Undoubtedly, International Women’s Day is a day for positive reinforcement, an occasion to celebrate the diverse potentials and achievements of women both locally and globally. In India, slowly but steadily, women are shattering stereotypes as well as glass ceilings in their upward flights. Women priests performing religious ceremonies, women pilots undertaking long, hazardous flights, sportswomen winning laurels and tournaments, women performing leading roles in political, corporate and medical fields: these are the women of a transitional, contemporary Indian society. Globally too we proudly appropriate Indian-origin women like the US Vice-President Kamala Harris and the NASA scientist Dr. Swati Mohan whose bindi made a strong cultural and style statement. They represent a qualified and aspirational group empowered enough to take their place on the world stage.
These achievers become the role-models for the many women who still struggle against race, class and caste-barriers, who still suffer at the hands of oppressive patriarchal mind-sets and societal pressures to conform and succumb. Strong women individually have inspired us through different periods – Behen Satyawati, the freedom fighter, Rani Lakshmi Bai the warrior queen, Savitribai Phule the ecducationist and Captain Laxmi, the female commander in the INA. But the IWD is a reminder of the collective destiny of women world-wide, to be empowered enough to assert personal freedoms and choices and fearlessly voice their concerns. It is a reminder of the continuous struggle for women to achieve dignity and agency in their daily existence.
In this challenging scenario, a tribute needs to be paid to all those women as well as men who have encouraged and supported their wives, daughters, friends, daughters-in-law to assert their choices and follow their passions, empowered them through education, respected their career choices and lauded their achievements. My mother, in the mid -1950s, was encouraged by her paternal grandmother to join the NCC in college, and allowed to accompany the troupe for a cultural performance out of the country. These are the truly inspirational figures who saw the value of the girl-child and demonstrated a broadness of vision tapping into their potential. And a tribute to the thousands of women who surround us in our lives at a micro-level, the vegetable-sellers, the domestic workers, policewomen, medical staff, office workers who competently multitask and are the real superwomen. Their visibility sends messages of true positive reinforcement and can inspire thousands others to step out of confined spaces and confidently shoulder their individual and social responsibilities.
- Dr. Neeru Chakravertty