8th of March is being celebrated as International women’s day for more than decades. The day invites a lot of attention to women and their fantastic qualities with accolades pouring in. Suddenly being mothers, sisters, daughters, wives catches so much attention. The eulogies standing short of turning women into super human beings , glorifying them as Devis, Shaktis and what not. As if being devoid of any of these qualities would strip them off their status and make them less human. Phones get clogged with greetings, messages and phone calls since morning. Every institution plans celebratory functions.
These celebrations have always been a cause of wonder for me, along with their veracity and purpose. While some women do welcome it as a means to draw attention to the burning topic of gender justice others feel that identifying a single day, making it a ritual thereafter which the realities continue to shatter this bubble of womanhood are futile.
Honestly speaking, it takes all kinds of people to make this world. While there maybe many women like me who have grown to be independent thanks to the upbringing and support from the family there are several more of them devoid of freedom to be themselves. They continue to remain in the shadow of relationships unable to break the fetters due to lack of education, power, resources, not having the guts or simply because they have learnt to compromise. Also the independent and successful women may present a picture of glory but in reality may have sacrificed a lot for the same in comparison to her male counterpart.
In the real world, differences begin at birth of a child and the celebrations thereafter. While gender sensitivity has grown by leaps and bounds gender equality certainly better, true equality is still a distant dream. And equality is certainly not being similar to men or being able to do things men do. It does not mean losing your femininity or becoming masculine. It does not mean being in state of war with men. Biologically different from each other men and women cannot be similar or equals in every sense of the term but the status accorded to them and rhe opportunities to get educated, to work ,to wield power reflect gender justice.
The glass ceiling may have been broken and women are seen in all fields yet they are able to do that only after getting a lot of support which may not have been thought of or required for their male counterparts. Yes certain biases do remain in the sub-conscious mind. The number of women political representatives and leaders we have are a reflection of the real picture when reservation in legislative assemblies and parliament is still engulfed in hurdles. Even the panchayat raj institutions and local bodies where 50 percent reservation for women exists the Sarpanchpatis or immediate male relatives rule the roost. Schools and colleges may have large numbers of girls but the rate of dropouts is certainly high. In rural areas and in a lot of urban areas the stereo types in the professional world still remain. The choice of dtreams in education, the types of jobs sought, the challenges in getting any seat of power reflect the true image of a woman in society. Eve teasing and crime against women continue to be rampant.
Till date women are seen as objects to lust for and are portrayed as such in certain circles. Their acts are questioned, their dignity eroded. Young girls and infants are victims of perverts and media tells us gory tales of disrespect. Somewhere deep down in the minds and hearts lurks a bias, a thought and maybe a fear that men may be overpowered due to independence accorded to women. Her vulnerability is therefore at the receiving end to reiterate her true place in society.
The issue is not about being a housewife or being a homemaker in modern parlance. Her identity is mauled for being at home and suppressed for being away from it. So most women who fly high are akin to kites tied to strings always in control with the dangers of being cut and falling on face if they fly too high. Yet women are striving hard and working towards success in all spheres of life. Their grit, determination, hard work, organised and methodical way of working help them in growing. Adapting to vices and bold dressing in the name of liberation is also surprising.
Outward appearance, colour, clothes and looks of men are rarely commented on in business meetings however they do become a cause of distraction in the case of women. So what does it take to be really free and liberated? What does it take to be equals in a world where equal pay for equal work is still a myth in the agricultural sector? What does it take to stand by a woman devoid of lip sympathy and accepting her mentally in any role? Why are women still not accepted as leaders in the bastions of power? Why are women who are home makers looked down upon and why convenient positions of work like teaching, women welfare pushed down her throat? Why are house husbands or men in lower positions than their wives ridiculed? Do we ever celebrate men’s day ?
Does singling out a day in honour of women and sidetracking the core issue serve any purpose? To the truly liberated who have brought up their children as equals and to those who accept these women as human in any role and not as a service providers, do not belittle them it does not matter but for the others who know the truth in their own minds and are far from accepting women as equals gender equity has to be felt and understood. So maybe till such time this needs day be celebrated not to glorify woman or womanhood or to place her on any pedestal but to realise that women are human and have dreams and aspirations too. They too have the intellect and knowledge and need opportunities to channelise them. They need to live without shadows of guilt while working away from homes. Their dignity needs to be respected to prevent crimes. And hence even a stand taken only once a year would resonate throughout the year and open minds. Conversations would be started and schemes for upliftment of women would be launched leading to that thought.
Relegating celebration of a particular gender on designated days may be belittling for now but it will certainly lead us to that day when womanhood would reach its true stature and the need for such a celebration may stop. For now let’s reiterate gender justice…..
Guest Author: R.Vimala,I.A.S,
Chief Executive Officer,
Umed – Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission (MSRLM),