By: Deven Patel
“There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the conditions of women are improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing.”
We celebrate Mother’s Day every May. We recognized October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked by pink ribbons and NFL players decked out in pink gear. We honor our Devi’s during Navratri. Yet, when it comes to ordinary life, women seem to take the back seat. It is no surprise that the world’s need for women empowerment has risen through centuries of male domination and gender discrimination. Suppressed women are the target of varied types of violence and misogyny practiced by societies all over the world. India is no different.
India is a complex country that has developed various types of customs, traditions and practices. These customs and traditions, good as well as bad, have become a part of our society’s collective consciousness. We worship female goddesses; we also give great importance to our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and other female relatives or friends. But at the same time, India‘s popularity as a male chauvinistic nation stems from it’s poor treatment of women both in the family and society.
Women’s responsibilities are often limited to only household chores and understanding the responsibility of home and family members. Women are expected to morph into different roles like changing outfits with seasons. Born into a family, they are expected to conform to the identity of an obedient daughter and sister, and in school they are expected to be good students. Their chastity is often deemed the pride and joy of the family, encircling them in boundaries created by social pressures so that one day they can be ideal wives and daughter-in-laws. It’s as if they are kept totally unaware of their rights and own development. Indian citizens proudly claim India as “Bharat-Mata” and national pride takes over the country when cricket season rolls around. However, we never realize the true meaning of these two words. Bharat-Mata — mother of the land we call Bharat, Mother of every Indian. The women of India deserve the same respect we give to the land of India, if not more.
Women constitute half of the population of the country, yet they are regularly treated as second-class citizens. We will never be at full strength if half of our population is encaged by societal boundaries and designated roles. It is imperative to empower women to not only understand their rights but also to be independent in every realm of life. If we castrate the potential of female strength, how can we expect proper growth and development of the children —the future generation of India. Mothers are pivotal to the success of Bharat Mata. Their thoughts, ideas, day to day actions, and treatment by male counterparts all play a role in how mother’s raise their children, who will become leaders and act as the future face of our nation.
Men will always play an important role in the empowerment of women. The most important task for men is to understand that a gender inequality problem does exist in our world. However, gender is simply a biological difference that has no bearing on a person’s intellect or abilities. If this underlying concept is understood, then gender inequality and discrimination would cease to exist. How can men help achieve this? Men can voice their thoughts and opinions through grassroots movements that encourage and promote gender equality. These movements could be used as a medium of communication–by men and women alike–where the ideas of empowering women is advocated and cultivated. Men must also shatter societal misconceptions and stereotypes of women through their own rhetoric and actions. By supporting women as individuals of intellect and thought, men can remove the superficial hierarchies within society. Another way men can help promote gender equality is by understanding gender differences rather than objectifying women. Men and women think and behave differently, but that doesn’t mean one way is better or more correct. Women have the ability to convey thoughts, ideas, and actions with more emotion than men. In our current society, this is seen as a negative trait and women are taught they must behave like “men” to succeed. This is simply not true. These differences don’t make men better or worse – they just make men and women different. Each has his/her perspective and ideas to offer to issues and problems. Cultivating these differences can become the cornerstone of our development as a community and as the human race as a whole.