International Women’s Day

Come 8th March, and the entire world will gear up to celebrate International Women’s Day. While I believe that women and their lives should be celebrated every day, we need a special day to acknowledge and appreciate women and their accomplishments.

Since the beginning, women haven’t had it easy, and despite progress in all walks of life, they are still finding their feet in several fields that men continue to dominate; it’s been a long struggle, and it will be a long struggle. But considering where we have come from, taking a day out to applaud, acknowledge and appreciate this achievement makes a lot of sense.

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women all over the world.

This year, in particular, the focus is on freeing the world of gender discrimination. It is about building a gender-equal world with no biases, stereotypes or prejudice. It is towards building a diverse, equitable and inclusive world, where difference is valued and celebrated. It is about forging women’s equality in every sphere, and collectively, the attempt is to #break the bias.

Looking around us, we find that though women have progressed in education and employment, something still holds them back, preventing them from realising their full potential. No matter how hard they work, how much effort they put in something prevents them from breaking the glass ceiling.  Considering that the world is striding ahead in every sphere and is breaking barriers, It is high time it makes a concerted and combined effort to understand the reasons behind this and then work towards correcting it. And since this issue concerns half of humanity, it needs to be treated even more seriously and taken up in both letter and spirit.

Society has always encouraged and motivated men to set the tone and rules for most things. So whether it was getting equal opportunity to pursue education, have a say in family matters or going out to work, women were never considered capable or deserving and therefore were made to take a backseat. Men wanted to call the shots and made sure that they did that by setting up and propagating norms and practices that enabled them to do that. Somewhere along the line, women fell into the trap of these norms and traditions and started believing that they were capable of very little, which largely centred around toeing the line set by men.

While I believe that certain things come naturally to women, like motherhood and everything associated with it, men can also let certain things get to them naturally. For instance, being compassionate, caring, fair, empathetic or sympathetic can come naturally to men, too, provided they allow it to. By not allowing these emotions, I feel men have found a way of conveniently abdicating a fair share of the responsibility of life to women.

Though times are changing, we have miles to go before we can #break the bias.

And as I see it, this abdication on the part of men has been so smooth and well planned that women too have bought into it.  And several times, women oppose other women citing social norms and traditions and preventing them from taking bold and brave decisions. So if a young girl wants to travel on work, a mother/ a mother-in-law will come in the way, citing reasons like responsibility towards family or children. It may never occur to them to stop the man from such travel because they believe that family is primarily a woman’s domain and, therefore, her duty. Thus you come across instances of women turning against women though here also we can see a slow but perceptible change.

Thus we have all been conditioned to accept the discrimination, the stereotypes and the biases.

And so, even today, when some women are trying to fight all this, they face a combined army of men and women, and so obviously, the struggle becomes more difficult.

So not only do women have to prove their competence and their ability, but they also have to fight this discrimination, this unfair treatment. Then the irony is that if they fail, which many do, they are made to believe that it was due to their incapability, inability.

It is like being made to participate in a race with your hands and feet tied. How is that fair or justified?

So then, what’s the way out?  How do we change this? Do we need policy initiatives, a change in mindset or a combination of both? And if it is the mindset, shouldn’t it be the mindset of both men and women?

I believe it has to be a bit of everything; women need policy support to give them the initial push. Along with that, the mindset has to change. Men have to learn to be fair; women have to believe in themselves and not doubt their capability. The stuck-in-time beliefs and attitudes must be shed, and the effort must be wholehearted.

There should be no stigma attached to women being ambitious, authoritative and self-assured. If I am as educated as a man, I have every right to believe in myself and my capability.

Therefore, a piece of advice for both-

Men – don’t put doubts in women’s heads just because it suits you.

Women – don’t take other women on a guilt trip. If you couldn’t do it, let them do it.

As they say, beautiful things can happen when we get together, so let’s not pull each other down; on the contrary,  let us support and help each other.

Let’s all get together to #breakthe bias and work towards a better, more inclusive and fair world.

Happy Women’s Day!!

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