Indian women have a stellar intellectual and social legacy. Unmistakably so!
Tainted politicians seeking Lok Sabha tickets for their wives would have been much better off letting their wives play more active roles much earlier in their lifetime. They would’ve probably earned a public position by virtue of their capability and experience.
Long before social media made Miley Cyrus the most talked about woman in contemporary history, there was Kitturu Rani Chennamma, the queen of the princely state of Kittur in Karnataka. 33 years before the 1857 war of independence, she led an armed rebellion against the British in response to the Doctrine of lapse (annexation of princely states).
A series of brave women folk, the most famous among whom is Rani Lakshmibai, followed the path of their own beliefs and fought for freedom.
We are a gutsy lot! Many of our leading ladies in Bollywood shimmy their stuff on stage more glamorously and confidently than Miley Cyrus for sure, and many of our women have been both gutsy and gorgeous!
The beauteous Begum Hazrat Mahal is known to have turned down numerous favours bestowed upon her, from men, who awestruck by her beauty, omitted to see her fortitude.
Closer on the clock, anyone who watched Mamata Banerjee respond with seasoned and purposeful answers to the very tough Arnab Goswami’s questions, would’ve felt very proud. She held her own.
Women’s day, in an ideal world should not be about gender- but about growing to one’s natural capability regardless of gender. Especially in urban settings, where corporate India is belting out deserving women MDs with gusto!
Usha Ananthasubramanian of Bharatiya Mahila Bank, Arundhati of State Bank of India Archana Bhargava of United Bank of India, Vijayalakshmi R. Iyer of Bank of India, Shubhalakshmi Panse of Allahabad Bank and Usha Sangwan of LIC have broken glass ceilings and knocked straight on heaven’s door.
Yet, there’s an India which is educationally backward. That’s not on Facebook and Twitter. This India has role fixations about women. The girls living in this India need to go to school. The men in these families need to realise that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women- and khap panchayats that declare rape as punishment for disobedience should be sentenced to imprisonment for human rights violation.
Social justice is about equality of opportunities. The world has come a long way from subversive cultures.
According to a very touching story, Boudica, a queen of the Iceni people of Norfolk, led an uprising of the tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
Her husband, Prasutagus had left his Kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman Emperor when he died.
The Roman Empire allowed allied independence only for the lifetime of the current king, and inheritance though the male line only was permitted. As he had left his kingdom to his daughters, his will was ignored and his kingdom annexed as if it had been conquered. It is reported that Boudica was flogged and her daughters raped. She fought long and hard for justice, and was later chosen as the leader of her people and their neighbors in an uprising against the Romans.
The lives of all women in socially backward societies don’t have to be so dramatic. Look at Rome today. Many societies world over are making transformational journeys. They need to be shown what’s possible. It’s reasonable to assume that Ada Lovelace, Amelia Earhart and Elizabeth Stanton were born in countries that are more marketing savvy about their heroes. The amount of print space that we, as a nation dedicate to Sucheta Kriplani, Cornelia Sorabjee and Tessy Thomas is limited.
For the uninitiated, Sucheta Kriplani was the first elected CM of Uttar Pradesh, Cornelia Sorabjee was the first female advocate from India, and Tessy Thomas (Agniputri), the Project Director of Agni IV and Agni V.
Herein lies the irony. Everyone could do with a dose of local inspiration. Women, as a community need to help each other. Women have to form support groups, build enabling environments and inspire the woman closest to them to start small good habits like saving, and big good habits like walking away from exploitative certainty, to temporary uncertainty that may be the longer path. This could start from the domestic help at home, to spending Saturday afternoons driving to the closest village and signing up for a once a month teaching session.
Women have to build enabling and supportive environments for the men who work for them too. Because it’s not about gender! It’s about capability.
Women have to stop imagining that men are different. Indeed, almost all human beings born in similar environments are practically the same. And most fathers play a very big role in inspiring their sons and daughters to lead and pursue their dreams.
It’s a pocket of societies that are under-educated and that place women in disadvantaged situations, that need to be made aware. Let us take the dialogue of women’s day where it’s relevant.