Sunday, March 18, 2012

PAUPER’S LOG: Ladies First!


Ladies First!

By Abu Arsh

We wake up once in a blue moon to debate how fair we are in granting equality to our women. There are discourses on the need for women's upliftment and empowerment from the clutches of society which is deeply entrenched in orthodox and traditional values bordering more on male supremacy. International women's day which falls on 8th March every year calls for celebrations from a wide variety of organisations. The women speakers in these seminars dwell on a varied issues ranging from Female infanticides and sex selective abortions to conquering the outer space.
This year saw a series of seminars organised to mark 'International women's day' in the islands. Issues cropping up this time though oft repeated do make us believe there is still a gender bias in the lives of women. Academically, wherever women have been given chance they have excelled and have surpassed their male counter parts. Communities where education for women was once considered a taboo have thrown up women who have excelled in their chosen field or vocation. It was heartening to listen to women speakers in these seminars talk about our President, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Chairperson of UPA and Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha - all being women and doing a good job of it. There were references to great visionaries of the past who have worked for women empowerment. 
Major issues raised in these seminars were enhanced representation of women in planning and decision making bodies like the Island Development Authority, Home Minister's Advisory Council, Lieutenant Governor's Advisory Council and Local self Governance and civic bodies. The basis for this argument was largely based on the figures of total population of women viz a viz men in the Islands. Enhanced representation would mean better redressal and prioritization of women's issues. There were valid suggestions made by some about better and exclusive services for girls and women in public transport. This, apart from providing better security to women would also mean more comfort in travel for the ladies.
Speakers representing the plight of rural women expressed dissatisfaction with exploitation of women in these areas. Though the women folk contribute and labour more towards livelihood and household duties, their efforts are not given due appreciation. Women health and hygiene issues need attention in these areas. They are subject to domestic violence which does not have much of an urban- rural divide as it is prevalent everywhere. Major factor contributing to it is - Alcoholism of their men. As the environment around is ripe with easy availability of alcohol and other intoxicating substances, it leads to issues where women and her household is destroyed. With an alcohol addicted male in the house, entire responsibility of sustenance of herself and her kids fall on her and she has to face up to the society which is always on a look out for an easy prey to exploit. The strong willed and qualified women would excel in this situation would bail herself out of such mess and make a new beginning for her family but such cases are few and far between.
Though efforts of empowerment of women have been tried by governments in Panchayat Raj Institutions and other civic bodies, there are very few instances where women have stayed long at the helm of political affairs in the Islands. It was pointed out by the women activists that though we have produced women heads of these local self governance bodies very few were allowed to function independently. Many were a front for their more politically ambitious male spouses or fathers or brothers who would like them to be mere rubberstamps. These women are made to work towards furthering the cause of their promoters. This could be the reason that after a term, most of these women have disappeared into obscurity and back to their role as homemakers than leaders.  There was a strong opinion among the ladies that women should be allowed to function independently which would invariably have greater impact in the society and bring about real empowerment. This can be achieved by greater confidence and trust in women by their men.
It is undeniable that there are vocations which calls for dedication, devotion and care where women would surpass men any day. Professions like teachers, doctors, engineers, nurses, clerks, scientist, administrators and entrepreneurs are all where women have proved their mettle. Very soon it may not make much of a difference whether you have a boy or girl because education is the key to achieving real empowerment of women. On our part let's go by- Ladies first!

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