How Independent Is The Indian Woman?

Imagine this: a young Indian woman, boldly breaking free from age-old constraints, confidently striding into the future, her every step echoing the resilience and determination of millions like her. The journey of Indian women towards independence is not just a narrative; it is a powerful testament to their courage, perseverance, and relentless pursuit of equality in a society deeply rooted in tradition.

But how independent is the Indian woman truly? 

Let’s journey to uncover the layers of empowerment, challenges, and triumphs that define her path.

The Indian woman has come a long way from when she had no choice but to confine herself to the four walls, looking after the home and hearth with minimal education and exposure.  But then the winds of change reached her, and she began to move out of the confines of the four walls. She embarked on the path to education, which opened up her mind to ambition and aspiration. Educated women found that they could start building careers when they started working. Today, we see women in every walk of life, from education to medicine to space to business.

With this exposure, women experienced a sense of freedom and independence. Their ability to earn meant they could make choices based on their will, but then ….. they got married, and the narrative changed. While the first few years passed by all hunky dory, reality hit home a few years down the line. 

Let’s see how.

Gayatri, 35, a young corporate executive from Gurgaon, married five years ago, opened a joint account with her husband and started transferring her salary into the account. 

Today, she must check with her husband before buying a dress or going to the parlour!!

Reema, 28, from Mumbai, was the apple of her parents’ eyes. She fell in love, married, and quit working. Today, she has to ask her husband for a monthly allowance and gets told off if he feels she has overspent.

Sumita, 38, comes from a well-off family in Jaipur and married in a joint family where every expense is scrutinised and discussed at the dining table.

Taruna and her husband are in their early forties and live in Bangalore. They come from middle-class backgrounds and have worked hard to provide for themselves and their children. Both work, but Taruna left all the investment decisions to her husband, who works in the financial services industry. And what happened?!! He put a significant chunk of their savings into the stock market and lost it all.

Meeta is 55 and lives in Kolkata. She lost her husband in a car accident. Though Meeta was working at the time of getting married, she quit to raise their son. The husband earned well but also spent well, and today, she does not have a roof over her head and practically no savings.

When Jia, who lives in Delhi, now 45, got married, she was working and continues to work. But since she has her money, her husband spends all his money on his family and his hobbies and passions. Even if she falls short as she takes care of her kids’ expenses, she can never ask him to give her some, as he won’t.

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As we ponder over these narratives, a striking reality emerges. Despite making significant strides towards financial independence, many Indian women grapple with a lack of financial empowerment and awareness. This is a poignant reminder that while women may achieve economic autonomy, they often lack financial literacy and control.

Gayatri, Reema, Sumita, Taruna, Meeta, and Jia’s stories underscore a common theme—women’s need to earn and actively manage and protect their finances. These stories emphasise the urgent need for comprehensive financial education and empowerment for women across all life stages.

From mastering the fundamentals of budgeting and saving to making well-informed investment decisions, women must equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to navigate the intricate financial landscape. Enriching women’s financial literacy secures their economic well-being and fosters greater autonomy and resilience in the face of life’s uncertainties.

As we advocate for women’s empowerment, let’s not overlook the pivotal role of financial literacy in unlocking genuine independence and prosperity for Indian women. It’s time to reshape the narrative and empower women to seize control of their financial futures, one informed decision at a time.

So, if you are an educated woman, how can you retain your financial independence after getting married?

1. Open Communication:

Be open and honest with your spouse about financial requirements and decisions related to them. You should be able to voice your opinion and understanding of your financial affairs.

2. Budgeting:

Create a household budget to track and allocate income and expenses for essentials, savings, investment and discretionary spending. Regularly review and adjust the budget to stay on track towards financial goals.

3. Maintain Financial Independence:

Married women should maintain financial independence by having separate bank accounts for personal spending and savings, even if they have a joint account for shared expenses.

4. Investment Planning:

Explore investment options together to grow your wealth and achieve long-term financial security. Consider diversifying investments across asset classes such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and retirement accounts to mitigate risk and maximise returns.

5. Emergency Fund:

Build and maintain an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or financial setbacks. Aim to save at least three to six months’ living expenses in a readily accessible account to provide a financial safety net for your family.

6. Insurance Coverage:

Regularly review and update insurance policies to ensure adequate coverage for health, life, disability, and property. Evaluate the need for additional coverage based on changes in family circumstances or financial goals.

7. Retirement Planning:

Start planning for retirement early by contributing to retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, IRAs, or pension plans. Calculate retirement savings goals based on desired lifestyle and retirement age and monitor progress towards achieving them.

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8. Debt Management:

Develop a strategy to manage and pay off any existing debts, such as credit card debt, student loans, or mortgages. Prioritise high-interest debts and consider consolidating or refinancing loans to lower interest rates and accelerate debt repayment.

9. Regular Review:

Schedule regular financial check-ins with your spouse to review financial progress, discuss any changes in circumstances, and adjust your financial plan as needed. Consistent communication and proactive management are crucial to achieving financial success as a married couple.

Thus, the financial empowerment journey for married women in India is multifaceted, marked by progress, challenges, and opportunities. By fostering open communication, maintaining financial independence, and actively participating in economic decision-making, women can navigate the complexities of managing finances within a marital partnership. 

Additionally, embracing budgeting, investment planning, and prudent debt management strategies enables women to secure their financial futures and achieve their long-term goals. As we advocate for women’s empowerment, we must recognise the importance of financial literacy and regular financial review in empowering married women to seize control of their economic destinies. Through collaboration, education, and proactive management, married women can strive towards greater financial independence, resilience, and prosperity.

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