“An Indian girl’s fate is decided on the basis of the kind of family she is born in.”
There is little that is more inspiring than someone who speaks for those who need a messiah, and does so not only with passion but with grounded sensibility and clear logic rooted in a solid value system. On October 23, 2013 students and faculty were privileged to gain insights from one such personage, during a seminar chaired by social activist and the first lady IPS officer Dr. Kiran Bedi on the issue of Women Empowerment, organized by Nirma University.
She began by elaborating the reasons why men have always dominated in society, reaching back to the nature of ancient times. According to her, a man has the following inherent strengths:
- Muscle: Man has physical muscle power while a woman possesses mental muscle power.
- Mobility: Man’s muscle power made him the natural choice to go out of the home and earn or find bread for the family while the woman was the home-maker as she was the one who bore the child.
- Money: Since man worked for bread, he became the one to obtain and manage the money (or wealth) for both.
For women, Dr. Bedi listed the following as strengths:
1. Heart (Hridaya): Women are caring and sensitive by nature.
2. Healer: Women are born healers, with their gentle, understanding and intuitive touch – the very reason a patient might prefer a female nurse over a male one.
3. Humanity: Humanity is in the very nature of a woman as she is the one chosen by nature to bear children.
Dr. Bedi explained that the existence of the 3M’s gave men power and dominance, through which they controlled women, a consequence that affects gender roles even today. On the other hand, the 3H’s were originally women’s strengths but came to be regarded as their weaknesses in a male-dominated society. These strengths made them the support system of society, but since they functioned in the background, men gained visible dominance.
Dr. Bedi then came to the present condition of women in India wherein she explained the “Ladder”. Women who cannot obtain education are at the bottom of the ladder, women who have access to education due to their birth are in the middle of the ladder and those who combine their privileges with hard work to achieve their desired goals are the ones who reach the top of the ladder. Dr. Bedi spoke of how in India, many women face a hard time in obtaining family support to climb up the ladder while, men get such support without having to ask for it thereby making life a lot easier for them. For this reason, she opined that an Indian girl’s fate is decided on the basis of the kind of family she is born in, i.e. to what extent her parents are willing to make an effort to further her along in life. Parents’ support is not the end of it, as Dr. Bedi stressed, because once a girl gets on the ladder, it is her responsibility to ensure that she stays on it and does not go down, as it possible to both climb up or slide down. The audience listened enraptured as Dr. Bedi gave instances from her own life to support the theory of the ladder and explained how she had climbed the ladder herself through a self-motivating will to succeed in life.
Dr. Bedi made a novel observation by stating that the existence of the aforementioned combination of 3 M’s and 3 H’s in every person results in social empowerment. The M’s are the monopoly of men and the H’s are the monopoly of women. But, when used sensibly in combination with the strengths of the other gender, they lead to an empowered individual. Stressing on the need for social empowerment rather than only women empowerment through a fundamental change in sensibilities and perceptions, Dr. Bedi ended her speech to a resounding applause.
This was not all as the floor was then opened for questions, and the stream of questions seemed never-ending, with Dr. Bedi ending up with a list of more than twenty questions from an audience eager for her insights on various issues ranging from specifics on women empowerment, gender roles, policy issues related to women, etc. The audience gained valuable insights through her answers, such as when she opined how the right to do what one wants must be balanced with maturity and sensibility, as well as when she spoke of how perceptions and mindsets in Indian society will change only if the home is a school to begin with and vice-versa, thus imparting the necessary values required for life.
The session ended with Dr. Bedi encouraging the students in the audience to be the catalysts of change by voting sensibly and forwarding the cause of social empowerment at every possible level of society.
(Content Courtesy: Surbhit Gupta, Ditsa Roul; Photo Courtesy: Dhrumil Oza)