India is moving at a rapid speed towards women empowerment and female entrepreneurship. Gifting chunks of female corporate leader, political activists, and media jargons, India is climbing the ladder high on women empowerment. This is unlike the earlier age when women were held within the four walls of the house. She had no right to express her opinion, and if expressed at all, was given no importance. All the law systems whether it be Hindu or Muslim had its own share of suppressing women’s rights. 70 years hence, legislative enactments, social reforms and the efforts of women themselves have enabled women to come forward. Stereotypes and gender inequalities still exist and of course, it affects women to a great extent but then too, she can break all the shatters. The most famous example is that of Kalpana Chawla, whose father had already labeled her dream career as only ‘fit for boys’, but who despite, all these, went forward to be the first aeronautical engineer in India.
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But how far have these success stories caused an impact upon the working condition of Indian women? Despite, all these, the fundamental argument of misogynists remain the same. Thus, there occurs a situation in which a woman has to bear a double burden. That is to say, they have to handle all the work at home as effectively as if they had not been working even during strenuous work conditions. A hesitation to take up the household chores is something which is so generic to the Indian men and this stems up from the societal stigma evolving around men who does the household chores being dubbed as ‘stay-home fathers’. Thus, it can be well perceived that it is not the older prejudices that women are unfit to work outside the kitchen that creates this kind of a situation of double burden, but the realization that women empowerment means the freedom of women to work outside their homes without compromising their duties at home. What is the result of this ‘kind of women empowerment’ on women and their personality? This would basically result in a confusion to maintain a balance between the freedom that she is entitled to enjoy and the severe restrictions that binds her always. A girl who learns that she is free to go to work will want to extend this sense of freedom to her choosing of life partner and the costumes she intends to wear. But there again, societal convictions bind her in the name of ‘being a girl’. And the question obviously is who sets these restrictions? Educated parents or the self bickering society or the self proclaimed God? And even after marriage, the whole burden of cooking, washing, looking after the old-in-laws lies on her. Many a times, the educated women have to quit their jobs in order to satisfy these growing needs. The bigger picture is that it is not loss in terms of employment output, but also vagueness in terms of the personality of the woman. For a woman bearing a child, the Government provides some, if not enough maternity benefits. But there is no mechanism to provide the relevant support in terms of institutional flexibility once she regains work. Added to these is the different types of harassment at work place, unsafe roads, inflexible work timings, the peculiar health problems of women, adjustment to a new environment owing to migration among others. These factors could entirely negate the existence of women empowerment scheme in India. It would be imperative if the burden of working women is reduced by men shouldering the responsibility of household tasks. This should not be seen a shame or an unacceptable act, but it must be considered as a realization of the principle of respecting women. Because as a famous person had once said that God will thrive only where women are respected, this could be an added incentive to female education and true gender equality. Thus, the real women empowerment can be realized only if women are able to work and contribute towards the profession of their choice without any stress and limitations of home. —————- About the Author: This article is contributed by Muna Basheer, our intern.