The Only Shackle She Needs to Break

The Only Shackle She Needs to Break

“Forging the Future”

The concept of women's freedom has been a subject of extensive discussion and debate for centuries, spanning various facets of society, including politics, culture, and economics. At its core, it revolves around women's ability to lead independent lives, unrestricted by gender stereotypes and societal norms. Its primary objective is to empower women to make autonomous choices and pursue their aspirations without the burden of prejudice or harm. 

Women's freedom is a fundamental and enduring topic encompassing a wide spectrum of social, political, and cultural dimensions. Over time, the journey for women's freedom has evolved from securing basic rights to addressing complex challenges in diverse societies worldwide. This ongoing pursuit of gender equality and empowerment has witnessed both significant advancements and setbacks.

The pursuit of women's freedom extends beyond legal rights, encompassing critical aspects of life such as education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and the autonomy to make decisions about one's own body. 

I want to delve into the multifaceted nature of women's freedom, exploring its historical context, notable milestones achieved, the persisting obstacles, and the endeavors aimed at making sure women can exercise their rights and live with dignity. 

Barriers That Suffocate Her

Women face numerous barriers that hinder their journey toward true freedom and equality.

Women often grapple with deeply ingrained gender stereotypes that constrict their opportunities and potential. These stereotypes are perpetuated through various channels, including media, cultural norms, and even self-perception.

Self-perception

Of these, self-perception is very often the biggest barrier.

Many women, when entrusted with a bigger responsibility at home, quickly take it ‌up without thinking about how it might inconvenience them. In the workplace, a similar situation might make her doubt herself. One solution to this is to bring up girls in a way that encourages them to make decisions on small matters, first, and later, bigger ones. This will help her develop confidence in a progressive way over the years.

Discrimination

Discrimination against women persists in many parts of the world. This discrimination manifests as unequal pay for equal work, and women often encounter barriers to education, healthcare, and political participation. This cannot go on forever.

Don’t you want your daughter(s) to also achieve in life? Or is she being brought up to be a homemaker?

This is not to say that homemakers are not important. They are extremely crucial since they have a big role to play in grooming future citizens of the world. Surely, a man can also do it. Yet, the woman can carry out the role with much more elan – that is a quality nature has endowed her with. The real issue is when her virtues are used against her. She is exploited for her gentleness, and her willingness to always offer support. Admittedly, there are many women who lack these qualities.

Violence

If a woman has to fear violence, how is she going to progress? The same applies to men, too. Just because one is a woman does not mean that she should be attacked. Physically, she might be powerless, but most often, it is the mental barrier within herself that prevents her from reacting to uncomfortable situations.

Let me tell you about an incident that happened three decades ago.

When I was 23 years old, studying in college, the girls in our class had to attend a wedding. All of us got ready, and boarded a bus to reach our destination. The public bus was crowded.  

Generally, every girl knows how it is in crowded public places. It is a premise where all kinds of violations can take place. Groping is the main fun activity for some men. My friend handed me a safety pin (no pepper sprays available those days) with the instruction to ‘use’ it when in need. So confident she was that a violation would take place. As predicted, one man standing next to me, began his fun activity. My weapon was open and ready for an attack. Yet, I was afraid to use it. Now (at 55), when I think about it, it was silly and foolish of me to be afraid. I was not doing any wrong. He was the one.

And did I use my weapon, you asked? Yes, I did, with shivering hands.

Lack of Access to Education

A substantial number of women worldwide lack access to education, limiting their personal and professional growth. Is there a hidden agenda behind this? There probably is. Are the men afraid of being overthrown from their centuries-old power structure, mostly built on brawn rather than brain? In modern times, the significance of brawn is much diluted than that of the past. So, girls, make hay while the sun shines! And may the sun shine forever!

Physical Well-Being

Regarding physical well-being, women's healthcare is neglected in many regions, resulting in inadequate access to essential services like prenatal care and family planning. This does not happen everywhere. The society‌, if they have been educated enough, is likely to support women and girls. In the Indian context, ‌statistics on female infanticide are staggering. The main reason is ‌fear of dowry. Unfortunately, the system is still in practice in some parts of India, irrespective of whether the girl is educated or not. 

Dowry System

My own experience happened many years back, during talks of a marriage alliance. The boy’s family asked for my father’s house (in his name) to be transferred to my name if the engagement was to take place. My father, the educated and liberated kind, was ready. My brother also supported him. I thought that ’enough was enough’, told my father, and called up the guy who had started the process (the boy was his nephew) and told him, in a nice way, that it was not possible to proceed ahead.

Slowly, but surely, times are changing. If women do not take the task upon themselves to fight these issues with merit and tenacity, who else is going to do it for them? After all, the ’Prince Charming’ days are almost over, for good. 

Benevolent Sexism

How can I leave out the subject of benevolent sexism?

For those who are not familiar with the term, this is an attitude that some people (including women) have. This prompts the menfolk to make decisions for the women, by telling them that they are not capable, and the like.  They make it sound as if they should be around to protect ‌women. Does that sound like chivalry to you? If yes, then they have succeeded. This might have been true in situations where women were not educated and did not know how to take care of finances, or any other matter about life.

In this convenient setup (for some), the educated woman is a threat. In ‌modern times, where women are getting an education, this should not apply. In fact, the empowerment of women is good for any family and nation.

The African saying is apt here - “When you educate a man, you educate an individual. When you educate a woman, you educate a nation”. 

This quote highlights the importance of educating women and the impact it can have on society‌. Educated women are more likely to participate in the workforce, make informed decisions about their health and well-being, and raise educated children. By investing in the education of women, we can help break the cycle of poverty and promote gender equality around the world.

These barriers represent only a fraction of the challenges women confront in their pursuit of genuine freedom. Overcoming these hurdles demands collective efforts, policy reforms, and a fundamental shift in societal attitudes. True freedom for women can only be realized when these impediments are dismantled, allowing women to lead their lives without the shadow of fear, discrimination, or gender-based restrictions.

Final Thoughts

Indian women's freedom is an evolving narrative marked by progress, challenges, and resilience. Over the years, women in India have shattered societal barriers, defied gender stereotypes, and forged their path toward empowerment. While significant strides have been made, there remain critical issues that demand attention.

Gender-based violence and discrimination persist, hindering women's full participation in society. Access to education and healthcare remains unequal, disproportionately affecting women in rural areas. Political representation, while improving, still falls short of gender parity.

Nevertheless, Indian women continue to be inspired by their achievements in diverse fields—politics, science, business, sports, and the arts. They serve as role models for future generations, proof that determination and courage can lead to remarkable accomplishments.

To secure Indian women's freedom, concerted efforts are needed at all levels of society. Empowering women through education, economic opportunities, and political representation is essential. Challenging gender norms and promoting respect for women's rights is a collective responsibility.

In conclusion, Indian women's freedom is an ongoing journey towards equality and empowerment. While obstacles persist, the indomitable spirit of Indian women and the support of society can pave the way for a brighter, more reasonable future where women can fully exercise their rights and freedom.

So, dear girls and women, you have to believe in yourself, be steadfast, and learn to voice your opinion. Keep doing that and you will see a new generation of younger girls and women ready to take over from you.Let us know what you think in the comment section below. If you want us to publish your opinion piece, send it over to larra@globalindiannetwork.com.

Usha Menon

With over 25 years of experience as an architect, urban designer, and green building consultant, Usha has been designing sustainable, and visionary spaces. She has published a book, has been actively blogging, and is on social media. Now, her journey is transitioning to full-time writing. Her words will continue to craft stories, not brick and mortar, but in the realm of ideas, fostering a better, more inspired world.

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