International Women’s Day: #ChooseToChallenge

By Dr Aiswarya Biswal*

Every year International Women’s’ day is celebrated across the globe to celebrate achievement of women and to increase the awareness about biases and atrocities against women. This is the time to act collectively to bring the gender equality in the society.

It’s not only in the modern world that we see women struggling for their rights and against atrocities. Both in India and abroad women had to fight with the societal norms which are often severe and extremely oppressing to be taken seriously and to be addressed as equals.

In Mahabharat, Draupadi the queen wife of Pandavas’, stood against the atrocities against women in the society and she made sure that her oppressors pay for their heinous crimes. She was quite vocal about women rights and ensured that they were respected.

England and Scotland were ruled by two queens in later part of 15th century. Mary-I, the queen of Scots and Elizabeth-I, the queen of England were profoundly powerful in the respective time and country. Yet till 1928, women from all walks of life didn’t have the right to vote in UK. British Parliament initially rejected the proposal of voting rights for women in 1867 but later on, due to vehement fight of women suffrage, it had to bow to bestow equal rights to women. What an irony that the countries with female head of the states in the past were reluctant to or unable to consider parity of esteem and gender equality to women in the wider society.

Unfortunately the challenge still remain in the global stage including our own country where women representation is scanty in various fields of entrepreneurship, high-end executives, legislative, judiciary and even loans sanctioned by the banks.

At upper echelons of the society, women representation is negligible at best. Women run only 7.4% of business in Fortune 500 companies; of 500 CEO’s only 37 CEO’s are only females. Last year it was 33 and twenty years back there were only 2 female CEOs. The change is only a trickle and as Melinda Gates said “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult”.

If we look at female representation from power perspective or decision making capacity for a country then representation is again not encouraging. According to UN reports 119 countries have never had a women leader, 10 countries have women head of the state and 13 countries have women head of the government.

Big continents like Asia don’t have female head of state and prominent countries with female head of state are Greece, Germany, Estonia, and New Zealand.

According to data from International Labour Organization, Female workforce has become an indispensable force to reckon with and many countries see overwhelming female representation in their work force. However, many women find it very difficult to scale the ladder of success and reach the zenith.

On the other hand there are women, who show extraordinary courage and resilience to fight for their rights and they defy the cultural practices as well as social norms to be where they belong. Whereas incidents like Nirbhaya case in Delhi have changed the perception of the society and the fight of a dying girl itself was the most inspiring challenge that anyone would dare to put up to the society in recent times. “#Me Too” movement, where women gained courage to talk about the sexual atrocities has also dared to challenge the ingrained regressively Patriarchal silent sexual assaults towards women.

Maya Angelou rightly pointed out that – “Each time a women stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women”.

In today’s world it is a fact that women have shed off their age old shackles of male dominated patriarchal societal oppressive norms and have increasingly taken matters of their lives in their own hands. At least though, no one openly talks about women being second class citizens anymore and if they do, they are not supported by civil society anymore, though it can’t be said that the behaviour of men and the culture of equality and acceptance in the society have changed altogether.

Women had always challenged and dared to fight if they wanted justice for themselves and to ascertain their place in the society. So challenge the existing patriarchy norms, gender stereotypes, bias to change the perception about women and try to bring about positive difference for women.

The author is an eminent Doctor, Columnist, and Poet. She can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.

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