women awaiting

an empowered life. With acute history of gender bias and

discrimination, the process of empowerment related to

education and holistic growth  has been bare minimum.

Story Closer To Home

One of the house help in our house had limited means to cope

with hunger and thus, survival was a pity. The husband would

be consistently out of work, and the woman had to deal with

the situation patiently by working in 6 to 7 houses during the

day. Her ordeal transformed her into a frail human, with the

only mission to feed a family of 7.Disheartening! She would

confess that most of the days they would live on “ paanta

bhaat” (cooked rice left in cold water ), usually accompanied by

green fragrant chillies and salt. Mashed potatoes and onions

with mustard oil were a luxury not to be repeated. Where do

we taste empowerment here? Poor knowledge, poverty

beyond measure, “sacrifices” and means to source good food

are claiming the lives of women , in general. Besides, the high

prices deter good living conditions, thus, raising the mortality

rate among women.

My Mashi

This reminds me of my “ MASHI”- My mother’s sister  who I

took notice of while holidaying  some years back. She would

delightfully toss-up a huge and golden omelette  for her elder

son, just because he loved it! When it would come for her turn,

she would happily go eggless. I could never figure out the

reason for her behaviour until I turned a mother.Empowerment

undone due to affection. Being a mother is carrying loads of

burden. Socially, she is expected to take care of everyone in the

family, perhaps, except herself. Surviving rituals and customs

that require  her to starve, fast or eat only  when the other

family members have finished are quite painful and

unreasonable. Such acts are rampant in various communities.

The women of the house left no stone unturned for the sake

of good luck and prosperity of the family. Ending up with weak

appetite, mal-nourishment , joint and knee pain are common

ailments affecting women all over. Women share the right to

be looked after, as well.

 

Voicing out our views and opinions are not desirable. Either

they are dumb or suffer from attitude related sickness. That is

the general outlook. Freedom of expression would have

reduced the plight of women to a large extent but it does not

happen. Communication is limited and barred at certain levels.

It is not given momentum and direction.

 

Every Couple’s Tale

Long back, I had visited a qualified couple. The nameplate on

the wall read:

Mr. Harsh Seth, B.Tech., MBA.

Mrs. Mohini Seth, M. Tech., B. Tech., MBA.

On enquiry, I discovered that the man of the house was a senior

vice president in an MNC, while the woman carefully was in

charge of his food, laundry and  general supervision of the

house. After bagging a handful of degrees and certificates, she

found it fair enough to take her husband’s permission in filling

up an application form for a credit card. I almost fainted!

Empowerment a Birthright

Empowerment of women is not a fete that is seasonal. It is

celebrating  her natural, fundamental rights of existence

without any social discord.

 

“Right after birth, a girl must be raised without shame and fear,

And be heard with a patient ear.

Without any bar or limit,

By not making her timid.

Without prejudice and restriction

She will achieve distinction.

Without doubt and suspicion

She will offer in contribution.

Without being aborted and sold

Many a tale she can unfold.”

 

I , therefore, conclude in a state of absolute mental gross ,

efficiency and equilibrium that the given topic is to be defined

and understood as a conundrum. The need of the hour is

developing empowerment of the society as a whole, in

cultivating the true sense of empowerment of women.