International Women’s Day – March 08
Take any project from the Mars Orbiter Mission to the
simultaneous launch of 104 Satellites, the contribution of Indian women
scientists in their success is being hailed and celebrated not only by
India but also across the globe. Scientists like Dr. Tessy Thomas, N.
Valarmathi, Minal Sampath, Anuradha TK, Ritu Karidhal, Moumita Dutta,
Nandini Harinath have made every Indian feel extremely proud.
Just like these scientists there are a lot of women who
are trendsetters and are glowing examples of excellence and knowledge in
diverse domains. This, however, is only one end of the spectrum wherein
educated, successful and empowered Indian women are positioned. A vast
majority of women at the other end of the spectrum still face enormous
amount of sexism, discrimination and oppression. They are still far
removed from demanding their rightful place in life and society and
thereby, exercise their fundamental rights including the Right to
Equality (article 14), enshrined in the Constitution of India. The only
way forward, therefore, is to reduce that gap and balance both ends of
Fortunately, we are on the right path, working on
the principles of gender equity.
The contribution and participation of women in the work force and in the
political arena at the grass roots level has enabled India to climb 21
spots in the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum in
2016. It has climbed to 87th rank in 2016, which is a vast improvement
from being ranked at 108th in 2015. It has substantially improved due to
attainment of education, economic participation and opportunity, health
and survival and political empowerment. (Source: https://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/economies/#economy=IND)
It ranks 9th on political empowerment in the world, which is a major
achievement and also underline the inherent strength of the democratic
model our country has adopted.
However, there are no two opinions that there is a long
way to go as far as gender equity is concerned and one of the major
stumbling blocks is how women are perceived by our society. While the
legal and constitutional framework protecting rights of cross sections
of women is extremely empowering; liberal and progressive awareness
about these provisions is abysmally low. Even if legal awareness is
there, accessing justice, navigating through the long winding legal
tangle, is no mean task for any common man or woman.
Similarly, gender imbalance and gender discriminations,
leading to a steady decline in the female population of the country
since 1961, is a well-known stigma in the growth story of India. The
multi-sectoral Beti Bachao
Beti Padhao Scheme was
launched in 2015 by the Prime Minister to address precisely this issue
and reverse the decline. The declining numbers, however, reflect only
part of the story. It is merely a symptom, albeit a grave one, of the
low social status of women and girls. It amply reflects how the deep
rooted patriarchal social structure in India governs the entire life
cycle continuum of neglect, abuse, inequality and discriminations in a
woman’s life. Such discriminations and violation of basic human rights
of women cut across class and demographics and manifest in minor to
of sexism, experienced on a day to day basis.
Even today, it is quite common
to come across such instances of women being prevented from watching TV
or listening to the radio so that they do not get “spoilt to being
compelled to drop out of school, forced to marry early etc. These
discriminations might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so
niggling and normalized that one doesn’t even feel the need to protest.
Misogyny and violence against women and girls are increasing at an
Given such a context, awareness, mindset change along
with social and behavioral change towards creating an enabling
environment for women and girls to achieve equality, becomes a constant
necessity. It also becomes a necessity to engage with men and boys who
are equal stakeholders in the process. It is imperative that men and
boys show the mirror to our society and become equal partners in the war
against sexism, inequality and gender discriminations.
Targeted at raising awareness, Ministry of Women and
Child Development initiated a social media campaign #WeAreEqual recently
on 13thFebruary, to
highlight the need for equal opportunity to women in the fields of
education, health, nutrition, safety and dignity. The Campaign is part
of a series of initiatives to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March
including the Nari Shakti Awards ceremony. It appeals to all to
participate in the campaign saying, “YOU
and I, WE are one. This International Women’s Day, share your slogan of
equality and join the change.”
The campaign is getting a lot of traction on social media
as more and more celebrities,
sports stars and everyday heroes have joined in. Both men and women have
been posting the #WeAreEqual messages on social media for positive
affirmation of gender equality. They are also communicating their
personal stories and efforts towards creation of a gender just society.
Additionally, it indicates ownership of common people of not only the
importance and necessity of gender equality but also their willingness
to take responsibility towards invigorating change.
Popular actor Aliya Bhatt and Indian Skipper Virat Kohli will also lend
their support to the Campaign as indicated by the Ministry of Women &
Child Development earlier. Superstar Amitabh Bachchan, Wrestler Sangram
Singh, Olympian Boxer Mary Kom, Dia Mirza and
ISRO scientists K Thenmozhi Selvi, Subha Varier and Minal Rohit etc. have
already lent their support to the campaign. Social influencers like them
can not only boost traction but also inspire change.
For the Campaign, Mary Kom has posted as follows, “I want every girl to
have the liberty to pursue her dreams. Give them more recognition in
Amitabh Bachchan has delivered the #WeAreEqual message
in a very emphatic manner by making this declaration for the campaign:
“When I die, the assets that I shall leave behind, shall be shared
equally between my daughter and my son! #genderequality #WeAreEqual.”
Needless to say, this message very effectively advocates for equal
property rights of men and women.
Common people are also sharing their personal stories and messages with
this hash tag, reiterating its necessity, application in daily life,
acknowledging the world of sexism faced by women every day and that it
is a valid message to send out.
There is absolutely no doubt that India needs to maintain its tempo in
the march towards achieving gender equity and a gender just society
where men and women have equal access to all resources and
opportunities. Every little effort, every campaign, every initiative
counts! And every stakeholder has to believe in it.
*Author is a freelance writer and a development communication
professional, currently serving as Head, Communication at SOS Children's
Villages of India. Views are personal.